I’d never heard of the word mindfulness until a couple of years ago. After going through something of a bad patch and a bout of depression there were a lot of things about my life I looked at anew. One of the things that I’ve always been bad at is just enjoying the moment and being thankful for what I have. I’ve always been quite driven – wanting to ‘get somewhere’ with whatever it was I was working on. It wasn’t really about money, so it wasn’t as cynical or shallow as it could have been (read Affluenza for a great account of how Western society can be so focused on the wrong goals), but I certainly sought some external validation of my life. I wouldn’t say mindfulness has taken over my life, but I’m very aware of it now. I try to slow down and enjoy moments and days for what they are, and I think about my goals and whether they are truly mine, or ones I have because I’m trying to prove myself.
Recently I’ve been thinking about this is relation to my kids. Kids, in many ways, are entirely mindful. They live in the moment, and play or undertake activities entirely for the enjoyment of doing so. The doing of it is the point, there is no aim. (Though I’m seeing that change with our eldest who has just turned 7). Part of me wants to identify what my kids show an aptitude for and push them along. Start them young. No pain, no gain. That’s the driven, competitive dad side of me, hoping them will be great at something. Surely they should be enrolled in a dance class, or acting class, or football lessons by now, what are we playing at! Get them booked in. The other half of me is hoping they continue to do things purely for the enjoyment, and not get caught up in the ultra-competitive nature of our society, where by definition not everyone can be winners but no one wants to be a loser. I want them to be happy and content and that is far more important. Yoga class, or mindfulness class, may be far more beneficial for them.
But what if we were all doing things with no end-point in mind, with no concern for winning, or being one-up on someone else, or even an earlier version of ourselves? The world might be a better place for it, I’m sure. Calmer, more loving. Or might we lose something? For every money-obsessed workaholic working their ass off to pay for a house bigger than they need that we might lose, maybe we will also lose a world-record beating athlete, or a medical researcher who would find a cure for cancer. Being driven is part of being human. Having goals is part of being human. Beating and winning are part of being human. What matters is what you are trying to beat and how you go about it, and how you treat the competition along the way.
That’s where we come in as parents I suppose. Helping our kids to find a passion and a talent, and giving them the strength and courage to follow that dream and to cope with failure and disappointment if (when) it comes along. But also to give them the support and love to know their aims need not define them, and that their success or failure won’t determine their worth in life. Their kindness, generosity and humanity will.
Steve Mayes | Steve Mayes Photography