Mindfulness: Learning in the Task
I had a riding lesson today. My family is mad-keen and has been having lessons for many months now. I wanted to go as I look for activities where I can completely lock my focus onto something. Enforced mindfulness I suppose. My colleague Jane and I have had a couple of discussions on the need for a switch off by completely switching onto something else. She gets this switch off relaxation from snowboarding. To paraphrase terribly, I think she said something like ‘you tend to concentrate if you’re hurtling down a hill and likely to kill yourself if you don’t’
I challenged myself to try and move as quickly as possible in my lesson to more feelings and intuition (rather than consciously running through all the things in my head that I should be doing during a rising trot: up on the horse’s forward stride, knees as a lever, keeping balance, not tipping forward, chest pulled back as though on string…..etc etc.). A very good teacher, but it seemed to work and I got it quite quickly by relating the movements in my hips to the movements of the horse and going with the flow. By utterly being in the moment, I learnt ‘how’ to do something. Following the lesson it feels like something clicked and sunk in: past the conscious into know how/ ability (albeit at an extremely early stage)
It prompted me to think about a comment in Guy Claxton’s Hare Brain Tortoise Mind, which talked about how your ‘intelligent unconscious’ is continually learning from the situations in which you put yourself. How if you don’t break out and try or think about things differently, you’ll get stuck into a rut in your ways of thinking/ problem solving/ being creative etc.
When I have read variously about mindfulness and focus I have always challenged that multi-tasking, or at the very least thinking about something else whilst doing the things you can mundanely/ unconsciously do is a higher form of skill. That just focusing utterly and mindfully on one thing is time wasting.
Following my experience today, I’m now wondering whether by being fully focussed and mindful we not only get the task at hand done more efficiently, and without distraction. But that we also optimise our ability to truly learn ‘how’ to do something better. Whether we optimise our ability to learn new ways; to experiment and challenge ourselves.
So, by being mindful we can improve our ability to develop and learn as human beings.