Yale School of Architecture, New Haven, Connecticut
Mindfulness originated in Buddhism and means paying attention in the present moment non- judgmentally1. Its benefits include happiness, health2 3 ,creativity, and productivity4.
Little is known of the spatial requirements to produce and support mindfulness. Only a stationary person’s brain response to some spatial elements have been discussed, even though people are often in motion or with others. For architecture to contribute to mindfulness in everyday settings, it is urgent to produce a tool to assess what incorporating mindfulness in architecture looks like.
To start this effort, this paper aims to identify the missing links on the obscure path between mindfulness and space and to propose a seed concept model on which to base design for mindfulness.
A literature review is conducted using movements and collectivity as guiding elements. It first looks at the meanings of individual and collective mindfulness. Second, it examines how space is understood in precedents. Based on the findings, it then investigates perceived space when mindful and the influence of movements to mindfulness. Identified gaps include time, movements, perceived space, and subject-object blurriness.
There are two approaches to gain individual mindfulness: the Eastern one emphasizes meditation, and the Western one fosters an open awareness of new information5 through intellectual exercises6. The latter is applied oftener in secular settings since it treats “mindfulness as a desired end-result,” not a mind-state “found in experience” as in the former7.
This tendency can lead one to overlook the influence of movements8 in two instances: when meditation-related movements induce mindfulness and when the resulting movements of mindfulness reproduce themselves. For mindfulness to be sustained, the circulatory relationship between mindfulness and movements over time is critical.
Collective mindfulness9 presents questions regarding collectivity and is defined not as a mind- state or accumulation thereof10. It refers to leadership practices11 that help organizations detect and respond to unexpected events12. A desirable end-result of mindfulness becomes its definition here, obscuring the design goals. Bypassing individuals’ mind in their collectivity is rooted in psychology: to treat it as an oppositional crowd13. Consequences of this approach include the lack of individual mindfulness at the organization’s bottom and difficulty to maintain collective mindfulness. Recent research proposes combining bottom-up and top-down approaches1415, suggesting the necessity of the circulatory relationship between individual and collective mindfulness over time.
The influence of space on mindfulness has been assessed by examining elements of nature16 or spatial characters called Perceived Sensory Dimensions (PSDs). Both are independent of people’s perception of space. PSDs, such as social, serene, and refuge, are associated with restorative-ness1718 and are loosely linked to mindfulness. Space is always presumed to influence the mind but never conversely.
This one-sided view leaves challenges to architects, such as the inability to utilize the known effective PSDs for design. How do you recreate the characters of a park labeled ‘refuge’ in which teenagers feel restored19 ? Another challenge is missing information on the perceived space, either of the space with known effective PSDs or the one perceived when mindful; furthermore, there is no current notation system to represent perceived space. A previously proposed notation system by this author 20is not ready for empirical studies. Based on the identified gaps in the above, the following sections examine the perceived space when mindful and the influences of movements to mindfulness.
When mindful, self-space boundaries are blurred21. One’s internal is externalized and vice versa, leading to simultaneous subject-object separation and unification22 when the conscious submerges and active intuition of the authentic self23 extends to the external world24. Blurred self- space boundaries are evident in the brain’s meditators25.
Constructs of this blurriness are unilluminated. Within the body, how is it produced, transported, and sensed? Does mindfulness produce the blurriness or vice versa? Little is known of the outer half of blurriness, the space close to one’s body.
Peripersonal space (PPS) is a code for the space immediately surrounding the body.26 It is a perceived nearness27 and transforms itself according to the emotional significance of objects in it28. When a plant box is five-feet away from an employee, her perception of her nearness depends on her posture, the length of her watering can to reach it, and her emotional attachment to it. When spatial conditions change perceived nearness, are they also altering and blurring the perceived edge of her body?
No research has been conducted on a perceived space to determine when collective mindfulness is possible because whose perception of which part of the space to examine are unknown; however, ‘atmosphere’ and ‘Shared Sensory Experience in the PPS’ help decipher it.
‘Atmosphere’ is the quality of in-between spaces29 not embodied in things or individuals, and is shaped through the continuous changes of the environment and people’s practices in it30. With its multi-directional and in-between natures, atmosphere combines outside-in and inside-out perspectives of multi-occupant spaces.
Shared Sensory Experience in PPS articulates the transforming spatial perception among multiple people. When an employee’s coworker behaves in a trustworthy way, his PPS expands to include this coworker such that stimuli occurring in the coworker’s PPS are processed in the same way as for the initial employee31. This Shared Sensory Experience occurs bi-directionally32 by the employee’s PPS remapping his coworker’s. This explains how an individual’s spatial perception affects others, eventually forming the ever-changing collective spatial perception of an atmosphere.
Influence of Movements
Movements, such as walking during Shinrin-Yoku (forest bathing), improve mind-state33, although its proximity to mindfulness is unclear. One’s bodily actions and one’s altering spatial perception due to one’s location changes contribute to this effect.
Resistance training equally mitigates depression as Yoga does34, which shows that actions of body parts improve our mind without intentional mind-body connection. The Japanese Buddhism practice, Shugyo, offers additional insights regarding such connections. It trains the spirit by means of the body through repetitive actions and is also applied in secular settings, such as Noh performance practices 35. This implies that a space could train the moving person’s mind, if it can encourage her to repeat certain movements.
In locomotive movement, a person’s altering spatial perception influences her mind3637, especially amid scenic changes38 3940. Improved mood while walking relies on congruent multimodal senses41,42, suggesting the importance of non-visual stimuli in perceived space. Traditional walking meditations, which require focus on non-visual sensations,43 support it.
Shinrin-Yoku and walking meditations are often done in groups, but their collective mental outcome has not been explored. Research on Shinrin-Yoku shows the possible importance of its human-to-human aspects44, confirming the importance of the inside-out perspective and in- between spaces. Collective movements have additional aspects that influence participants’ mind, such as moving together and altering spatial perception due to their changing relational positions.
Research in dance psychology helps address these challenges. When people dance together, they can feel light, calm, and joyful, which are common appearances of mindfulness, and report blurring self-awareness and heightening fellow-feeling with others 45. Dance also invites its audience to ‘live’ the experience of dancers by internally imitating them, which erases the distinction between dancers and the audience46. Both processes are similar to Shared Sensory Experiences in PPS.
It is urgent to devise tools to incorporate mindfulness in everyday spatial settings. This paper takes a timely first step toward that aim by identifying the missing links on the obscure path between mindfulness and space (Table-1) and by presenting a novel seed concept model in support (Figure-1). Additionally, it also introduces some concepts that possibly fill the gaps.
Undervaluing the Eastern approach to mindfulness causes a lack of awareness and recognition of movements, and it ignores the inside-out process toward collective mindfulness and the inattention to time, all of which have implications for spatial design.
The one-sided view of spaces when designing for mindfulness prevents utilizing the known effective natures of that space to commune with the actual space and causes one to overlook perceived space.
Movements influence one’s mind thorough body actions and altering perceived space due to locomotion. Both are overlooked, and the latter complicates perceived space. The paper identifies the self-space blurriness when individually mindful and the self-other blurriness when collectively in motion as focus areas in further exploring perceived space.
The resulting list and model are not exhaustive and need inputs from business, education, neuroscience, and technology. Future developments include the notation system for perceived space that satisfies conditions identified herein and translation of effective natures of space into actual space.
Table 1. Identified Missing Links on the Path between Mindfulness and Space
|Missing Links||Implications for the Spatial Design||Helpful Concepts to Fill the Missing Links|
|Missing/undervalued Information||Missing Tools|
Individual & Collective Mindfulness
|Recognition and natures of movements Circularity between mindfulness and movement||Not knowing the natures of movement to support Necessity to include the aspect of time|
Eastern approaches to mindfulness
|Notion of collectivity looking from inside-out||Obscured goals & means of the design||Mindful organizing (Vogus & Sutcliffe 2012), Team mindfulness (Yu 2018)|
|Space that induces mindfulness||Natures of effective PSDs||Spatial language to represent natures of effective PSDs||Inability to translate effective PSDs to actual spaces|
Perceived space when mindful
Space perceived when mindful
|Notation system that capture & represent spatial perception when mindful and in motion||Inability to capture & represent the perceived space when mindful near the body (See Self-space & Self-others blurriness)||Notations for a Participatory Envirotecture (Thiel 1997 ), Space- travelers’ Notation System (Kawai et. al 2018)|
Perceived space when collectively mindful
Perceived In-between Space
Same as above
|Inability to capture & represent the perceived in-between space when mindful||Atmosphere (Griffero 2019), Shared Sensory Experience in Peripersonal Space (Teneggi et.al 2013)|
Influence of Movements
|Actions of person’s body parts|
Space perceived when mindful & in motions individually (See also ‘Self- space blurriness’)
Notation system same as in ‘Perceived space when mindful’, plus inclusion of non-visual senses
|Not knowing the natures of movement/behavior to support|
Nessecity to include non-visual senses
Same as for ‘Perceived space when mindful’
|Notion of collectivity looking from inside-out (See ‘Collective Mindfulness’) Actions of moving together (See ‘Self-others blurriness’) Space perceived when mindful & in actions collectively (See ‘Perceived space when collectively mindful’ & ‘Self-others blurriness’)|
Self-space blurriness when individually mindful
|Inner-half of blurriness (origin, process, & sensory appearances) Outer-half of blurriness (spatial conditions near the body)||Not knowing what to be evaluated for a possibly spatial intervention|
Prepersonal Space & its expanding/shrinking nature (Gabbard 2015, Loyed 2009)
Self-others blurriness when collectively mindful
|Inner-half of blurriness (origin, process, & sensory appearances) Outer-half of blurriness (spatial conditions near the body & inner-half of blurriness felt by others)||Not knowing what to be evaluated for a possibly spatial intervention||Heightening fellow-feeling when dancing together (McNeil 1995), Internal imitation of dancers by the audience (Yang 2012)|
Figure 1. Seed Concept Model on the Path between Mindfulness and Space
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7 Carmody, “Eastern and Western Approaches to Mindfulness”
8 Movements include that of eyes, breathing etc.
9 Also called organizational mindfulness
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