The purpose of the Active Pause project is to demystify mindfulness. Many of us have preconceptions about what it might be. For instance, we might think of it as a special state that requires special practices to achieve. In this project, we want to broaden the scope of what is understood by mindfulness.
Here are a few dimensions that sketch a sense of this broader concept:
– We start with a simple definition of “mindful” as the opposite of “mindless”. Of course, this begs the question of what we mean by “mindless”. We use this in the ordinary, every day sense of the word, as in “watching TV mindlessly“. There’s a connotation of being passive in that… but we cannot just say that “mindless” is a synonym for “passive“. We are not trying to find a perfect way to define the concept through words, just giving a broad sense of the general area that it might cover.
– We see mindfulness as a skill that we all have the potential for. It is like other skills: some people might be more talented at running, or at playing piano than others. And some people may develop their potential way beyond what ordinary people can, through skillful practice. But we all have the potential for it, as something that was honed by evolution. Just think how hard it would have been for our mindless would be ancestors to find food, escape becoming food, and more generally survive. We are the descendants of a very long line of mindful forebears.
– While we all have the potential for mindfulness, it is important to keep in mind that life in a civilized world makes it harder to automatically be mindful. This does not just refer to contemporary society, but to the past few thousand years, in which humans have been living in organized societies as opposed to the natural world we evolved in. We are not even just talking about Buddha’s time. Even before Buddha, people had already noticed that it takes intentionality to shift from “mindless” to “mindful“.
Much of this project takes the form of conversations with people coming from different perspectives. This takes constitutes a podcast, with each conversation being 30 minutes or so. Earlier conversations were just available in audio form; currently, most of them are also available as video.
There are two types of conversations:
– Many are focused on the broad topic of mindfulness;
– Some are focused on the question “what sustains you?“ This is an opportunity for people to reflect on what gives their life meaning and purpose, in a down-to-earth and experiential manner.
As the editor of this project, I also include on this website some articles where I outline my own perspectives on mindfulness.
My hope is that, together with the ideas presented in the podcast conversations, this will stimulate you to have your own dialogue with these ideas.