Mindfulness is a practice that is an important component of achieving and maintaining well-being. You may have heard definitions such as paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally from Jon Kabat Zinn. Or, keeping your attention alive in the present moment from Thich Nhat Hanh. Harvard University professor Ellen Langer, who has studied mindfulness for over 35 years, suggests that being mindful is as simple as noticing new things.
Before continuing with mindfulness, let’s talk about mindlessness. I’m not referring to being an airhead or of diminished capacity. It is more the state of being on automatic pilot or reacting based on beliefs or assumptions. When we function on automatic pilot we are not there. And, as Langer says, when we are not there we are not there to know we are not there. I had a recent interaction with someone which prompted me to write about the topic.
One morning I phoned my favorite coffee shop to see if they would hold some muffins for me which I would pick up later in the day. The employee asked what kind I would like and how many. When I gave her my order, she paused for a moment. Then she said, “I don’t know if I can put the muffins away for you. People who come into the store for the muffins will be paying for them.” I was silent for a moment as I didn’t believe what I was hearing. Suddenly, the girl came to and said, “Oh, I guess you would be paying for them.” How often have you experienced a similar situation? Or, have you caught yourself doing the same? I sure have.
Again, Langer’s remedy for mindlessness or not being there is noticing new things. When we notice new things we become engaged. As we are engaged we are in the present. We begin to see things we did not see before. This opens us up to new information and having an awareness of more than one perspective.
A simple example is the green leaves on a tree. Suppose you select one particular tree. You look at it in the morning observing the shade of green of the leaves. As the day goes along, the shades of green change as the sun moves across the sky. Perhaps, the green we were certain of may become uncertain. Thus, we begin to see things we hadn’t seen before. We may have new insights, become more engaged and open to possibilities we hadn’t previously considered.
How much fun is that? Who wouldn’t want to discover daily treasures with such a simple tool as noticing new things? If we pause to consider the possibilities, we can get a sense that the benefits to our health and well being are without limit.
Comments are welcomed.