Science of mindlessness and mindfulness…

I’m sharing an audio interview from On Being with Krista Tippett interviewing Ellen Langer.

Take note that Ellen Langer is very clear about the fact that sitting meditation is not the only way to become mindful. I love how she doesn’t attach any particular belief system or set of practices with becoming mindful. There are many ways to pay attention as I’ve tried to make clear many times on this blog but since I do have my particular ways that I talk about frequently that may sometimes overshadow a larger message some of the time. We can all find a way that makes sense to us. Individually.

Ellen differentiates between meditation and mindfulness, which I think is quite useful. I’ve often conflated the word meditation with the concept of generally paying attention. I think it’s also useful to do that sometimes. See: Meditation is the practice of learning to pay attention. That is all. I, in fact, pretty explicitly talk about periods in which I practice virtually no formal meditation (due to how sick I was) and yet experience life as highly contemplative. See: Life as a meditation: my contemplative adventure

Social psychologist Ellen Langer’s unconventional studies have long suggested what brain science is now revealing: our experiences are formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. Naming something play rather than work, or exercise rather than labor, can mean the difference between delight and drudgery, fatigue or weight loss. One of the earliest pioneers in drawing a connection between mindlessness and unhappiness, and between mindfulness and health — along with figures like Jon Kabat-Zinn and Herbert Benson — she describes mindfulness as achievable without meditation or yoga — as “the simple act of actively noticing things.”


For more info visit On Being

Basically what I’ve done is develop a highly personalized means of becoming present and paying attention. It is highly influenced and informed by Vipassana, the first formal meditative practice I studied and learned many years ago,  but at this point might often be better described as a general contemplative practice rather than meditation alone. My practice is with me throughout the day whether I am sitting quietly, doing yoga or washing the dishes. On occasion when appropriate I exercise more formal and traditional means of meditative practice as well. Lately, I also often do programs by audio recording by various meditation teachers. I’ve sometimes shared such programs here. They too, enrich my overall contemplative practice and bolster my general capacity to pay attention or as Ellen would say, to “notice.”

To me the take home point of Ellen’s interview was that mindfulness and what helps one achieve that is going to look totally different from person to person. That is something I come to again and again: Many paths (as many as there are beings)

Oh, I also really like the way she talks about calling what we do (our work) “play”…or alternatively calling our manual labor “exercise.” (she claims that when one does the latter it helps with facilitating weight loss) I started doing that naturally when I began rehabbing since it was such a joy to be able to use my body after having been bedridden for such a long time. Vacuuming became as fun as Jazzercise might be for a healthy person. Seriously. Moving my body is good, so good! I love mowing the lawn too…it really is fun…but it could easily be viewed as an ugly and physically demanding chore. Reframing can really work wonders. See: About reframing: embrace your experience

For information on meditation and/or mindfulness on this blog visit this category link and scroll down the page to see what looks interesting. You can also visit the drop-down navigation menu at the top of the page. Look under Healing Arts for collections on meditation and mindfulness as well as other healing modalities.


For a multitude of ideas about how to create a life filled with safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs visit the drop-down menus at the top of this page. 

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