As we consider doubling-down on our mindfulness practice, along with our other resolutions and aspirations (start jogging again, less Netflix, fewer meals out, and making time to take mom’s phone calls more often), it’s good to remember the why of our intention, what in mindfulness practice we often call the view. So what is the big view?
As Daniel Rechtschaffen demonstrates in the guided practice clip below from the Mindful Education Summit, mindfulness helps us tip the scales of focus/distraction in the direction of sustained attention. But there is more to mindfulness than becoming more productive. Used properly, it should be a tool for becoming more human.
During our 2019 Mindful Education Summit, Dr. Rick Hanson also made a remark that relates to this idea of becoming more human. He paraphrased William James, often considered the father of American psychology, saying that “the education of attention would be the education par excellence.”
The whole James quote (and I’m pulling this from a blog post by Dr. Hanson, also on attention, which you can read, here) goes further:
The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is compos sui [master of themselves] if they have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence. William James, Psychology: Briefer Course, p. 424 (Harper Torchbooks, 1961)
That is the question, and the alluring promise of mindfulness––that by developing our ability to sustain our attention we are also developing our character, our ability to care and enact our values in the world.
It’s a good reminder: a regular mindfulness practice, by providing the space for us to feel how we are feeling in this very moment, enables us to share that experienced truth with others. Or to put it more succinctly, we become more human.
So, let’s take a quick moment before watching the guided meditation below and bring our motivation into focus. For in Dr. Hanson’s words, wherever we place our focus becomes “the front end of who we are becoming.”
May we all become genuine and kind, true to ourselves, and quick to delight in others.
Happy New Year,