Mindfulness, Music Appreciation and Empathy

“Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the [Bach’s] B Minor Mass?” — Michael Torke, composer

Sometimes people will ask me whether or not listening to music counts as mindfulness practice. I’d say sure,* you can do pretty much anything with an intention to be mindful, but what makes a session of mindful music appreciation unique and distinct from a mindful breathing practice?

Beauty-ful “Mindful Drawings” by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Paula Kuitenbrouwer keeps a lovely online portfolio and shop of “Mindful Drawings.”  Most masterful artists would likely have developed a refined quality of mindfulness, but Paula’s work breathes from a deep and clearly-articulated intention to work from a place of mindfulness.

“I carefully prepare my drawing session by laying out all the tools. I think long about what I want, and I pay attention to the composition. I also do research, because I like to know what I am drawing. When I draw a bird, I study that bird in real as well as with the helps of books. When I draw a flower, I have it seen in nature or it is right before me on my table. I read about the flower, and I like to study and know its Latin name. The same counts for bugs: I do not draw any bug I haven’t seen or studied.”

Mindfulness: An Adventure in Transformation

Mindfulness meditation is not a nice little thing…it’s not like frosting on a cupcake. This is a major major transformation.

This insight comes from Gary, a 42-year-old former drug addict, and contributor to the Atlantic’s recent article “How Meditation Works.”

On the surface, mindfulness works in seemingly boring swaths of activity: Long lengths of time, sitting in quiet spaces, with or without other people nearby, sometimes thinking, sometimes feeling one’s breath. It doesn’t sound too dynamic.

Mindfulness Process

Fab illustrator, designer & hand-letterer of the Living with Mindfulness logo, Erin Ellis, just shared with me this beautiful photo of her work process.

mindfulness and art

 The practice of hand-lettering is like a mindfulness exercise.  Each loop and curl of the brush shows you just how you are paying attention (or not) in any given moment.  This was a challenge for creating this particular logo, in which Erin so deftly engaged.

Thank you Erin for the beautiful work, attention and inspiration.

Mindful Dishwashing

Soapy Dishes

Recently, my partner Maitreya and I had a friend come to stay at our apartment, a very kind musician named Walter. A month or so earlier, we had been travelling with Walter, the three of us in a car, taking in the stunning beauty of the Connemara landscape — we totally bonded.

During his most recent visit, we went for walks, cooked lentils and rice, played music, and joked about the peculiarities of living in Ireland — ‘why on earth do you need a key to unlock doors from the inside?!’ I pondered aloud. I guess what is commonplace to some, seems like a fire hazard to others.

His light-heartedness, which we so enjoyed, lingered even after he had left. It was marked by a great sense mindfulness and presence, exemplified in the way he would clean the dishes after a meal.  Maitreya remarked:

Yeah, it’s like the world is at ease when he washes the dishes.

And it was!  He always took his time, clearing the drain board in full, waiting patiently for the sink to fill with soapy water, washing each dish thoroughly, rinsing with cold water, and then placing intently into the drain board, one-at-a-time.