Embracing mindful research

mindfulnessAs we write up the research findings and reflect on our approach, we have been formulating a methodological innovation around mindful research.

Mindfulness has been described as ‘paying attention to what you pay attention to’ (Jon Kabat-Zinn). When we consider appropriate methodologies for engaging with the everyday, such a mindful approach seems particularly helpful. Here we have in mind the challenges of Mass Observation (Highmore, 2002); a mindful approach responds to the everyday images, words, texts, ideas and so on that resonate. As such, one might be criticized for being overly subjective in assessing what is more or less important in the everyday realm; however, it could be counter-argued that we are all experts in this realm. The idea of resonance is then fitting.

Ellen Langer (2005) notes that “Unfortunately, our culture leads us to evaluate almost everything we do, even our works of art, music, literature, and every other creative product. We look at the end product and pass judgement on whether it is “creative” or not without regard for whether a mindfully engaged individual created it. We distinguish the product from the experience of creating it.”…”We can learn to choose to engage creatively in any number of ways, simply by learning how to be mindful. Mindfulness is an effortless, simple process that consists of drawing novel distinctions, that is, noticing new things.”… “Mindfulness requires, however, that we give up the fixed ways in which we’ve learned to look at the world.” (Langer 2005: 5)

There is a danger of the social scientist of everyday life undertaking their task mindlessly: “The nature of being schooled is that once we learn how to do something, too often we stop experimenting, learning, and having fun. We proceed mindlessly.” (Langer 2005: 8).

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