Sunday, February 16, 2014

Uncle Gene's Mindful Advice

Gene's New Philosophical Review 368

Are you Mind-full?
When Time's Title Page reads: "THE MINDFUL REVOLUTION: The Science of Finding Focus In A Stressed-Out, Multi-Tasking Culture," you know that the need for "mindfulness" has struck home. We live in a culture where "distraction" is everywhere, where our senses and our minds are bombarded by more stimuli than we can ever hope to respond to.
   When there are more stimuli than we can process, we wind up not processing any information very well; we also wind up with a series of psychological and physiological problems comparable to someone who has been sleep-deprived for far too long.
  The article in Time offers the outline of a solution in two sentences: "If distraction is the preeminent condition of our age, then...mindfulness is the most logical response. Though meditation is considered an essential means to achieving mindfulness, the ultimate goal is simply to give your attention fully to what you're doing."
  The "prophet" of mindfulness in recent years is Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose 1990 book, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness, established him as the pre-eminent figure in the mindfulness meditation revolution. Kabat-Zinn had worked in pain clinics and rehab centers, and he developed his "mindfulness" approach as a parallel therapy. What he perfected has been preached and practiced by countless thousands in the intervening years, and the judgment of time is that it really works, anyone can do it, and the practice is pretty simple.
  Here is a four step version of it: Sit comfortably where you won't be disturbed for at least ten minutes; begin by focusing on your breathing out and breathing in; let your thoughts bounce off your mind like clouds hitting a mountain top, and come back to awareness of your breathing; do this ten minutes every day for a week, and you will find that you want to make it a regular part of your daily activity.
   There are various scientific studies that document physiological benefits, including lowered blood pressure, but the real benefit is psychological: if you do this, you will cease being a member of "the harried information- overload class," you will process information more effectively, and the emotions that occasionally overwhelmed you will be more manageable. It could be the best imaginable use of ten minutes of your time each day, with benefits that go beyond all measurement....