Competitive mindfulness may sound like a complete oxymoron. I have recently observed this during my dissertation research on Wearables and Presence in the Workplace. I thought it might be worth sharing to see where the conversation goes.
The concept of competitive mindfulness was rather humorous to me at first. Interaxon’s Muse, one of the devices in my study, is an EEG monitoring headband accompanied by a smartphone game that teaches the user to improve their focus. When the user is focused, they get birds. As their attention sways, the wind picks up. My kids and their friends hijacked two of the units to see who could get more birds. Initially they strategically disappeared into the other room to ensure minimal distraction for best results. It did not take long before they could sit amongst the chaos of kids to accomplish their focus. In fact they seemed to be listening more, both to themselves and others. Not to me, of course. That would take more than two weeks, and the devices needed to be delivered for my study. Is competition so wrong, if that is what it takes to interest them in improving their focus?
Several weeks ago, I attended Wisdom 2.0. It was an interesting mix of mindfulness from meditation and yoga to conscious business and self-awareness. The participants ranged from practitioners to wellness providers, leadership development professionals, organization psychologists and coaches. I tried to soak it all in and capture the pieces that are relevant to my dissertation (trying to focus myself to get it done, rather than get distracted by the many tangents I could have taken).
Morsels of conversations debating mindfulness as meditation, what meditation means and its purpose. I was surprised, well not too, at condescending comments towards non-daily meditators. “When you do it, you will understand mindfulness.” Doesn’t sound like a very compassionate and non-judgmental thing to say. It is my own belief that method for achieving mindfulness comes from within each person. One could be laying in the bath, hiking a ridge or sitting in lotus pose with their eyes closed. I believe it is not the method, but the goal of listening to one’s self and experiencing the world, in the moment, without judgement.
There are other smartphone apps and wearables that have mindfulness components to them. Some of them have sharing elements that one can choose to make competitive. One app is based on Mindfulness expert Jack Kornfield and Adam Gazzaley research in contemplative neuroscience. Simply by their using the term “neurocrossfit” has an element of competition insinuated. Deepak Chopra says, “”I think this is the best way to reach a lot of people,” of his app and use of Dreamweaver for meditation.
Don’t get me wrong, I think competitive mindfulness is great, in moderation. If a competitive component is what is needed to develop greater compassion, self-awareness, and less judgement, is that a problem. Of course, full disclosure, I thrive on a little bit of competition. Not too much, but just enough or ”lagom.” If there is one thing I learned in my life in Sweden, it is the beauty of “lagom,” which I think applies well here.
I can just hear my kids now, “I fell asleep faster than you.” “Yeah, I got a higher compassion score than you.” (Or, is this just me dreaming?) I look forward to seeing how they will respond to Spire. Who can be more balanced between focus, fitness and calm. If this is what they are competitive about, I am not too worried. If they master yoga poses and breathing with intent to nail a pose better than anyone else, this at least gets them on the mat. The other pieces may follow. In fact, I think there is a great deal of hope in competitive mindfulness. Especially when to goal is to achieve personal best, competitive with oneself.
Is competitive mindfulness, the future? For those who think meditation will make them better people but still judge others who don’t meditate, you have work to do. Competition does not equal judgment. Maybe a walk in the woods or a long bath would do you good. I feel for you and am right there with you. We all have work to do to strive for our personal best that mutually serves us and the greater system. Only then, can we thrive together. Lagom competition for a balance of empathy, compassion, humility and reality is a better goal for competitive mindfulness. How many birds can you get, or compassionate deeds can you do in one day?