I have heard people say that you can do anything mindfully. You can watch television mindfully, you can play a computer game mindfully, you can even commit a crime mindfully. Just as long as you do it slowly, deliberately, and with present moment awareness. But what really constitutes mindfulness?
People who say that anything can be done mindfully only take into account the two main aspects of mindfulness – attention and awareness. But is zoning out in front of the television true awareness? Does focusing on a video game leave you open-minded and attentive to the rest of the world? And, most importantly, is crime an activity that can ever be done mindfully, considering that it lacks all the other basic qualities of mindfulness, such as non-judgment, non-reactivity, non-attachment, and kindness?
While crime is an extreme example, it does raise the question of whether any activity can be done mindfully. What conditions need to be present apart from present moment awareness? I have written before about breaking down mindfulness into its various components, but today I want to discuss mindfulness in relation to a specific activity, an activity that has fast gained popularity and spread all over social media in recent weeks. This activity is playing with slime.
While in the past people have gone for a run, practiced yoga, meditated, exercised, danced, played an instrument, or coloured to release stress, a lot of people are now turning to slime for a moment of relaxation. Some have indeed dubbed it as something “between art and a stress ball”. Sure, slime is visually appealing and, for most people, pleasant to touch. In fact, playing with slime, or just listening to the sounds the slime makes when other people touch it, may produce an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), which is an experience characterised by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin, a feeling of “low-grade euphoria”, or sensations of positive feelings and relaxation. So slime is attractive, addictive, relaxing and fun. It’s also therapeutic, easily accessible, and free! But what does it do?
- A new sensation. In a world full of smartphones, touch screens, flat surfaces and metal, is it really surprising that we crave a different kind of sensation? Apart from the experience of new sensations (through touch and sound), the appeal of slime may just be that it allows us to focus on our sensations, whatever they may be. We let go of the surrounding world for a moment, and focus on the slime as the object of our attention. Much like mindfulness, which teaches us to bring our attention back to the breath when our mind wanders, playing with slime teaches us to bring our attention back to the sounds and feel of the slime. Additionally, sensory experiences as a potential source for mindfulness are not exclusive to slime. Think about it, we spend our days touching, seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling. Our hands wash dishes, hold the steering wheel, fold clothes, touch surfaces, and run across the keyboard. Noticing the senses as they occur in a non-reactive and non-judging way can be a wonderful mindfulness practice if we let it, whether we are feeling the sand beneath our toes, washing the dishes, or simply playing with slime.
- Stress relief. As I already mentioned, whether meditation, art, or a stress ball is your method of choice to achieve relaxation, slime may sometimes act as all three. It is a very sensory experience, which can unleash your creativity (whether you are making slime or playing with it), and provide tension release through the simple act of having something to fidget with. After all, why did fidget spinners become so popular? According to art therapist Nadia Jenefsky, “there is a difference between process-oriented therapy which is about interacting with the thing that you are making, and product-oriented therapy which is about working towards a finished piece that you want to keep and look at. Slime is about mixing ingredients and experimenting with different colours and supplies.” The point is therefore less to create something, and more to simply be creative; less to achieve something, and more simply to fidget.
- Present moment awareness. I obviously wasn’t going to write a blog about slime if it was completely unrelated to mindfulness, was I? When I first started doing research on slime, I thought that rather than bringing our attention into the present moment, slime is a distraction, much like switching off in front of the television or getting caught up in a vortex of YouTube videos. Instead, I discovered that playing with slime or even watching someone else play with slime can actually have the opposite effect. Watching a speck in the slime move further and further into the goo, or listening to the pop of a bubble when it finally bursts is probably the most we have paid attention to anything in a long while, if ever. Slime can provide that much-needed “micromoment” that holds our focus and awareness, if only for a minute. In fact, it may be that one relaxing thing we do, while doing absolutely nothing else at the same time. It may be that activity that gets us to pause, relax, de-stress and simply bring our mind back to the present. Will I replace my morning meditation with slime play? Probably not. Do I think it can be beneficial? Yes. Am I now interested in trying it for myself? Absolutely!
This is a blog post that I wrote for Mindful Bohemian – a wonderful website with products inspired by a mindful and bohemian lifestyle. Please visit their blog and feel free to browse their fantastic collections! 🙂