What It Looks Like
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Mindful people make good husbands,
wives, and parents. They get along well with others, and have a sense of
empathy and conscience. They tend to be responsible, yet still
understand the importance of play.
Although mindfulness is an abstract concept, we can still describe
many of its characteristics; what
its absence causes; how it develops; and how we can introduce it into
our school system.
Mindful people are in touch with their
feelings. They are aware of their strengths and
weaknesses. They are able to make decisions. They can think
independently. Rather than simple black and white alternatives,
they are conscious of the shades of gray that fall between. They
do not control people and do not allow others to control them.
They are honest, and have a sense of truth that causes them to react
when a story doesn't quite 'add up'. They are creative and
effective problem solvers.
the ability to focus one's thoughts on an objective, while
tuning out irrelevant distractions. For example, when a doctor
listens to your heart with a stethoscope, he hears a series of
heartbeats. Within each heartbeat, there are a series of subtle
sounds. He must listen to each tiny segment, by mentally tuning
out the rest of the sounds. This takes a lot of practice. We
all need to develop the ability to temporarily ignore the extraneous
distractions of the world, and focus on what truly matters to us.
This process does not involve a denial of reality, but rather, the
selective direction of attention.
The inability to focus is a very common problem.
People often allow the various
distractions that surround them to pull them in many directions.
They are unable to steer their mental ship. Our senses are flooded
with an abundance of information, much of which has no sense of logic,
no goal, and no direction.
||A sense of
functionality is an important part of mindfulness. For
example, if you examine a watch, you can tell if it is functioning
properly. You can take off the back cover of the watch, and inspect the
Even if you don't understand all of
workings, you still have a
|sense about the precision with which the watch
was made. You can often intuitively discern when something is
wrong or dysfunctional.
I recently read an
article about healthcare reform, which came to the conclusion that nothing we can do will
change the system, aside from "getting angry." This doesn't solve
the problem. Even if all of the people in the world got angry at
the healthcare system, the problem would remain unsolved. We need
to develop our problem solving skills. The vast majority of our
problems are solved intuitively, with all parts of the brain working
together in synch. Higher math is rarely required.
We see evidence of our societal lack of
mindfulness in the poor
decisions that are made by people in government regarding military
actions, our environment, and our healthcare system. We witness
mindlessness in our educational systems which have curriculums that lack
relevancy. We see it manifested in medicine, where doctors rush
from one patient to the next, writing countless prescriptions, rather
than listening. We see it in people who blame and punish, rather
than attempt to understand. We observe a world of people who have
become engaged in a rat-race of meaningless activity that has no
intrinsic value to them. These are the people who hang onto the
clutter of the past, and have difficulty moving forward.
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