Advertisement

Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matures

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
Illustration by Javier Jaén

Illustration by Javier Jaén

A recent article in the Sunday Times is critical of the mindfulness movement. I read through some of the comments to the article and they thought the piece was cynical or misinformed.

I think the presence of a critical, high profile, article such as this highlights that mindfulness is maturing as a concept and a movement. It can and should take the observations and respond to them where necessary and reject them where they don’t fit.

Advertisement

Virginia Heffernen in the piece entitled, The Muddled Meaning of Mindfulness, starts with a consideration of the term mindfulness. It is based on the Pali word sati and like many Pali words does not have a one-to-one correspondence in English. Mindfulness was chosen as that term in the 19th century and that carries with it a set of implications. The more accurate translation is “to remember” as in remembering to pay attention to what is happening now.

Maybe the word “mindfulness” is like the Prius emblem, a badge of enlightened and self-satisfied consumerism, and of success and achievement. If so, not deploying mindfulness — taking pills or naps for anxiety, say, or going out to church or cocktails — makes you look sort of backward or classless. Like driving a Hummer.

Advertisement

This quote reminds me of the South Park episode “Smug Alert!” (Season 10, Episode 2) where Prius drivers become smug and self-righteous to the point of idiocy.

It seems that everyone these days is interested in mindfulness and its applications continue to burgeon. It’s a hot commodity and one with substance behind it, no doubt. But sometimes, that substance gets overstated. Overzealousness is a function of a bandwagon effect.

This bandwagon effect has led me to change the copy in my bio and marketing materials. I start by saying, “long before mindfulness became popular …” And this is the case. I sat my first vipassana retreat in 1989 when mindfulness was far from being a household word. Does that make me more mindful than the newcomers? No, not at all. Why do I want people to know I’m not part of this fad? Not sure. I guess I have some identification with being an “early adopter” and want credit for that, silly as that may be. I also know the promises and pitfalls from my own practice that spans over twenty-five years.

Advertisement

Most people who come to mindfulness are not interested in the big pay-off: awakening. To awaken is not some pleasant trifle; it is radical restructuring of perception, experience, and self-identity. Most folks just want to be less stressed, better able to cope, and be more productive at work. That is fine.

There is a good chance that mindfulness practice will make you a better person regardless of your motivation to practice. Of course, there are always people who misappropriate any practice but even “superficial” mindfulness practice will have benefit.

The more mindfulness gets discussed, the better. A real conversation does not idealize or shy away from controversy. The mindfulness movement can withstand the criticism and will hopefully grow from it.

My recent book, The Awakened Introvert, contains an entire chapter devoted to the practice of mindfulness and another chapter devoted to the Buddha’s teachings on awakening. You can get the basics and go deeper if you like.

 

Advertisement

The Road To Character Walked By Jordan Spieth

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

9780812993257I am reading with strong interest David Brooks’s new book, The Road to Character.

In this book, he argues that this generation has lost its connection to character. We are in an age of self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, and self-importance.

Masters Champion Jordan Spieth is an exception to this. He merges resume values with eulogy values.

He is arguably, the most popular person on the planet just now. After his convincing and record-breaking victory at the Masters he conducted 24 interviews in 27 hours, including Letterman. The Empire State Building was lit green in his honor.

Advertisement

I’ve read about and watched these interviews. He does not have to say and has not said, “Wow, I’m great. Look at me.” He seeks the objective standards of the World Golf Ranking. He wants to be number one but I doubt he will proclaim, “I’m number one!” The ranking will speak for itself.

His humility is part of his appeal. I think we are weary of self-congratulatory heroes.

His youth and innocence is another part of the appeal.

He is driven but he’s going to have to update his goals. His childhood dream of becoming Masters Champion has been realized at age 21 after only his second try. A few more victories on tour coudl find him supplanting Rory McIlroy as world number one (come on Rory, get going!).

Advertisement

He is committed to not changing as a result of all this notoriety. He’s got a winning formula. Talent. Commitment. Service. Fun. Tenacity.

While David Brooks does not mention introverts or extroverts in his book, he is talking about the difference between extroverted and introverted ways of being. The road to character is more introverted.

This accords with what the Buddha said 2500 years ago. We must look within. This is not to say that introverts are more virtuous than extroverts. We are not. It is to say, though, that without the capacity to slow down, get quiet, and go within we become a self-promoting, loud, surface.

Brooks says, “We live in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life.” Of course, mindfulness is a skill set that can bring us to the inner life and it is the theme of my recently released book, The Awakened Introvert: Practical Mindfulness Skills for Maximizing Your Strengths and Thriving in a Loud and Crazy World. The book is written to introverts, but it really applies to any of us who are seeking to go within beyond the surface and the noise and the cult of “me”.

 

 

Advertisement

I Was Born Thirty Years Too Late

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
17157331926_db44ee5f81_z

Photo Credit: M. Mancini

If I had been born in 1933 instead of 1963, I would have largely missed the demands of the Information Age. If I had come of age as a writer thirty years ago in 1985, there would have been no Internet and I would still be creating manuscripts on a typewriter.

I am not a Luddite. I am fully engaged with all manner of technology. The possibilities of the Digital Age are staggering, inspiring,  and, often, overwhelming. I admit to nostalgia about the old days.

Advertisement

As an introvert, I am not cut out for this era of self-promotion. In the old days, a writer’s publishing house promoted the book. There was little authors could do except to go on book tours and communicate with their fan base via letters.

Now, we are expected to participate: to have a presence and following on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. We are expected to blog and to cultivate an audience. You’ve heard me get plaintive about this before.

As writers, we spend a significant portion of our time devoted to these social media tasks rather than writing.

I am uncomfortable in this world. This confession shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. It grates against my introvert nature of seeking a quiet, unassuming place to participate in the world.

Advertisement

I don’t like competing for eyeballs, promoting my self, and asking for favors. Yet, I do this every day. In fact, I have a favor to ask of you: please buy my latest book–The Awakened Introvert! And furthermore, after you’ve read it, please write and post and online review. Shameless.

Books need this kind of attention these days to get noticed. Alas. I can find solace in Nancy Ancowitz’s Self-Promotion for Introverts. Her advice would help me to be better prepared and, yet, I would still feel uncomfortable because these activities go against my preferred way of being.

Advertisement

I have my grandmother’s vintage Royal. It is a conversation piece and I haven’t tried to type on it in decades. I’m tempted to try. I wonder if I can find parts for it?

I confess that I feel lost at times. I want to live a life of quiet humility, but I find myself in this dilemma. I crave a noble solitude that may only exist in a past era when these technologies and expectations did not yet exist. Since this wistful fantasy can’t turn time back, I will soldier on in the present moment–mindfully, of course!

It’s not all bad. There are wonderful possibilities in these mediums. I can reach people all over the world instantaneously. Anonymity gives way to reach. We have choices and we can also marvel at the possibilities we couldn’t even imagine thirty years ago.

Advertisement

The Colors and Seasons of Introversion and Extroversion

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

PANTONE_Minion_Yellow_Swatch_Card

“Minion Yellow is a custom colour designed to represent the sweet and subversive characters. An extroverted hue, it projects playfulness and warmth and is suggestive of intellectual curiosity and enlightenment.”

So says Pantone, makers of Minion Yellow. Interesting copy. Can a color be extroverted? Apparently so. I prefer orange. I suppose this bright yellow color does suggest loudness but I fail to see how we get to intellectual curiosity, let alone enlightenment.

Advertisement

However we characterize color, it is likely based on stereotypes. Extroversion is red, yellow, and orange. Introversion is blue, green, grey, and brown. Maybe purple is in the middle? Seasons can reflect the differences between introverts and extroverts too, especially in the northern climes where the winter season is severe.

Fall into winter is the season of the interior. The days get darker, the leaves fall off the trees, and we turn within in preparation for the long winter ahead. With the exception of the often extroverted demands of the holiday season, we can look forward to (or dread) the long season of solitude ahead. The streets will be quieter, less people out walking. The sidewalk cafe´s closed.

The color of winter is white: solid, unified, and stark. It is also black during the long nights. It is also grey, as so many days are overcast (although this winter the frigid cold brought lots of sunshine).

Advertisement

As spring starts to emerge, people begin to emerge from winter hibernation. Street life begins back again and it’s easier to get outside. We don’t need to layer ourselves in protective armor of fleece, Goretex, and down.

Winter into spring and summer are the seasons of exterior: spring cleaning, gardening, and reconnecting with the community at large. Of course and again, these are generalizations. For intrepid Vermonters like myself, winter isn’t a complete hunkering down. We remain active, engaged, and socialize throughout.

I like the metaphorical aspect of winter: the way it represents stillness, purity, and quiet. I am ready to say goodbye to winter, the longest one in memory and look forward to some extroverted color flowers poking up out of the ground soon.

Advertisement

Whatever your seasons and colors, mindfulness can help you to be present to whatever is happening. You’ll find a wealth of thriving techniques in my book: The Awakened Introvert: Practical Mindfulness Skills for Maximizing Your Strengths and Thriving in a Loud and Crazy World. Order your copy today.

Previous Posts

Mindfulness Matures
A recent article in the Sunday Times is critical of the mindfulness movement. I read through some of the comments to the article and they ...

posted 9:22:21am Apr. 26, 2015 | read full post »

The Road To Character Walked By Jordan Spieth
I am reading with strong interest David Brooks's new book, The Road to Character. In this book, he argues that this generation has lost its connection to character. We are in an age of self-promotion, self-aggrandizement, and ...

posted 3:49:54pm Apr. 24, 2015 | read full post »

I Was Born Thirty Years Too Late
If I had been born in 1933 instead of 1963, I would have largely missed the demands of the Information Age. If I had come of age as a writer ...

posted 2:01:02pm Apr. 22, 2015 | read full post »

The Colors and Seasons of Introversion and Extroversion
"Minion Yellow is a custom colour designed to represent the sweet and subversive characters. An extroverted hue, it projects playfulness and warmth and is suggestive of intellectual curiosity and enlightenment." So says Pantone, makers of ...

posted 7:53:02am Apr. 20, 2015 | read full post »

How to Create Solitude in the Context of Relationship
Solitude is necessary for my existence just as water is. Without it, I wither and become listless in my desiccated state. I am not, however, a ...

posted 5:50:36pm Apr. 17, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.