Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Queen of a different approach

Prof. Ellen J. Langer was the first woman to be tenured in the Harvard U. department of psychology. That was in 1981. She has studied mindfulness in ways quite different from the mainstream of research and thinking on the subject but her stuff is valuable and memorable.  As usual with my contacts with her thought, she came to my mind in an unusual way. I am a member of, a company that sells audio books. I was looking up mindfulness on the Audible website when I came across "Mindfulness Isn't Much Harder than Mindlessness" by Prof. Langer.  How and why her Harvard Business Review article of that title got to be a FREE professionally narrated audio "booklet" of about 5 minutes running time, I don't know.  I have been an Audible member for five or more years and I have never before found any offering that short nor free.

The most unusual thing I have found in Langer's books is the total lack of mention of mediation as a method of mind training.  That feature is so unusual that I am confident she has talked and written about it, maybe in her spoken presentations, her academic writing or her classes.    

Happily, the article from the Harvard Business Review is available online, here:

I recommend the article and her books.  Probably "Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility" and "Mindfulness" are the most popular.  The article linked above is quite helpful and assists in clear thinking about qualities of the mind that can be clarifying. Both Langer in her article and Dr. Amit Sood in "Mindfulness Redesigned" explain that our minds are rather quick to decide that we have seen or done something before and that therefore we don't need to pay attention now. Lessening the power of boredom or overly quick dismissal of a person or idea can be done by using greater attention, deeper scrutiny.  Both authors recommend a habit of questioning, curiosity and challenging oneself to find new details and new questions.

Many people focus their attention on rebuttal of a speaker or relative's comments or proposal that they don't hear what is actually said.  Sometimes one's mental expectation of what is said is quite accurate but at other times, possibilities and new approaches are lost due to lack of attention.

Langer and her associates were interested in arranging for some elderly citizens to live temporarily in housing and furnishings that recaptured the time in their lives when they were younger.  That is this type of experience in "Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility". The study found evidence that the elderly who tried the experiment did in fact return to a younger state, to some extent.

Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby