For this week’s post, I am happy to share an article that a colleague of mine, Eric Mazzie, wrote on mindfulness. Writing about a topic that is not covered nearly enough, or honestly, practiced enough, requires attention and interest. Eric seems to have been doing just that and dancehealthier is happy to share his recent journey. I hope that his story, in some way or another, inspires you on this hump day Wednesday.
Mindfulness Matters, By: Eric Mazzie
Being mindful is like gently falling awake. Mindfulness matters to me because for the past 20 years of my life, I have instinctively been doing the opposite- dozing off from the present moment. For various invaluable reasons, mindfulness is of great significance. Nonetheless, these three I find are of the upmost importance: 1) it enables me to truly live in the moment; 2) it fosters a compassionate response to suffering and 3) enhances my overall performance due to increased mind/body awareness. In essence, mindfulness matters because it is the only doorway that leads to living in the only moment there ever is- this one.
Living in the moment is probably the number one reason why being mindful is important to me. Too often, seemingly “ordinary” moments that do not necessarily require being fully present just slip under the radar. These “little” moments throughout the day, such as something as simple as stretching before a dance class, can add up to large amounts of time over the years. For instance, if I am caught up in thinking about what happened earlier in the day or worrying about the future, then I am essentially showing up absent from the moment-to-moment experience of stretching my body- the feeling of my body making contact with the floor, a brief tingle in a muscle fiber, or the light breeze of the air conditioning. I can easily get caught up the stream of unending thoughts, so much so that even though all of those other things are happening within and around me, I am distracted and totally unaware.
Going further, compassionate responsiveness is the second reason why mindfulness matters to me. Adding this a layer of compassionate icing to the mindful cake makes it complete. This self-compassion and compassion for others is of uttermost importance: it allows me actually respond compassionately versus reacting judgmentally to “mistakes” or perceived “flaws” that I am constantly scanning for in my profession. I am able to pause and take a step back to observe the critical self-talk that I developed over the years as a child.
Ultimately, by becoming more and more aware and changing how I relate to this subconscious internal dialogue, I can be more compassionate and less judgmental towards myself. But without mindfulness, I cannot be aware of my suffering in the first place, let alone feel self-compassionate in that moment. As the modern pioneer of mindfulness in mainstream medicine, Jon Kabat-Zinn, simply states, “In all Asian languages, the word for heart and the word for mind are the same word. So, when you hear the word ‘mindfulness’ you have to hear the word ‘heartfulness’ or you’ll misunderstand it as simply one more cognitive exercise- and it’s not”.
With that said, the last reason mindfulness is so important to me is because it enhances the experience of performing. Sometimes when I am dancing (and I am sure other people can relate), I feel like a moving head, disengaged and disconnected from the rest of my body. As a metaphor, it is as if the switch for autopilot is set to “on”, and I am dancing a highly familiar set of steps yet simultaneously worrying about whether or not my performance is “good enough” or if others are “approving”. But because mindfulness is the lifeblood to staying attentive to thoughts, postures, sensations, and movements alike, I find my performance excels because I am able to notice when I am thinking, and then return my attention back to my body- back to my dancing.
Consequently, the more I actually inhabit my body, the less I am distraught by the jarring commenting inside my head. This ultimately allows me to be far more in tune with the visceral dancing itself, which in turn decreases the chances of injury. Because of this, I am able to perform at my peak.
Overall, without mindfulness, I would be completely trapped in the tangled web of thoughts inside my head. That is why being mindful is so important to me: I have a guide that can compassionately, yet firmly, lead me back to the present moment whenever I have completely wandered off from my current experience. But that guide is not just within me, it is within all of us: it is mindfulness. Somehow, it always manages to do a perfect job of escorting me, whenever I am lost in the narrow space of my mind, back to the illuminated doorway of the present, vast moment. As Ikko Narasaki movingly states, “The mind is constantly trying to figure out what page it’s on in the story of itself. Close the book. Burn the bookmark. End of story. Now the dancing begins”.