Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mindfulness on Patrol

“Sometimes while drifting idle on Walden Pond I cease to live and begin to be.” (Thoreau)

Mindfulness comes to us from the eastern meditation traditions. It involves paying nonjudgemental attention to ones immediate experience. It’s a form of meditation and is sometimes called “mindfulness meditation.” Historically, while the western world has been busy trying to figure out how to predict and control the environment, eastern meditation practitioners have been focused on the mind.

Our minds can - and frequently are - the source of a great deal of suffering. “Life is suffering” is the first of the Buddhist Four Noble Truths. When I was in my early 20’s I started figuring out the extend to which my own mind is filled with absolute shite. Lamenting the past, worrying about the future, “woulda coulda shoulda’s.” The sheer number of books on mindfulness tells me I’m not alone in wanting to better understand this phenomenon.

Since westerners love to put things under the microscope it was just a matter of time before mindfulness was analyzed by men in white coats. Researchers (most notably Jon Kabat-Zin) have found mindfulness meditation helps us with depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances and a general sense of wellness. Now, if you’re one of those self-actualized cops you don’t need to bother with the rest of this post. For the rest of us, here’s how you practice mindfulness.

The seat of mindfulness is the mind. We direct our attention to information provided by our minds. We pay attention to our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations in the here-and-now. Importantly, we just notice them without judging them. That’s the hard part.

We leave one part of our consciousness always available to observe. Break off a piece of your mind and lift it about 20 feet over your body. This will become what Arthur Deikman calls your “observing self.” This little guy hovering over you simply observes your bodily sensations (feeling tight, bloated etc.) your thoughts and your feelings.

One of the gifts of mindfulness is that it is highly conducive to being fully grounded in the moment. Whatever you’re doing is ALL you’re doing. There’s a technical term for groundedness’ opposite. It’s called being all over the map. When we’re all over the map we’re victims of the shite that usually guides our lives.

That little observing bastard vanishes immediately during Code-3 runs and in progress calls. No worries though, when the smoke clears he’ll pop back up if you let him.

Mindfulness practice is free. Our return on investment is off the chart. If your goal is not only survive this career, but to live well through it I would highly recommend learning more about mindfulness.

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