Although the mindfulness methods I practice are firmly set in the meditative tradition, it’s refreshing to encounter an approach to mindfulness not grounded in what is all to often assumed to be the only route to the benefits of mindfulness. I found this in Ellen Langer’s book, Mindfulness. Langer’s comments about ageing, education, creativity, and work are original and thought provoking, with little mention of meditation. I’d like to point out some ideas she brings to the treatment of substance abuse. To Langer, mindfulness has more to do with perspective, and her reference to it relies upon the context in which a drug is taken.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
With all of the focus on keeping one’s attention on the breath, mindfulness meditation begins to sound like an internal experience. But if the goal is full awareness of the present moment, we must not shut out the external world while placing our attention on the breath. For this reason, I often find it effective to remain present by focusing on the sounds around me.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
The cultivation of mindfulness requires periods of focused attention. Many proponents of mindfulness maintain that this is best developed through seated, silent meditation. So, while I’d like to investigate how to focus the attention, we must first consider our relationship with silence.
Whether in the center of a city or deep in a forest, the cacophony of sounds around us makes it apparent that true silence is impossible. Composer John Cage wrote music that included long periods of silence. When the musicians stopped playing, concertgoers were quickly confronted with the shuffling, shifting, and coughing sounds in the concert hall. So what is silence? I like to think of it as the absence of intentional sound. Intentional sounds are the things we turn on such as TVs and iPods, the words spoken or heard in a conversation we are engaged in, music we make such as humming or tapping, and the noise of tools, keyboards, or other objects we are interacting with. Sounds that remain are unavoidable. So silence is when we are purposefully quiet. For many of us, this can be unsettling.