In Buddhism, aimlessness (apranihita, in Sanskrit) — along with signlessness (animitta) and emptiness (shunyata) — is named as one of the Three Doors of Liberation, or Three Concentrations, as interpreted by Thich Nhat Hahn.
This is different than directionlessness, which implies volition without purpose. Aimlessness is simply relieving oneself of striving, of goal-oriented thinking, releasing yourself from the ‘craving of becoming’. Is there any better balm for our times than that? For even when you meditate, you may on some level be looking to improve yourself, to conform to some notion of personal development. How disappointing is the feeling when we’ve put in the time and realize it’s ‘not working,’ as though meditation is a fad diet we’ve been coaxed into.
Aimlessness – to my mind – is the great permission to go against the learned behavior of achieving. To release the trajectory of career, fixed identity, personal expectations.
I don’t want to get pedantic about something I am only studying now myself, but aimlessness seems a wonderful vehicle for the practice of mindfulness.
So, try this! Very simply: take a walk with no goal in mind other than the walk itself. Don’t chart a course, plan on a direction; just let your feet take you where they want to go, turning corners, changing direction when your body tells you to. Pay attention to your mind as it directs you. Why choose left over right? Straight over turning. What’s that moment like when the decision arises, and when you heed it?
As you go, divest yourself of any intention of getting anything out of the walk, other than the simple sensation of movement, breathing, and feeling the weather on your skin. This means no phone, no podcast or music. This means no expectation or sorting out a problem, or forming plans for the future. Call it endurance meditation-walking, but also without the expectations you might hold of meditation.
What do you think: can you intentionally practice aimlessness? Is that not an aim unto itself?
For more mindful walking exercises, look here.