Volume 2, Issue 44
The usage of the word “mindfulness” is increasing rapidly, in connection with the benefits of meditation and the cultivation of emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson are among those who have popularized this useful word.
There are two basic kinds of meditation: deep relaxation that uses the breath, mantra, japa or rosary beads, a candle flame, etc., to carry the individual into a deep inner state— and the other type focusing on mindfulness, the inner deployment of attention to observe carefully what is going on inside oneself at all levels — by an act of will, bringing on the Observer state or at least seeking to do so.
One widespread form of mindfulness meditation is focused on the garnering of insights about oneself and reality in general, and is sometimes called Insight Meditation.
The Human Effectiveness Institute (THEI) specializes in its own specific form of mindfulness/insight meditation, which might be called “Optimized Mindfulness”. This was a technique that arose instinctively early on and evolved throughout my life. Since it helps me get more frequently into the Flow state and keeps me most of the time in the Observer state, both of which I find useful and enjoyable places to be compared to the alternative (EOP), I am eager to share this technique and thus formed the Institute many years ago as the vehicle to do so.
What distinguishes Optimized Mindfulness is this. The generalized version of mindfulness meditation does not start you out with many insights, nor does it usually guide you to assemble your insights with the specific purpose of achieving the two higher states of consciousness just mentioned, Observer and Flow states. Mostly, mindfulness meditation in the current world is being used to reduce the stress of EOP, by at least for short periods each day getting you out of EOP into the Observer state. The military is now using mindfulness and relaxation meditation to reduce the suicide rate of troops suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As we recommended to military leaders in speeches and meetings many years ago, they are now finally empirically testing the efficacy of one versus another specific version of meditation to see which works best.
Just as in the infant science of psychology, the modern world starts by focusing on the negative side of the coin, using not only meditation but many forms of applied psychology (we call it psychotechnology) primarily if not totally to relieve negative states. THEI, like Maslow, goes the other way and focuses mostly on the achievement and maintenance of positive states.
To summarize, THEI’s ideas are unique in the general field of mindfulness in the following ways:
- Focuses on the achievement and maintenance of two specific positive states of consciousness. Both states can be verified by the individual observer, thus we are talking science not “mere” mysticism (although mysticism is one valuable heuristic lens of mindfulness we will discuss another day). The states also have measurable correlates both in terms of objective performance metrics and in terms of brain conditions.
- Provides insights to begin with —ways of looking at things that have been observed to help precipitate the desired states. For example, Mind Magic.
- Provides a framework for the accumulation and mining of one’s own insights. By demonstrating that some thoughts and ways of being help reach Observer state (Flow typically coming later), each individual realizes profoundly that paying attention to one’s own insights is unbelievably valuable, among the most important things in life. This changes life from too often a grind into an adventure of discovery, in which challenges are appreciated as the irritants to catalyze creativity and self-growth, turning the tables on negativity.
- When negativity does get through the shields, and one spirals down into old- fashioned EOP, Optimized Mindfulness provides ways to get out again as quickly as possible.
- In short, Optimized Mindfulness is a Westernized approach in the sense of having set very specific goals and objectives, and not losing track of the focus on those goals, while systematically moving toward and into them, based on accumulated fieldcraft, hard logic and reasoning. At the same time Optimized Mindfulness does not lose sight of the value of the intuition, nor impose reductionist assumptions the way that Western Materialist Religious Scientism does.
We hope you experiment with and enjoy Optimized Mindfulness, adding it to your moment-to-moment life, and that your incremental experiences in Observer and Flow states make your daily life an even more wondrous experience.
Happy Valentine’s Day,
P.S. From Wikipedia on Mindfulness
Some Zen teachers emphasize the potential dangers of misunder-
Gudo Wafu Nishijima criticizes the use of the term of mindfulness and idealistic interpretations of the practice from the Zen standpoint:
However recently many so-called Buddhist teachers insist the importance of ‘mindfulness.’ But such a kind of attitudes might be insistence that Buddhism might be a kind of idealistic philosophy. Therefore actually speaking I am much afraid that Buddhism is misunderstood as if it was a kind of idealistic philosophy. However we should never forget that Buddhism is not an idealistic philosophy, and so if someone in Buddhism reveres mindfulness, we should clearly recognize that he or she can never be a Buddhist at all.
Muho Noelke, the abbot of Antaiji, explains the pitfalls of consciously seeking mindfulness.
We should always try to be active coming out of samadhi. For this, we have to forget things like “I should be mindful of this or that”. If you are mindful, you are already creating a separation (“I – am – mindful – of – ….”). Don’t be mindful, please! When you walk, just walk. Let the walk walk. Let the talk talk (Dogen Zenji says: “When we open our mouths, it is filled with Dharma”). Let the eating eat, the sitting sit, the work work. Let sleep sleep.
The concept of mindfulness, as a positive thing to be striving for, helps one get from EOP to Observer state, but impedes one getting from Observer state to Flow state. The Zen Masters above are saying the latter but not explaining fully what they mean.