There’s something people rarely tell you about mindfulness. It’s something that tragically gets lost in all the seriousness and the science and the perfectly posed pictures of proponents sitting cross-legged in front of misty mountains.
Mindfulness can be fun.
It can be joyful. It can be playful. It can be an ongoing source of amusement which is way cheaper than a Netflix subscription… and it’s coming out with brand new content all the time!
I like to make a game of mindfulness. My latest game is what I call ‘intracranial bird watching’ and it goes a bit like this.
Step 1. I separate myself from all those attention-seeking electronic devices and find a place where I can be alone with my thoughts. You can kick off a game of intracranial bird watching whilst having a bath, before going to sleep or when taking a walk.
Step 2. I think of that space inside my skull as a forest and whenever a thought appears it gets to be a bird.
Step 3. I choose a type of bird for every thought.
Some thoughts are mundane – pigeon
Some are brilliant – rainbow lorikeet
Some appear fleetingly – fairy wren
Others tend to hang around – bin chicken
Some thoughts are playful – galah
Some are a bit of a laugh – kookaburra
Some are a bit weird – cassowary
Some are annoying – mynah bird
And some are really, really loud – cockatoo
Regularly, I have thoughts which are quite grand but will never get off the ground – emu
Very occasionally, I will have a thought that is wise – owl
Step 4. Let the birds be birds. The aim of the game is not to get the ducks in a row or to shoo away all the bin chickens. In our little mind forests, it is very natural for birds to be coming and going all the time. While I have my favourites, the birds are not good or bad, they are just random birds that naturally inhabit this space.
Step 5. Throughout my day I welcome all sorts of avian visitors. When I am stressed about something, I might realise that it is just a passing flock of cockatoos. When I am buying into some old story, I see that the bin chickens are hanging around again. When I am having fun with my thoughts, I am doing so alongside a mob of intracranial galahs.
Neurological researchers would tell you that a game like intracranial bird watching is helping to develop meta-awareness. Mindfulness experts may tell you how valuable it is to be able to simply observe your thoughts as they come and go, rather than get too caught up in them.
All I will tell you is that I find it fun.
1. Choose whatever birds you like. If you live with somewhere with cuckoos, kiwis or bald eagles, go with what you know. If you are wondering what on earth a bin chicken is, this short video may help.
2. If you have a bird phobia, intracranial bird watching may not be for you. There are however many other ways to enjoy mindfulness and that magical place inside your skull.