Thursday, October 7, 2010

MINDFULNESS BROADENS YOUR HORIZONS


The practice of Mindfulness Meditation requires no belief commitments, but it certainly can broaden one’s horizons by affording insight into ourselves and the world around us. Over time, we start to break loose from tired, worn-out, narrow, constricted and confined thought forms which have held us back, often for decades. Not only do our thoughts change, but so does the grey matter of our brains by means of which we think our thoughts.

Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn (pictured below), Professor of Medicine Emeritus and the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the celebrated author of numerous seminal best-selling books and audio books on Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation including Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness and Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, has written:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally … When we commit ourselves to paying attention in an open way, without falling prey to our own likes and dislikes, opinions and prejudices, projections and expectations, new possibilities open up and we have a chance to free ourselves from the straitjacket of unconsciousness.”

Dr Ellen Langer (pictured below), a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University, and the author of many books including Mindfulness, The Power of Mindful Learning, On Becoming An Artist, and Counterclockwise, has carried out over 30 years of research into “mindfulness” and its opposite … “mindlessness”. Professor Langer describes the “mindless” person - that is, the person who fails to act mindfully in their daily lives - as being “trapped by categories”, engaging in “automatic behaviour”, and “acting from a single perspective”. Langer writes, “The mindless individual is committed to one predetermined use of … information, and other possible uses or applications are not explored.”

“Mindlessness” manifests itself in various all-too-familiar ways … reacting emotionally and automatically to triggers, labelling and prejudging people, inability to think outside the square, predetermining matters, acting on and never questioning false, unstated, unconscious assumptions and presumptions, and so forth. On the other hand, a mindful person - someone who has applied meditation to their entire daily life - is open-minded, nonjudgmental, ever curious and alert, looking for and actually noticing new things, creative and innovative. A mindful person, being self-aware, knows. A “mindless” person believes and accepts on faith what others have told them is true whether the subject-matter is religion or whatever.

There is an old saying which is often heard in Twelve Step recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” When people and organizations suffer from mindlessness, their mindsets and thought forms are fixed and rigid with the result that … so are they … and so are their experiences of external phenomena.

Break free from the past! There are no chains that bind you … and no fetters … except those you have created for yourself. Dr Norman Vincent Peale (pictured below), who, with the Freudian psychiarist Dr Smiley Blanton (who trained under the master Sigmund Freud himself), founded in 1937 the first service in the world combining religion and psychiatry for the sake of mental health (which is now known as the Blanton-Peale Institute), once wrote, “There is a spiritual giant within you which is always struggling to burst its way out of the prison you have made for it.” So, come alive! Be awake!

 



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