009 : Beware Distractions

There’s a mindfulness vibe at the moment. Being present. In the now.

Truly connecting to what’s going on inside you and around you.

I went to a mindfulness session (it’s good to try these things).

The facilitator asked me to eat a strawberry. I eagerly grasped at her punnet and chowed down a ripe strawberry as requested. So too did my other participants. Lots of, “mmm delicious, thanks” from masticating mouthfuls. We were then asked to eat another, but mindfully. We were all briefed to take a strawberry and really look at its texture and shape, and then notice its weight in our hand and its colour and how it might taste, and to notice where we expected the taste to be on our tongue. And then we were asked to place it slowly in our mouth and close our eyes and then notice all the senses firing off… you get the idea. All very middle class and self-indulgent. It was all going very well, I was indeed tasting a rainbow. I thought this is a great way to stimulate all the senses and get some individual, personal experience around being mindful. It was a brilliant way of getting participants to ‘be’ mindful rather than simply discuss what it could be like. And who doesn’t like strawberries, I thought. A really neat idea and it seemed to be going down well with the Guardian reading participants too.

Just a huge shame when she then said, “…Maybe as you’re eating this, think about it being the very last strawberry you’ll ever eat, so really savour the experience.”

I was being mindful. And then, being asked to think about it being my last strawberry ignited my imagination. The instruction was stimulus. could have been passive, careless or deliberate, but I was no longer ‘at one’ with my taste buds, but instead I was blindfolded in a Mexican jail, awaiting the firing squad with a summer fruit in my mouth. That’s what ‘maybe think about…’ as a throw away comment got me to do.

If you want your participants to notice something important to them, allow them to do so. Remember, we don’t learn the instruction, but what the instruction got us to do.

Don’t distract people by giving them other things to think and do.

If you’re going to eat the only strawberry. Only eat the strawberry!