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Beyond Noticing: Putting Mindfulness into Action

A critical part of mindfulness is paying attention to our experience in the present moment.

In fact, every definition I’ve ever heard of mindfulness includes this element in some form. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

The very first step is recognizing what your present experience is. Paying attention to and noticing whatever we are perceiving, thinking, and feeling in the present moment is a crucial aspect of mindfulness. There’s a risk — particularly as mindfulness becomes more popular in the West — that we will end up merely practicing mindfulness as if that’s all there is and being mindful is the end goal.

Moving Beyond Noticing

Within traditional Buddhism, mindfulness is not the only thing. It is only one part of the overall path. I get the feeling that there is often a misunderstanding as people get introduced to mindfulness: The assumption is that the goal is to simply become more and more mindful…and that’s it.

If you want to address your problems and interactions with technology, start by noticing how you feel and what you’re thinking while you interact with technology. This is important as a first step.

However, this is the beginning and not the end.

Noticing is a necessary but insufficient condition for addressing the problem. If all we do is notice and never turn that noticing into action, then we won’t improve. Noticing has been so focused on in the West because we do so little of it, but we need to be careful not to just stop there. We have to move. We need to go further and come to a greater understanding of everything.

Tap Into Mindfulness

The mindfulness teachings I’ve encountered didn’t specifically address our current relationship with technology. It was also assumed that practicing mindfulness on its own would help people with their relationships.

That may be true, but it may not be the most effective or targeted way to address problems.

Moreover, when I saw people who had developed specific tech-related teachings, they tended to focus on noticing but stopped there. They would teach things like “Look at your email and pay attention to how you feel when you look at it. Make note of your thoughts and emotions. The end.”

I noticed my own frustration with this and felt like I wanted to go beyond just noticing. As a result, I developed the Tap Into Mindfulness exercises based on my combined experience in both traditional mindfulness meditation and martial arts (which you could think of as an applied mindfulness).

In self-defense training, you learn how to pay very close attention to a punch when it’s coming at your face. You learn to become incredibly mindful and still so you can be focused and not wrapped up in fear. It takes a lot of practice to see that punch coming at your face. There is a lot of noticing that you work on. But you don’t stop there. There are all kinds of actions you learn to do in addition to the noticing, and that’s why I’m calling all of this “beyond noticing.”

With all of the problems we seem to be having due to our use of technology — the stress, distraction, and disconnection between people — I felt like we needed to go beyond noticing.

That’s what Tap Into Mindfulness does. It gives people practical ways to develop and practice how to act based on what they’ve noticed in order to become more mindful and less enthralled by technology. It’s all by supplementing mindful noticing with action.

This is the next stage of mindfulness’ development in the West.

Make Plans as If the Internet Didn’t Exist

In recent years, many of us have taken to canceling plans at the last minute via text or by using our smartphones in other ways. It usually happens minutes from the meeting time. I try not to do this, but I am definitely guilty of it.

Before the internet, this was something that was not done as often. People made a real effort not to cancel unless there was some sort of true emergency. If they did cancel at the last minute without a valid reason, it would reflect very poorly on them. That doesn’t seem to be true anymore. It seems to be socially acceptable now to cancel plans at the last minute — and to cancel them via text.

This can hurt your reputation and perceived willingness to commit to things in both a professional and personal capacity. I believe this issue comes from our ability to get in touch with someone at any moment, which seemingly removes the need to let someone know far in advance that we may be forced to cancel, reschedule, or arrive late.

I’m in my mid-40s and recently spoke to someone in her mid-20s. She explained that “bailing out” is so common among people her age that she actually stopped making important plans with friends.

Smartphones play a significant role in this phenomenon, as they now shape how we schedule events. The interesting part is that you can spend more time scheduling something through online messaging than at the actual meeting itself. It’s hard enough when it’s just one person. When more than two people are involved, it becomes a scheduling nightmare that can be extremely time-consuming, frustrating, and anxiety-producing.

Here’s a tip:

Schedule meetings and reschedule /cancel them as if the internet didn’t exist.

Act as if you had no access to the internet.

Imagine you have scheduled to meet with someone at 1 p.m. If you act as if there is no internet and your morning schedule starts getting delayed, you’re probably going to need to call a couple of hours in advance to let them know. The purpose of this tip is to see how it affects your mindset and how the actions you take will lead you to be more mindful and present. Think about the other person and the consequences of your actions.

The internet gives us this sense of security that we can instantly reach people at any time, and this is what contributes to the last-minute rescheduling. Act as if the internet didn’t exist and see if that results in you doing fewer things at the last minute.

Does anything change if you reschedule the meeting a day before because you’re swamped with work? Would it be wiser to reschedule and avoid the risk of being unable to reach the person at the last minute? Do it a day in advance rather than a minute in advance.

It’s very common now for people to schedule meetings at the last minute.

Try this exercise to break the habit. Schedule a meeting with someone for Friday around noon and talk to the other person about a general meeting area. Leave the details very vague about the time and place. As the meeting approaches and you’re on your way to the area, you can hash out specifics with the other person in such a way that when the appointment time comes, you know everything and don’t need to communicate to finalize anything. You’re acting as if the internet doesn’t exist.

As with all mindfulness, take note of how you feel about your new behavior. Do you feel happier, less stressed, and less anxious?

Could the Internet be Making us Dumber?

 

Could the Internet be Making us Dumber?

Is the internet giving us a false sense of knowledge? That’s what three Yale psychologists set out to find in a very interesting study.

This study conducted by Matthew Fisher, Mariel K. Goddu, and Frank C. Keil has shown that simple researching on the internet can inflate one’s estimate of their own internal knowledge. This phenomenon isn’t related to any particular subject and can even transfer into other, un-related subjects!

Continue reading Could the Internet be Making us Dumber?