Mindfulness in other cultures can be our Teacher

I’m fortunate enough to be in Bali at the moment and it’s reminding me of some interesting things about mindfulness that are easy to forget in my first world, convenient, easy life! When I travel what I most love is noticing how people live their lives and what strikes me about here is that people need to really be mindful as a necessity of living and on a daily basis.

One of the things about being mindful is to really engage with your own life and being here reminds how the ease of western society can easily be a deterrent to being mindful. I recently spent some days in Ubud, a busy, but smallish town and to be honest I really needed to concentrate and be mindful to just get around. In Australia where I live, if there is a break in the footpath, you can be sure someone will be there very fast to erect a makeshift fence in case someone accidently hurts themselves. I can easily just wander around, not taking notice of where I am because I know that will happen. Here I was given the gift of broken footpaths and missing grates so I needed to really engage with where I was and to practice being mindful from genuine need.

Likewise, crossing the road is a challenge in looking after yourself; no walk signs here that absolve you from personal responsibility. At home, I can drink water from any tap and know someone, somewhere has sanitised it for me so I don’t have to think about it! Here, as in much of the world, drinking water is precious and due attention must be paid to its use and where it comes from and how it is used – it’s a necessity of life to be mindful!

The point of this article is not to make disparaging remarks about another country or way of life but it is instead to help make us realise that our first world obsession with all things safe and easy may be leading us down the path of unmindful living.

Are we living a life that is too sanitised with few opportunities to really engage with our own lives and to really make our own decisions about how we live them? It’s food for thought!

It’s a time to reflect that if we as adults in first world countries are living this way, then very likely our children are leading lives that are very protected and they are possibly as a result not given many opportunities by adults to make choices, our desire to protect them from harm, overriding decisions made on their behalf.

When I return home will I be tempted to move somewhere that offers more genuine opportunities for mindfulness? Probably not as what I think is more important is I use the experience to remind me to engage more fully with my own life. I take it as a reminder to not walk through life blindfolded, happy to be led by the regular safety net that exists in western society. Even more, this can be a wake-up call to allow our children in our care to be given opportunities to make real life decisions – start small and see where it leads! More mindful, engaged adults may well eventually be the result.