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Observing Mindfulness

Observing Mindfulness... And Then Getting Bored By It

My initial enthusiasm for writing this blog was to figure out what I found so annoying about the mindfulness movement. Something is wrong here, my emotions said.  No, no, no!

To help me figure out if it was just me or if those feelings were on to something, I decided to study the matter further and read a canonical work, Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness (2013).

What are We Thinking About?

When we're talking to ourselves (silently or aloud), we're engaging in a goal-directed behavior, such as trying to strengthen our resolve (yes, I can!) or remember something (broccoli). We’re still riding on a wave of feeling, because goals can't gain traction without emotion. 

Mindfulness and Politics, Part II: What Do the Surveys Say?

As part of their 2014 survey on religion and politics, Pew did collect data on the political affiliation of meditation practitioners. They found that most were conservative. Well, there goes my thesis I thought. Delving further, though, it turns out that many religious groups practice meditation, including evangelical Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons.

Mindfulness and Politics, Part I: Parties and Narratives

...mindfulness teachers and advocates, whom I assume don't want to drive away potential converts by creating a political litmus test for membership in the mindful community.  Even groups that have promoted mindful political engagement shy away from explicit party affiliation

Blurbs That Blind

The purpose is to dazzle us. But dazzling doesn’t illuminate; quite the opposite: it overwhelms the vision. Dazzling blinds and confuses.

Unwanted Thoughts and What to Do with Them

Sometimes uncomfortable thoughts and feelings take us down a path to nowhere and sometimes they lead to new insights or solutions to vexing problems. We might want to follow their lead for awhile and see where they are taking us.  If we cut them off (“gently redirect” – same dif) the moment we notice them, we might miss out on a valuable learning experience. 

The Sound of One Thought Clapping

The inner audience may nod in agreement, clap with enthusiasm, talk back to the stage, or perhaps engage in a distancing maneuver. The difference is between a receptive, engaged audience and an audience that observes without commitment to the narrative.

Thoughts as After-Thoughts

Thoughts are remnants of automatic brain processes that have temporarily captured our attention.  If we are aware of a thought, we have recreated it.

Thoughts as Dry Runs

"Our conscious experience is assembled on the fly, as our brains respond to constantly changing inputs, calculate potential courses of action, and execute responses." Michael S. Gazzaniga

Mindfulness and Brain Changes

According to various brain imaging studies, mindfulness meditation can change the brain in ways consistent with observed or self-reported improvements in concentration, memory, and mood.  The same has been found with prayer, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy.

Acceptance: Letting In, Letting Be, and Letting Go

So it’s okay for thoughts, feelings, and sensations to make an appearance – to show up at the door - but it’s actually not okay to let them in. It’s about “letting go”, not “letting in”. Acknowledge and move on.

Acknowledging Awareness

...mental activity (“thoughts and feelings”) the object of awareness, rather than sensory or somatic information. Is there something problematic about mental activity unattended by awareness, whereas sensory/somatic information doesn’t need to be supplemented with awareness? 

Paying Attention with Acceptance, or Not

What constitutes an “uncomfortable thought”? For some people, thinking about unfinished business does that, or thinking about the gap between one’s goals/values and current behavior, or thinking about recent social missteps.

Of Elephants and Truth

...is it actually possible to see the whole truth and nothing but the truth? How do you know? Doesn’t everyone have a point of view? Why do you think some people can see the whole truth/elephant?

Labeling as a Shortcut to Habituation

The urge to label hovers before the stream of consciousness, ready to take the wind out of its sails. Of course, the weather's always changing and the wind often comes out of nowhere.

Open to Experience and Closed to Science, Part I

The study authors speculated that these characteristics may foster “Openness to Experience” (OE), which has been positively correlated to paranormal beliefs in other research.

Mindfulness and Danger

To be a fearmonger is to traffic in fear. Fearmongering is one way ideological and religious movements gain adherents and then keep them.  The world is a scary place. We offer the way out.

Mindfulness and Magical Thinking, Part II

The downside of living in such an interconnected universe is vulnerability. Between the psychological harm subtly inflicted years ago by our nonmindful parents, to lack of inner harmony and connection with others, to the myriad of “toxins” in our environment, the world is a dangerous place.