Monk, Ninja, Scientist, Zombie, or Hippie?
What do you think about Mindfulness? Whether you are already practicing or thinking of starting, feeling interested and curious about it or dismissing it as a fashionable gimmick, you certainly must have an opinion about it. This is too popular a subject to ignore it. Interestingly, what attracts, perplexes and repulses us can give us great insights about our values, biases and fears.
I used to be very skeptical about Mindfulness. And yet for many years, before I even heard the word Mindfulness for the first time, I was actually well on track to practice it. I got glimpses of it, in my best moments:
- I was able to stay focused and absorbed in a task for long periods of time (I called it “being in the flow”)
- I could easily shake off “mental rumination” (I called it being a rebel, or “not like my mum”)
- I was able to see the funny side of my emotions and accept them (I called it building resilience)
- I was able to relax with music, or watching the tides (I called it refusing to play basketball)
My worst moments were of course pretty toxic. I was distracted, anxious, totally unable to smile, resenting any jokes, holding emotions under lid until I let them explode right when they could do maximum harm.
So when I started to get exposed to the concept of practicing Mindfulness, I must admit that I had an “Ah-Ha” of recognition; I knew what they were talking about, and I finally I had words and structures to make sense of what others (especially my family) thought of as “my being weird”.
However, by then I had become a scientist, a corporate executive and an atheist, and what really bothered me in the whole concept of Mindfulness was this “thing” about spirituality; I had these images of the passive Monk, no accomplishments, no critical sense, just blind faith and self-serving contemplation. That could not be for me!
I started to make peace with Mindfulness when the academic community began to flood the internet with overwhelming evidence to support its usefulness. The Scientist in me reconciled with the concept of Mindfulness. But how about my “passive vs. active” dilemma?
Lectures by Professor Chris Goto-Jones helped me making it all fall in place.
Whereas the Archetype of the Scientist stands for a dedication to mental integrity and the Archetype of the Monk stands for moral or spiritual integrity, there is another Archetype that speaks to me: the Archetype of the Ninja. Mindful Meditation has often been associated with Martial Arts; the archetypal warrior is not so much an image of violence, but rather an image of psychic integrity, related to discipline and emotional control. To me, the Ninja represents the aspiration of being a better human being, not removed, but out there, fighting for the greater good, not for personal interest.
Professor Goto-Jones acknowledges that today Mindfulness has so much infiltrated our Western culture in so many ways that it is sometimes hard to define it, so we might tend to refer to Archetypal representations that reflect our values and our fears. By reflecting about what in these archetypes attract us and what repulses us, we can gain some good insights about ourselves.
In addition to the Archetypes of the Scientist, Monk and Ninja, there are also two other less positive Archetypes. The Archetype of the Zombie reflects some of the fears that by controlling emotions we might become less human, loose our true self, even become non-human, with the associated fear of being a living dead.
A less dramatic image is the Archetype of the Hippie, that scares some of us and attract others: Unlike the Zombie it is not an image of loosing ourselves entirely, but its associate with loosing our social self, setting up shop at the borders of a society that we do not attempt to transcend, but simply to protest against
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