Ellen J. Langer’s Mindfulness makes a compelling argument for being mindful — that is, actively noticing new things — in a way that makes me want to be one of those 3-year-olds who’s constantly asking “why?”
Mindfulness is one of those heavy thinkers. It’s got 20 pages of footnotes in the back, for example. But Langer attempts to strip the jargon and the statistics of more than 50 scientific experiments to reveal greater psychological truths regarding aging, creativity, work, prejudice and health.
I’m always looking for ways to be more present in my life. Since I’ve left corporate America, I’ve learned to slow down and smell the roses so to speak. This blog is one way I try to notice and savor life as it is instead of life as I wish it to be. My email has “mindful” in it to constantly remind me to be present. That’s why I picked up this book (and also because it fulfills the requirement to read a book with a one-word title in the 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge).
Mindfulness first came out in 1989 and is considered a psychology classic. The edition I read is the 25th anniversary edition, fully updated with a new foreword by Langer. If you like Malcolm Gadwall’s more modern works, you’ll like Langer’s.
To be clear, Langer’s definition of mindfulness is not Eastern meditation in which one breathes and empties one’s mind. The mindfulness that Langer is talking about is being more conscious of what we see and hear and feel. For example, the doctor is not always right and assuming they are can have dire consequences. Nursing homes with too many safety features do not make residents happy, only safe. Disabled people are not disabled in every circumstance (a blind child, for example, might be really good at hitting a piñata).
My takeaway from this book is to wake up and notice what’s really going on — with my body, with my friends, with society. To notice those “hidden” cues that trigger my emotions rather than simply being a slave to them. A good read, even 25 years after it was the first time.