Mindfulness of Lego

Lego. The magnificent, multi-purpose toy that enchants and infuriates us. Infuriates? Well, only when you step on one. Enchants? Absolutely.

You know the deal. You get this box with a picture of a castle or a helicopter on it. You’re excited, but there’s a catch. When you open the box and tip it up, your cool new toy is all in pieces. It may be the world’s most versatile metaphor: You can’t play until you do the work. Today, though, we won’t be exploring any of those applications. Instead, I want to tell you a story.

Recently, I met an incredible woman who shared with me some of the struggles of her life, and how she has weathered them. Then she told me about her autistic son. His story was not presented as a struggle, but a blessing. One of the things that she related was how the activity of assembling Lego toys was soothing to him. It was a thing that helped him to get calm, when things began to get out of control. Without diminishing the import of her narrative, I want to apply this principle in the context of mindfulness. Can such a mundane thing be thought of as Mindful? Of course.

In the modern world, the practice of mindfulness most commonly has two basic interpretations. One is to be aware of what’s happening around us at this moment. Hear the breeze moving through leaves. Feel it brushing your skin. See the grasshopper resting on a blade of grass. Notice the ripple of water, or the sound of a distant siren. The other is to focus on one thing. In meditation, most choose breathing, or a visual object. Some use mantras or a mala.

Legos can be used in a couple of ways. As you work to build the toy, attention can be on the actual activity, or on the texture, color, and other attributes of individual pieces. You can also observe the sound and feel as they click together. This is a great mindfulness exercise for kids, but adults can enjoy it, too.

One thing that I want to emphasize, before closing, is that everyone has something to teach us. This woman that I met out of the blue, had a marvelous story. As a guitar player, I used to get together with others to jam. It was always a fun time, and a thing that I realized very early on was that everybody knew something I didn’t. There was never a time that I didn’t learn a new lick or song. It was the same with artists. That’s how all of life is. We can learn from every single person we meet, if we’re willing to take the time.