Let me help you out with this, please, because if you are here seeking mindfulness it is best that we get this puzzle out of the way. The word we are looking for is:
noun: oxymoron; plural noun: oxymorons
a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction
I was gifted a book of “mindful crosswords” this last Christmas and ever since I have been dutifully starting and ending my day scribbling away in these pages of puzzles, chewing the end of my pencil thoughtfully at appropriate points (who does crossword puzzles with a pen, right?), before quickly moving onto the “sharing is caring” stage of asking my husband to help me with the difficult clues. In fact I have just put down the little book of conundrums to write this. Why? Because it has finally dawned on me why I am starting and ending my day with a sense of futility and hopelessness; this small book of pain, that’s why. Mindful crosswords, my arse.
These days I spend most of my time groping around helplessly trying to find sufficient words to articulate the simplest concepts from within the jumbled chaos of my mind, so when I’m presented with
- Baffled (10)
I just want to scream “BE CONTENT WITH BAFFLED MOTHERF@%$ER!”, and launch the book at the nearest receptacle in which to deposit rubbish (3).
In this the age of commercialised meta-awareness it can be difficult to differentiate between meaningful aids to mindfulness and the dishonestly taking possession (16) of the term. Might I argue that the publishers of “Mindful Crosswords” are guilty of such misappropriation? Why do I suggest this? Not just because ten minutes interacting with mindful crosswords is likely to send you into a spiraling rage, but because even mindful puzzles completed with ease miss the point of mindfulness altogether. Instead of bringing you into the moment, they distract you from it completely.
mindful.org describes the process of being mindful as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m sat trying to think of the answer to fourteen down and have been for more than three seconds already, I want total silence, I don’t even want to hear myself breathe – I just want the bastard answer NOW! mindful.org go on to say that “whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful.”.
Mindfulness for me, requires a willingness to become vulnerable; I have to stop what I am doing, feel my body breathing, my heart beating and blood pulsing. I have to openly receive whatever emotions infiltrate my mind in that moment, feel them course through me, however painful or exhilarating they may be, and accept them for what they are. That can be a vulnerable place to be, especially for someone who has spent most of their adult life trying to block all connection to those very things we are now being asked to surround ourselves by.
I am not suggesting that there are not mindful aids worth having, there are, but these will be different to each of us depending on our starting points and, I would suggest, should be kept to an absolute minimum, as every aid is a potential distraction from our own internal feelings, our body and its connection to the natural world. For illustration purposes only, I would find digging in the garden mindful; it is repetitive, based firmly in the “here and now” and I’m outside feeling my connection to all my senses. I would feel every movement of my body, the breeze touching my face and my brain would be free from trying to twist itself around complicated processes, concepts or dilemmas. All I need for this to be successful is time, a small patch of earth and a garden fork.
Now, I fully appreciate that for some, digging in the garden would be several hundred miles south of mindful, but it hopefully illustrates my point; that in many ways our obsession with having ‘things’, for buying ‘stuff’ is only adding to our disconnection from ourselves, from each other and the world around us. In much the same way, perhaps, as social media is both opening up communication across the globe, whilst at the same time polarising opinion and driving a wedge between humanity.
It is time for us to unshackle ourselves and recognise that our internal malady will not be eased by more distractions, that we cannot buy our way better. So put down that shopping list of mindfulness products, cast aside all distraction and begin to seek reconnection with yourself and the world. Be brave and open your mind, take instruction, sure, but try to avoid mistaking the instruction as mindfulness in itself.
Also, crossword puzzles are evil.
More information on how to tap into mindfulness can be found here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/how-to-learn-mindfulness/