Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Freeform Friday :: Talking to Yourself

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

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Welcome the new technological age! Today, I’d like to discuss some on our relationship to technology. 

Having spent many years working in mental hospitals, I am accustomed to people talking to themselves. Not long ago, if you overheard someone talking to themselves on the street, you might assume they had some issues. Now, this is a common occurrence as people, and I dare say I am sometimes among them, walk around talking on their mobile phones. I’ll come up behind someone and they are appear to be talking into the air — are they psychotic or oh so cool on a blue tooth?

Why is this so bothersome? We don’t modulate our voices. We are often shouting into our phones. Now we have noise pollution. Talking on the phone and walking around town we are disconnected from the reality around us — stumbling into people, buildings, and cars. Texting is worse. Recently, someone told me about a man texting on a bicycle on Burlington’s waterfront bike path. Really?!
We walk around, plugged into our technological devices, communicating with others in this multitasking way. Are we being more mindful or less? Is there a new form of mindfulness emerging on the technological horizon — a new social reality populated by status updates and text messages, smart phones and 24-hour and nearly global availability?
I don’t know about this. 
There are actually parts of Vermont that don’t get cell service. The initial response to this might be consternation, but for me it is followed by a sense of relief and even nostalgia. I’m inaccessible. I misplaced my cell phone a few years ago for a couple of days. After the panic subsided, I felt a great sense of quiet, as if a hush had come over the world. I was inaccessible and this felt like a delicious guilty pleasure.
As a culture we have developed a collective case of infomania. We obsessively check our phones for voicemails and text messages, glue ourselves to Facebook, wait for that life transforming email.
We are not all like this, of course. Not everyone is on Facebook. Not everyone has a cell phone or smart phone. Not everyone checks email every day. Those of us who do take it personally when someone does not respond immediately. 
Technology is changing our landscape of expectations and the way we relate to the world. I think its probably a good idea to unplug once and a while. At the very least, we can do this when we practice mindfulness meditation daily. 
See what it feels like to unplug. 


Wisdom Wednesday :: Short Sleeves in Late October

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

BS25063.jpgYesterday was an unexpected pleasure here in Northern Vermont. At at time when there can be snow on the ground, it was 70 degrees and sunny. A gentle breeze came off Lake Champlain and the world seemed to slow down.

It’s easy to be mindful on such a beautiful day. Such pleasant weather is out of context. The mountains have already seen snow; frost has not been a stranger to our nights. This out-of-contextness captures our attention in a way that a 70 degree and sunny day would not in July.


It’s easy to contact joy on such a day, especially if you get to spend some time on the beach overlooking the water. Downright blissful is not out of the question.

However, counting on sunny and 70 degree days in October to find joy is probably not the best strategy. This would make mindfulness only an occasional joy, unreliable, and out of reach most of the time.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for the exceptional to connect to the beauty that is available at any moment. Mindfulness practice will help to make joy available now — even when it is cloudy and gray, raining and cold, bitter cold.

Any experience can inspire wonder if we pay close enough attention to it, regard it with interest, curiosity, and even fascination. This is especially the case for those experiences we regard as less than ideal, like rainy days.

After a driving rain this morning, the sun is smiling again here on 27 October 2010 in Northern Vermont and I’m enjoying the bliss again, if only in small sips. Tomorrow it will be different and I’ll need to look a little harder to find it, but it will be there. It is always here, right now.


Metaphor Monday :: Running Stitch

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

running_stitch.jpgAccording to Wikipedia, “the running stitch or straight stitch is the basic stitch in hand-sewing and embroidery, on which all other forms of sewing are based. The stitch is worked by passing the needle in and out of the fabric.” 

Sounds like the breath, no? Our breath is the running stitch that runs throughout our days and nights. As the running stitch is to sewing, breathing is to life — the basic movement that keeps everything together. 

Of course, without breathing there is nothing. We may take breathing for granted, never give it a second thought. We may consider breathing boring. But if you can’t breathe, the breath becomes very interesting all of a sudden. 

Since we are breathing always, the breath becomes a natural place for focus. It’s always waiting to receive our attention and like the running stitch can be a thread that runs throughout our day. It’s quite possible to stay in close proximity to the breath as we prepare for work, as we work, and as we transition from work.

Breathing can be our ally and companion, connecting us to our bodies and the present moment. The more we tie in to the breath, the stronger the fabric of our life will be. There will be more presence, more continuity, and more heart.

So get out your needle and thread and stitch your life together. Pay attention to the breath that is occurring now and then again now. Each time we come back from a story to this singular breath we touch peace. No story; no strife. 



Stress Reduction Sunday :: Sleep-Deprived Society: Getting A Better Sleep, Part 2

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak


It’s Stress Reduction Sunday. Read my weekly post in the Connecticut Watchdog, This week’s entry, Sleep-Deprived Society: Getting A Better Sleep, Part 2



In last week’s entry, we started talking about “sleep hygiene.” We’ll continue with some general and specific guidance on getting a better night’s sleep. You may find that you need to modify these to suit your particular lifestyle. However, even if some of your old patterns are hard to give up, like snacking before bedtime, you are invited to experiment with these changes to see if they have a salubrious impact on how you sleep.


Sleep hygiene includes, of course, getting enough sleep. A recent column in the Miami Herald speaks of the dangers of sleep deprivation that afflicts a majority of American men and women. “Disrespect for sleep has become a national epidemic and many of us have forgotten the feeling of being rested,” the article cautions.


Read more …


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