Hooters Hall

Mindful Making Diary: What is mindful making?

The Meditation Meadow at Hooters Hall

It’s always helpful to define a topic before you start getting into the detail, good to know the direction you want to travel and destination even if you haven’t mapped out the exact route.
Despite my professional background my exploration of mindful making is not about clinical or therapeutic approaches. If you’re interested in mindfulness for mental health the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/ is a good place to start and MIND also has useful information https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/about-mindfulness/
My mindful making diary is instead focused on understanding and incorporating mindfulness into my making. I want to see if there are benefits for my making process and I’m sure I’ll discover benefits for my wellbeing along the way as well but it’s not my main motivation.
So, what is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and co-founder of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) defines Mindfulness as:
‘Paying attention in particular way;on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgementally.’
Another way of saying the same thing is that mindfulness is the opposite of automatic pilot. Our brains are very good at wandering away, allowing us to think about any number of unrelated things when we are doing familiar and repetitive tasks. We develop thought habits over time, patterns formed in the brain through repetition. Some of our habits are harmless e.g. daydreaming about holidays others can be more unhelpful e.g. constant ruminating about money worries or relationships. Mindfulness is about developing a new habit that is helpful.
Our brains ability to autopilot was born out of the need to save energy. The human brain will always try to make routine a habit so we don’t have to think about it. This is a helpful evolutionary skill but causes problems when we overuse it and spend too much time thinking about the past or future rather than the moment right now.
Working against the autopilot isn’t easy. It means learning new skills and practising them every day. Which brings us to formal mindfulness of breathing meditation practice.
Starting a daily formal meditation practice has been my first step in exploring mindful making. I’ve been using a mix of guided meditations on the Headspace App https://www.headspace.com/ and from the Mindfulness course I’m doing with the British Mindfulness Academy.
Mindfulness breathing meditation is simply using a focus on your breath as a way to control your attention. You always have your breath with you so it’s a practical tool. It’s important to recognise this isn’t about relaxing, although sometimes it can feel quite relaxing.
What you will notice as you focus on your breathing, auto pilot kicks in and your mind wanders. The simple act of noticing this, without judgement, and bringing your attention back to your breath is training your brain into a new habit. Learning to focus on the here and now. New neural connections are formed and each time this process occurs you reinforce these neural pathways and make it easier to do next time.
Breathing meditation doesn’t suit everyone. If you suffer from panic attacks you may have a tendency to over focus on your breathing in which case other types of meditation e.g. perhaps walking meditation are more suitable. It’s also important to make sure you are comfortable with the process e.g. if you don’t like closing your eyes try just lowering your gaze or pick a fixed point to focus on.
I do a daily breathing meditation first thing in the morning after I have fed the animals. I like to sit in the paddock that we are turning into a wildflower meadow, cross legged on the grass, facing west looking out across the countryside. It’s a beautiful, calm spot, quiet apart from birdsong and sheep grazing. I’m very lucky to have access to such a space but I also do a few minutes breathing meditation at lunchtime in my office which is a less attractive environment. Ultimately the environment doesn’t matter so long as you can be undisturbed for a few minutes.
There are many researched benefits to daily breathing meditation. For me I found that I slept more deeply, stopped craving carbs and had a big boost in creativity. I want to explore the links between mindfulness, meditation and creativity in more detail because of the benefits it offers for my making so I’m going to be starting the meditation for creativity course on the headspace app.

Reading
I’ve just started reading Mindful thoughts for Makers by Ellie Beck. I’ve highlighted so many quotes from it but here’s one that really spoke to me and I think summarises the motivation behind my mindful making diary.
If we make our work for the purpose of pleasing someone else — perhaps to have our egos stroked, or to boost our online status — this often means that we are making work that doesn’t feel true to ourselves. When we do not tap into our internal quiet, and instead are only guided by the noise of the world, we lose a vital connection between our making and our self. Making becomes a mindless activity.’ Ellie Beck Mindful thoughts for makers.

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