to Be Mindful:
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board
of Psychiatry and Neurology
is Every Step: The Path of
Mindfulness in Everyday Life (1991) written by Thich, N.H. and published
Bantam Books. It initiates readers on a meditative journey
into the world of mindfulness, and is so simply written that it can be
read and understood with ease.
This book integrates the simple mind-set
of mind and body awareness into daily activities. By being
conscious of one's breathing while doing daily
activities such as driving, washing
dishes, or eating, one can develop a heightened state of mindfulness.
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, mindfulness is an
quality that springs from a
sense of profound self-awareness. Only through existing 'in the
moment' can we achieve tranquility that enables us to confront our
darkest fears and tap into our own self-healing powers. With the
aide of mindfulness, we will possess the inner strength and peace that
we must have in order to identify our suppressed fears, and bring them
to the surface in order to release them. Those who have obtained
mindfulness can acknowledge the need to look within themselves to
uncover the underlying causes of their negative feelings. Once the
cause has been realized, such feelings can be eradicated.
Mindfulness, or an intense and profound
self-awareness, lies at the
heart of an ideal society. Each individualís behavior exerts an
impact on other members of the society. Mindless individuals
generate chaos. They harm the people who they love, often without
realizing the consequences of their actions. In contrast, mindful
individuals are intensely aware of their environment and the people
around them, and follow a path of love, selflessness, and peace.
Our current school system - government-controlled and factory-like-
produces an environment that is contrary to mindfulness. It is
built on the notion that happiness will come in the future if we are
miserable today. This reliance on hope is based on a lie that is
Every person, from the moment of conception, is
dealt a unique personality that
determines how and what he will learn, and the kind of social
contribution that he will make, among other things. This process
of individual and unique development works extremely well until the
child is placed in the traditional classroom. At that point, the
teacher essentially says: "You will learn what I want you to learn, and
do the many assignments that I give you. If you do not, you're
going to be in big trouble."
are many problems with this approach, but three particular
concerns are paramount:
||1) People, males in
particular, absolutely detest being controlled. In my
twenty years of experience as a psychiatrist, patients have had three
main complaints about parents and teachers: control, abuse, and neglect.
Students want to learn. They don't want to be controlled.
Abuse is extremely common in schools,
|particularly among men. Almost every
school has its bullies and scapegoats. Teachers often have their
favorites, and their 'bad' kids, who are targets of incessant
3) Excessive assignments and 'busywork' are
extremely damaging to
mindfulness. Many students spend 70 hours or more per week on
assignments. In this kind of environment, the brain has no
opportunity to integrate and process the complex array of data that it
encounters. This results in the neural circuits becoming a tangled
The essence of
is to sit quietly in a place where there are no
distractions. Do you know that most people cannot do this?
When presented with no external distractions, people must confront the
internal conflict and disorganization that exists within their minds.
Doing so makes most people very uncomfortable, and if they remained in
such a reflective state, they would become even more disheveled and
confused; they would become even more uncomfortable. Gradually,
they would reach a point of clarity, and arrive at a deep state of inner
Most people, however, are unwilling to engage
in this process, which
would force them to confront their own subconscious conflicts. To
avoid this, many individuals become addicted to the rat race of
meaningless activity. In order to distract themselves, they must
remain constantly busy. Unquestionably, the mind needs an
environment free of pressure, and time set aside for peaceful
reflection. Now contrast these needs with the common practice of
students neglecting sleep in order to study for exams.
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