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Mindfulness:
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.

Mindfulness includes 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 precision mechanism.

Even if you don't understand all of the inner
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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