The lost art of mindfulness

Generation Y, which I’m technically a part of (though they recently “uncovered” a new segment called Xennials, which I apparently belong to), is also sometimes called the “entitlement generation”.

And, instant gratification is available. Only, it may not be in the expected form.

Social media has become ubiquitous in the last 10 to 20 years. Behind the scenes, companies are working hard to make it as addictive as possible.

You need not look much further than the litany of people who are constantly phone gazing instead of looking up and engaging with the world that’s around them.

Social media is giving people that instant “hit” of dopamine they’re looking for. Only, so many aren’t even aware that this is what’s happening.

Now, I’m not about to give a lecture on why we should all disconnect from social media. If you believe you have a purpose in this world, I would recommend turning all your notifications off, mind you. That will help you focus on the important work you have to do.

What I am going to propose is that this is just one way in which mindfulness has been impacted.

When I say mindfulness, I’m talking about situational awareness. Being aware of our surroundings. Thinking about what’s appropriate in any environment or situation. Being thoughtful in our interactions with others and being more proactive about interacting with those around us.

Lack of Mindfulness in Personal Interactions

I haven’t been shy in sharing my thoughts on people who are constantly staring at their phones while they’re out with friends. I have friends who do this too.

If you’re with people you genuinely care about, couldn’t you give them your full, undivided attention for at least one hour? Sure, you might need to pick up the phone when an important call comes through. And, I understand that you might be making some plans for later with your significant other. But can’t that wait? Or, at the very least, could you excuse yourself for 10 minutes to sort out the issue, so you can be fully engaged with the people you’re already with?

Lack of Mindfulness in Email

Email is yet another place where I consistently see a lack of mindfulness. For instance:

  • I’ve had artists approach me about managing them out of the blue. First, I don’t manage artists (I’m not saying it’s not an opportunity — but I don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to that right now). Second, oftentimes they don’t even introduce themselves.
  • I’ve had artists send me their music without telling me what to do with it. The worst offenders don’t even address the email by name. How lazy can you get?
  • I’ve had artists tell me to add links to their site on my blog. Yet, they hadn’t even thought about where their link would fit naturally into the flow of content. Even if you’re willing to pay for the link, I’m not going to haphazardly sacrifice user experience because you want to boost your SEO.
  • I’ve had “investors” approach me without introducing themselves. Then, they wanted to become a partner in my business even though no prior connection was established. I don’t know who you are. So, what’s in it for me?

And, that’s the same question people are asking when you approach them — “what’s in it for me?”

I’m always thinking about that question — especially when I’m cold calling. If there’s nothing in it for them, maybe I should hold off on establishing contact. Maybe I should find a viable angle first.

Lack of Mindfulness in Driving

Per Medical News Today, the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. is accidents.

It’s scary to think that people aren’t practicing mindfulness on the road, but that is often the case, and I would venture to guess that smartphones are partly to blame.

Just yesterday, I was sitting in a two-lane turning lane. There was a car beside me in the left lane. Instead of turning into their designated lane, they turned right into my lane without even looking. That’s dangerous.

I know that mistakes can happen on the road. I’ve made my share of dumb moves, so my finger is pointed squarely back at myself.

But again, the road is a bad place to text or let our thoughts wander off into “La La Land”.

Lack of Mindfulness in Performance

If you hadn’t picked this up already, I primarily work in the music business.

I find most artists like to stick to their guns in terms of the style of music they play. That’s fine, but this is another area where mindfulness can go a long way.

The question you should be asking yourself as a performer is:

What does my audience want to hear?

Being ready with a few cover songs or songs that are a bit outside of your genre can be immensely helpful.

It so often happens that on a multi-bill night, a few artists play slow, droning, sad tunes that create a somber atmosphere. Suddenly, another artist gets up and plays something more energetic, fun, or just a little different. Who do you think stood out that night?

If your music is for you, that’s fine. You’re practicing mindfulness by being aware that your music isn’t for everybody. But if your music is for your audience, then perhaps adapting to the situation could be to your benefit.

Sometimes, changing your approach does nothing to change the atmosphere. In an instance like that, sometimes it’s the audience that’s failing to practice mindfulness, and that’s something I’ve seen a lot as well. Unless an artist is doing something to deliberately annoy you, they deserve your applause. They’re working hard. They may not be good at what they do, but if they’re giving it their best, don’t just ignore them.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to look at life as a short series of interesting or exciting events, punctuated by mostly dull moments of nothingness. But I’ve found there is great value in the stillness. When Eckhart Tolle spoke of The Power of Now, I believe this is exactly what he was saying. Happiness and joy are available now. It’s not in the past and it’s not in the future. You can find it in this moment. But it’s up to you to find it.