Reading. We all read. Whether it is emails, text messages, or my favorite, actual physical, paper-bound books. Reading at its heart is a skill that is meant to allow us to communicate with each other. For the most part, those of us who have mastered the skill, take reading for granted.
We read traffic signs, shop windows, and more everyday. Reading allows us to navigate both the community we live in and the world at large. How then, can reading make us more mindful?
Mindful Benefit #1
I read A LOT of historical fiction. As a historical fiction author, part of what I enjoy most about this genre is the research that must go into a story in order to capture a reader’s attention. If I find myself immersed in a time and place far removed from where I physically exist, then the writer has done their job of transporting me. In its truest form, historical fiction allows me to communicate with the past.
Reading historical fiction not only teaches me about true events while providing insight into the past, it also teaches me to be more mindful of my actions today. For the past several years, I have read many World War II era stories. These stories have given me a glimpse into what life could be like during war time.
Last night, I had a dream. Or rather a nightmare. I woke startled and worried for my family. I had dreamed that we were immersed in a war, not unlike the last world war. The enemy was faceless but the threat felt very real. I began to wonder how individuals today would react to this kind of threat should it occur. Is history meant to repeat itself? Would some of us stand up, willing to end our own lives in the face of a bully? Would we run and hide? How could we alter the course of such heinous acts? Or rather, with these thoughts in mind, how can we prevent such an atrocity from happening to begin with?
Mindful Benefit #2
Reading allows us to escape into another character’s life. Even contemporary stories allow the reader to leave their own day behind and dive into someone else’s experience. We read, I think, not only to expand our mind but also to escape it. Immersing oneself into another person’s journey through life allows us the chance to take a break from our own.
This break from our own reality is like a mini vacation. Taking a step back from our own day to day life also allows us the opportunity to solve problems that may exist in our own experience. The number one greatest way to solve a problem is to take a step away from it and let the mind work on solving it in the background. In the end, this creates a much more mindful existence.
Mindful Benefit #3
Reading allows us to be emotional. Everyone needs a good cry from time to time. Though you may feel a little sheepish as tears stream down your face while reading an immersive book, crying is a release. Would you rather have to live through a painful situation so you have the benefit of release in the form of a good cry? I am guessing, you would much rather read someone else’s experience, cry, and then be able to move on with your life. Changed, yet not beaten down.
Humans are emotional beings and as such, we need to feel for both ourselves and others. Reading gives us the opportunity to try on a multitude of emotions and in doing so, allows us to be more mindful about our own experiences.
Mindful Benefit #4
Reading spurs our intelligence. When we read our minds are open to new thoughts and ideas. We may read for enjoyment, but we always learn something along the way. I actually can’t think of a single book that I’ve read where I have not learned anything at all. One of my favorite quotes says, “the best journeys answer questions you didn’t even think to ask.” That in a nutshell is reading at its best.
That isn’t to say that I have never read a book I didn’t like. Not liking a book is just another way of letting me know how I perceive the world around me. It is another avenue for me to learn more about myself. I’ve never wasted a single moment while reading.
Mindful Benefit #5
Reading is an active, contemplative task. As a reader, you must tune out everything around you in order to be completely in the moment with the words on the page. Reading is part meditation, part learning, part feeling, and part exploring. Being mindful has a lot to do with all four aspects of reading.
So go on and pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. I am confident you too will find a little mindfulness among the pages.