Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

A Choice a Day

| Comments

In my very first sociology course, the instructor asked the class how many actions we deliberately did. A lively discussion ensued. We protested against the idea they were not much more than a stimulus-response machine. Since then, Daniel Wegner and others have pushed the idea that consciousness is, many times, a trick.

If our mind tells us we chose an action, does that make it true? Our responses to stimuluses rarely are really deliberate, but our brain tells us we decided. We believe our brain without question!

Chade-Meng Tan, a Googler, teaches a mindfulness course called Search Inside Yourself. There is a very good first step in his program to start on the path of mindfulness:

Take one mindful breath a day.

Even better is what he proposes next on how to respond to an itch. Don’t scratch the itch. Wait a moment, take a breath, feel the itch and decide exactly how you will scratch it.

Now think of the itch as a metaphor. What actions in life would we do anyway, but can stop and take a moment to make them mindful? When we make them mindful, we make them meaningful.

But what’s the point?

The point of living is to live. Maximize the time, find meaning in each moment. Don’t just sleepwalk through life, but don’t trust that you aren’t. More and more evidence seems to point to the fact that our brain lies and cheats.

Time and time again I’m fooled by my brain. I think I exercise more than I do, listen better, and I’m getting more handsome. It’s hard to think otherwise, my brain says I choose all this stuff when I really don’t. And more damaging, my brain may be holding out on me and not thinking about all the good things I do.

A Harvard Psychologist coached hotel maids on knowing about exercise, showing that the movements they already do was exercise. Guess what? They got healthier, looked healthier and had a 10% drop in blood pressure.

Without changing anything, just being mindful they changed their lives.

Be aware, be mindful, be healthier.