Book Club Announcement: Mindfulness

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I remember the birthday party for my boys in which--distracted by the many guests and the responsibilities as hostess--I mistakenly put the ice cream in the refrigerator instead of the freezer.

It was a sticky situation.

Or how about that time I locked my keys in the car? And how many times have I burned the bacon because I’m attempting to multi-task and unload the dishwasher while I make breakfast?

While these episodes resulted in a certain amount of inconvenience for me, they were relatively harmless. How many times, however, does carelessness lead to much more serious consequences? How many accidents could be avoided, how many diagnoses made accurately…how many lives could be saved?

These are precisely the kind of questions that led Ellen J. Langer, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, to become interested in and begin investigating what she calls mindlessness, and its opposite, mindfulness.

After her grandmother was misdiagnosed with senility instead of receiving treatment for the brain tumor that was causing her symptoms, Dr. Langer was confronted in a very personal way by the grave risks of mindlessness. After fifteen years of research, in 1989 she compiled her findings published in scholarly articles into a book: Mindfulness; because, she says, the benefits of becoming more mindful seem to me too valuable to remain hidden in the archives of social psychology. I’m excited to announce that we have chosen Mindfulness as our next book club selection.

When I think about the concept of mindfulness, the image of a wizened guru steeped in Eastern meditative practices is conjured. While Langer admits there are some similarities, her approach to mindfulness has been from the Western scientific perspective, rather than Eastern religion—concerned more with application and prevention of mindlessness than religious practices.

This book is about the psychological and physical costs we pay because of pervasive mindlessness and more important, about the benefits of greater control, richer options, and transcended limits that mindfulness can make possible.

Her research shows that mindful people are open to new ideas, they are not bound by existing categories, they view life from multiple perspectives and see life as a process, and they are able to reframe situations to see the positive when the unexpected happens.

These are all good things. We’ll be talking a lot about mindlessness: the roots of it, what we can do about it, and why it makes a difference. On Monday, September 26th, we begin our book club discussion on Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer. We’ll begin the discussion with the first three chapters: Introduction, When the Light’s On and Nobody’s Home, and The Roots of Mindlessness. I hope you’ll join us!

Image by Daniel Alexander. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Laura J. Boggess.