Mindfulness Group For Men Review: It’s all good – Of broken pots and wandering minds

Carmelo Di Maria

~ Written by Carmelo Di Maria. Carmelo sits on the Mindfulness Network Community Friends (MNCF) Volunteer Committee and offers a regular donation-based specialist interest group for men to connect and practice mindfulness. ~


It was time for our monthly Mindfulness Group for Men again, and Ken Lunn was the teacher who kindly volunteered to guide our practice session.

Ken guided us through a grounding practice and alongside an invitation to feel the feet on the floor, bum on the chair and hands in the lap, there was an equally customary invitation to consider any distractions as PART of the practice, as THE practice. I must have heard this invitation hundreds of times before, but somehow this time I felt its significance and weight more. I thought to myself, ‘this practice IS really for everyone, it is incredibly forgiving, and you can’t possibly get it wrong… even when you do.’ Distractions are a natural process of the human mind, simple as that. The problem only exists when you have expectations of a thoughtless, nirvana-like experience (there’s still a common misconception out there that meditating is about emptying your mind), or when you want to replicate a particularly pleasant experience you had in the past. But the whole idea is instead to take stock of what’s happening now, consider it a perfectly natural mental phenomenon, expressing curiosity as to the nature of your distraction and then deliberately bring your mind back to the intended focus. So, in that sense, there is a constant tension between what minds do and what we want them to do, but it’s all good, and we just live with that.

This is how you show equanimity, a sense of acceptance of what is going on despite your best intentions, a non-judgemental openness to what it is and not what it SHOULD be, a beginner-like curiosity of the inexorable workings of the mind, and a patient attitude in trusting the process, letting go of your expectations and striving for perfection. And that’s when your attentional training becomes so much more than refining an ability to focus, but a philosophy of life in itself.

I don’t recall at what point Ken read out an extract from a book called ‘Who Ordered This Truckload Of Dung?’ To make a long story short… a group of British soldiers – besieged on all sides by enemy troops – are invited by their captain to have a cup of tea. Basically, when the proverbial hits the fan, have a cup of tea instead – take a deep breath, accept what’s happening, gather your thoughts and avoid being driven to a rash decision. More learning…

We then take our seats again, metaphorically, as our bums never moved an inch off them, and proceeded to be guided through another practice… and once again I focus on the invitation to make distractions part of our meditation and not to ‘rush back’ towards the intended focus – in the rushing back there would almost be a sense of oh I’ve done this wrong, let me put that right straight away. In this way, there’s alertness as to what is going on moment to moment, but also composure and avoidance of a knee-jerk reaction.

I stopped to think how forgiving and all-inclusive mindfulness practice is, when it invites you to make distractions or sleepiness part and parcel of the practice – no shoulder-whacking, Zen-style, to correct sleepiness and lapses of concentration, here. And if I was to philosophise on the whole process, I’d say it’s not simply a matter-of-fact realisation of mind’s nature, but also a warm embracing of life’s imperfections. And in true monkey-mind style, but one that’s propelled by the unifying property of logical links, my mind travelled to an old Japanese art called Kintsugi. Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pots with a golden paste – the result is a lived object, one that despite its inanimate nature shows signs of a past life.

This seems to be an apt metaphor for our meditative experience – whenever we get distracted from our focus, we don’t deny the lapse of attention, we embrace it and celebrate it, as something that is simply part of the process and part of life. We become comfortable with our vulnerability and our imperfection. One day, Italian actress Anna Magnani was sitting through a make-up session and apparently said to her make-up artist: ‘Please don’t touch my wrinkles, it took me so long to earn them.

Men can seem particularly inept at showing their vulnerability, and this would explain why they are less likely to seek medical care or mental health support or, for that matter, embark in practices like mindfulness. Society and age-old traditions want them that way and want them to put up a solid fracture-less exterior. Paradoxically, instead, there’s nothing stronger and more resilient than showing one’s vulnerability.

Therefore, here’s hoping that, men and women, may we all be ready to show our deficiencies and failures – in essence, our humanity – with pride, as scars on a valiant soldier’s chest or wrinkles on a beautiful face. Cheers to that!… with a cup of tea of course…

The Mindfulness Group for Men (MGM) is a free monthly online session open to both men who are completely new to mindfulness and to those with experience. All our sessions are guided by qualified and experienced volunteer teachers. 

We meet once a month and alternate between the third Saturday of the month (11am to 12pm, UK time) and the third Tuesday of the month (6pm to 7pm, UK Time).

Yes, men meditate too! 

Find out more and take part

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