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What is Mindfulness?

For a long time, I used to believe mindfulness is positive vibes and feeling good. I’ve since learnt that it’s much bigger than that.

Menka Sanghvi
Menka Sanghvi
5 min read
What is Mindfulness?

Table of Contents

Hello friend,

Welcome, good lookers! It’s been a while. I’ve missed writing these, but life has been a handful recently. Happy to be back, and hoping you’ll enjoy this.

What is mindfulness?

For a long time, I used to believe mindfulness is positive vibes and feeling good. I’ve since learnt that it’s much bigger than that. It is the capacity to be open, curious and kind in every situation, even the tough ones. It’s being able to see our pain and discomfort and sit with it calmly as it unfolds.

That’s why much of what I share here is about noticing imperfections, exploring cracks, and finding beauty in the mundane. We can’t run away from these challenging human experiences. And even if we could, we would soon miss the richness, texture and growth of life.

What catches us off guard is that we don’t know the form or shape that the next pain will come it. Life is full of surprises and unexpected experiences. Or as Rumi described them: “unexpected visitors”. May we meet each one at the door, laughing!

The Guest House, by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes.
As an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Just Looking Instagram‌‌ By @ioanac2017

On Ways of Looking

Ode to Shadows
I wrote an essay all about my fascination with shadows, and I think you’ll like it!

“Shadows get a bad rap. They are commonly considered evil, sinister, or at best inferior (who would ever want to live in somebody else’s shadow?). But give them a chance and you’ll discover that shadows are fascinating things. “

Time is rubbery
The science of time-perception tells us that when familiar information is processed, it doesn’t take much time. But new information takes longer to process, and actually makes time feel like it is moving more slowly!

The day in hand
Speaking of time, most of us have a tendency towards long-range, hopeful thinking. This wise video from the School of Life points towards a different approach.

Overly descriptive colour palettes
My cousin works in the paint industry, and when I sent him this he couldn’t stop laughing! Thanks to Laura Olin.

The Social Dilemma
If you’re interested in how the apps you’re using impact the mind and society, you’ll want to see this docu-drama on Netflix. (Link takes you to the trailer)

Direction of Light
I mostly find photography tutorials too dry, engaging a part of my “worky brain” that I want to rest when I pick up my camera. But these tutorials by Andrew Brooks have captured my imagination. He shares his love of landscape photography, and how to collaborate with the mist and the clouds.

Boring Talks podcast
I’ll never look at cornflakes in the same way again (episode 24).

Albert Einstein quote
One of his best.

A galaxy known as UGC 4879
“Consider this. The universe is mostly vast quantities of blackness, coldness and silence. In the big picture, it is an extremely rare, mind-bogglingly unlikely event, for any particles of light to exist anywhere. Darkness is a far more pervasive feature of reality than ephemeral light will ever be.”

– from my Ode to Shadows article.

Looking exercise

Time needed: 10 min

A few days ago we had a stunning pink sunset! But I was walking with a toddler who was more interested in the pebbles and puddles. On this looking-down-walk, I discovered several curious manhole covers basking in the pink light. Later I shared a photograph of one on Instagram and someone responded to me – privately – with the following link: . Amazingly this is a website dedicated to manholes from around the world. The curator reminds us that in every city there are two worlds: a lower city with miles and miles of tunnels, pipelines and wires, all in service of the upper city which we inhabit. The manholes are the bridges between these two worlds; an everyday reminder that we rarely notice. So let’s flex our perceptual muscles and turn our attention to these bridges:

1. Go outside and locate the manholes near you.
2. Pay respect with a good, long look.
3. Notice the shape of the cover, any text on it, and the style of it.
4. Imagine for a moment what lies beneath and how it serves you.
5. Optional: make a photograph of the manhole.

If you’re on Instagram come and join us @wearejustlooking and share your photo using the community hashtag. Your looking will inspire others!

A photographer, a manhole and a shadow. (Ariel Rubinstein, New York, 2018)


Mary Oliver: a magical poet that can take you to a different world in an instant. Her work is about the joy of walking slowly, paying attention, being astonished and bowing often. I’m currently reading this anthology, Devotions, which she put together herself. Her favourite poems.I usually include a quotation alongside my recommendation, but am reluctant to choose just one today. Instead, I invite you to take some time to explore her poetry. Even if you know her well, there is always freshness. Here’s a starting point for what I imagine will be the most delightful rabbit hole.

More book recommendations on looking.

Thank you for reading. As always, I’d love to hear from you with any thoughts sparked by this letter, or just to say hello. That’s what drew me to the newsletter format – it feels a little more private, and sort of offline in a good way.

Yours in curiosity,


Menka Sanghvi Twitter

I'm a researcher, writer, and designer working on the theme of mindful curiosity. Just Looking is a project I started to help myself and others slow down and experience more wonder in the everyday.

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