Mindfulness: what is it to you? How can you apply it to your life? What significant meaning does mindfulness and mindful thinking have on you as a student, as a person of society? These are the questions that Goucher has chosen to raise this semester with the theme of “The Science, Ethics, and Practice of Mindfulness.” This semester features discussion-based seminars, activities, and presentations, all designed to get students talking, comparing, analyzing, critiquing and relating to the concept of mindfulness.
On Tuesday, February 23, Omid Safi, a Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University, came to Goucher to speak on the “Disease of Being Busy: Peace in the Heart in a Mad World,” encouraging his listeners to think about mindfulness and ask questions of their own.
Defined as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something, mindfulness is something we incorporate into our everyday lives in small but meaningful ways, from daily affirmations that force us to acknowledge what we are grateful for to organizational methods that keep us on task and allow us to grow into the successful students and people we strive to be. But, what about the things we don’t do habitually? Is there more we can do to be mindful, think mindfully, act with a sense of mindfulness?
Safi introduced his seminar with the notion that our time and our breaths are finite. Every breath that we take, from the time we are born, is written and that there is no internal or external force that can reduce or extend those breaths. According to Safi, we live in a world controlled by the disease of business: everyone has something to do, a place to be, a person to see. He used examples from his home life, such as how he was trying to arrange a playdate with his daughter and her friend, only to realize the child’s schedule is busier than it should be. That his young child was “busy” at all did not seem right. From his examples, the audience could see how just how far the effects of “the disease of business” have trickled down the ladder.
“What happened to being bored? What happened to getting dirty in the mud, and just being a kid?” Safi raised these questions, encouraging us to think more deeply about them. This perpetual state of preoccupation has corrupted our world to the point that, in Safi’s words, “We have chosen the screens on our computers over our daughters asking to play.”
This disease of being busy extends to our social interactions with one another as well. Safi explained the reluctance, even refusal, to express intimacy by providing an uncomfortable, yet eye-opening (pun intended) exercise to prove a point about the awkwardness of intimacy. Each person in the audience turned to their neighbor, gazing into their eyes and trying to search for the true color of their eyes. Giggles and laughter soon erupted in the space as young adults and professors alike gazed into the eyes of those who they didn’t know, and those they knew quite well. Once the uncomfortability and timidness wore off, Safi continued to explain that we’re deathly afraid to be seen. As much as we crave and need intimacy, we are so afraid to express it and receive it. He offered a simple solution: we can practice mindfulness by slowly incorporating it into our lives, accepting the challenges and trying to make them a bit less daunting, until we are truly living in a mindful state.