Thursday, May 10, 2018

What about if we try it like this?

A good friend of mine said a few years ago that he got tired of people messing with eggs and other foods.  He thought a chicken egg was a fine and balanced food, and it was not improved by removing fat or adding sugar or other modifications.  I understand the idea and in general, I agree with it.

However, I was reading Dr. Amit Sood's book on redesigning mindfulness for modern life.  The man is a physician at the world-famous Mayo Clinic and an expert on human happiness and paths and habits that support it. I am carrying around in my head a memory that Sood looked the first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk but it wasn't until I tried a search for the year 1903 that I found the quote I was looking for:

Every good product or idea that has helped us humans has been helped in turn by our ingenuity and transformed beyond its original version. Almost everything good comes with a promise that it can be made better. The earliest computers weighed nearly thirty tons and had eighteen thousand vacuum tubes.231 The first airplane flew for only twelve seconds and covered 120 feet.232 We thankfully didn't stop there. The same innovation and growth will and must happen to contemplative practices, including mindfulness.

Sood, Amit. Mindfulness Redesigned for the Twenty-First Century: Let's Not Cage the Hummingbird:  A Mindful Path to Resilience (p. 50). Kindle Edition.

Dr. Sood does a good job reviewing the difficulties with meditation instruction and the low success rate.  He even quotes the Dalai Lama and some of his Tibetan colleagues on the lack of appeal mediation has for them.  I feel as though focused attention meditation is a blessing and a personal happy place of very great value. I am convinced that trying to pay attention to a single point with my eyes for 5 to 10 minutes 5 or so times a week has helped me and my relations with others immensely.  

However, I can see from Dr. Sood's review that better ways should indeed be found.  

Sitting meditation has much too often been recommended for overly long sessions and very good results can be attained with quite short periods.  I am a long time fan of the book "QR: The Quieting Reflex" by Charles Stroebel, MD (1967) in which the author recommends practicing for 6 seconds frequently throughout the day.  The leader for self-development for Google, Chade-Meng Tan, recommends a single conscious deep breath several times a day.

In keeping with living in a scientific age, in which money, brains, and energy are being purposely employed to solve more problems and finding better and better solutions and inventions, I do take Dr. Sood's focus seriously.  Every thought we have, every habit we follow, every problem that bugs us, even the things that we already value and appreciate are fair game, I think, for investigation, experimentation and possible modification. It is a challenging and unsettling age we are just beginning.

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