Have you ever gone for weeks doing the same thing every day—driving the same way home from the office, bringing work home and ignoring it, eating fast as if meals are in the way, having the same thing for breakfast each morning?

What do you think would happen if you intentionally stepped out of your daily practice of mindlessness? What would it feel like to dance rather than jog early in the morning, to prioritize playing your guitar in the evening instead of watching television, to drive a different way home from work, to listen to different music, to read poetry?

Doing the same thing over and over, day after day, is not good for your brain. I once heard a neurologist say that having conversations with people who disagree with you is good for the brain because it is more difficult than having conversations with likeminded people. Respectful discourse has become so rare that the thought of it might feel dangerous in these times! But honestly, I think there are many who long for dialogue across the spectrum of opinions and ideas. Imagine the possibilities if everyone pulled their heads out of social media for a week or a month? 

Mindfulness us not the exclusive right of meditators. It is possible to sit mindlessly on a meditation cushion; I know that from personal experience. Sitting is the rule rather than the exception these days. Twenty-five centuries ago in India, people were moving around a lot more than we do now. Even in the first half of the twentieth century, when Mahatma Gandhi was meditating, he was stepping out of his normal practice of walking long distances. My father grew up on a farm with seven siblings and a mother who would not have allowed her kids to sit and do nothing. For many of us, stepping out should involve movement. 

I got my guitar out of its case tonight for the first time in…I don’t know how long. I keep it near a piano that occupies a corner of my home office. Although I often look in that direction, I seldom actually see the piano these days, much less sit on the piano stool. You would think there is a sign on it that says “Do not touch the keys!”

Although it is easier to play tunes on the stereo and experience music passively, I can also go months without playing my favorite John Coltrane or Miles Davis tunes. It is shameful to admit this. So, I am committing right now to stepping out more often and hope you will join me. If you want to enhance your mindful awareness in some other way than sitting still on a meditation cushion—and most adults with ADHD hate sitting still—experiment with stepping out in your own way. Then write a comment in the box below about your experiment and the effects that you observed.

3 Responses to Try Stepping Out

  • I played the piano yesterday for the first time in a decade. It felt good, although the left hand is definitely in need of practice!

  • You have described a well known phenomena for me. TV is a trap as is the computer. 12 minutes of exercise is a good change. Playing guitar would be another. When done it always seems to be when I am in a good mood and have good energy. But I think one of the killers for me is that when I do some of the more creative endeavors and critique myself too hard because I am not good enough or knowledgeable enough and that has its own deterrent side effect.

  • I know what you mean Rick. Why do we do that to ourselves? When we say, “not good enough,” who is judging? And which one is the “self,” the one being judged or the one judging? A Zen teacher once taught me to practice dropping the judgment so there would be no judge and no self, just pure experience. Try eliminating the judge and see what happens. You might find it liberating. Judging can be such a waste of time. When Julian Lennon’s parents divorced, Paul McCartney wrote a song to encourage him, suggesting that he “take a sad song and make it better.” Maybe you can take a bad song, bad lyric, bad narrative, or bad performance and just make it better. Thanks for your comment!

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