You Don’t Need to Make Time for Mindfulness

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Relaxed young businessman sitting in lotus pose on bed
Photo: Wavebreak Media LTD/Corbis

In November, a studio opened in Lower Manhattan that is devoted to just one thing: mindfulness. It’s called MNDFL, and it has been called (by this magazine, actually) the “SoulCycle for meditating”: You drop in, spend 30 minutes in mindfulness meditation, and you leave.

It sounds like a pretty good idea. If you want to make meditation a regular part of your life, it makes sense to set aside a time and a place for the habit. But it also is a great example of the point psychology writer Oliver Burkeman makes in his latest column for The Guardian: Taken as a whole, the recent proliferation of mindfulness apps and books and coloring books seems to imply that mindfulness is something that requires a specially designated time and place. It’s one more thing that’s really good for you — because the scientific evidence does indeed show a strong association between mindfulness and improved mental and physical health — and that you now, annoyingly, must add to your day. Kind of like apple-cider vinegar.

But mindfulness is most likely something you are already doing, whether you are aware of it or not. “Scratch the surface and you’ll find that almost everyone pursues some activity demanding absolute presence of mind: if not mountain climbing or sailing or bike racing (where a lapse of attention might mean death), then photography or singing or recreational cookery (where a lapse of attention means you’ll screw things up),” Burkeman writes.

Thinking about it this way, it seems my secretly mindful activities are washing the dishes and indoor rock-climbing, neither of which I do as often as I should. But if I really want to integrate more mindfulness into my life, I can do it pretty much whenever and wherever, simply “by focusing on the physical sensations in your hands, or any other body part,” Burkeman writes, something that is easy enough to do “while riding the bus or shopping for dinner.” Mindfulness and meditation and mindfulness meditation are great for your well-being, and you definitely should do them — and, happily, you probably already are.