Technology has brought us to unbelievable heights of connectivity and capability. The challenge of our times, however, is to live with it without it swallowing us whole.
Soren Gordhamer, who founded Wisdom 2.0 in 2009, says the desire is rampant for “non-doing”: “What the culture is craving is a sense of ease and reflection, of not needing to be stimulated or entertained or going after something constantly. Nobody’s kicking out technology, but we have to regain our connection to others and to nature or else everybody loses.”
One tried and true method for achieving this is mindful meditation, an increasingly popular mental practice that engages the brain in all the sights, sounds, smells, touch, tastes, emotions of the present moment, as if observing things for the first time. This can be as simple as watching your breath, noticing when your mind has wandered off, letting go of the wandering thought and bringing it back to your breath again. These movements of the mind are the equivalent of repetitions when lifting free weights: every rep strengthens the muscle a bit more. As has been verified in hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, such awareness of thoughts thickens the brain’s cortex, helping to regulate emotional and mental circuitry, creating a calming effect that can lower blood pressure, enhance healing, improve creativity and productivity, etc.
And it’s easy. Here are two mindfulness exercises:
Basic Mindfulness Meditation
- Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor.
- Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensation of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
- Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations, and ideas.
- Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad. If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.
A Less Formal Approach
To help you stay in the present and fully participate in life, you can choose any task or moment to practice, like eating, showering, walking, playing with a child, just sitting under a tree. The more you practice, the keener and more natural this sense of awareness will become.
- Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body.
- Breathe in through your nose, allowing the air to move downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully. Then breathe out through your mouth. Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation.
- Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation.
- Engage your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you savor every sensation.
- When you notice that your mind has wandered from what you are doing, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment.
“Mindfulness Meditation Practice Changes the Brain” – Harvard Health Publications
Can ‘Mindfulness’ Help You Focus?” by Dr. Mercola
“How Innate ‘Plasticity’ of Your Brain Allows You to Improve Cognitive Performance and Prevent Age-Related Decline” by Dr. Mercola
“Mindfulness: Getting Its Share of Attention” by David Hochman
“In Mindfulness – A Method to Sharpen Focus and Open Minds” by Alina Tugend
“Practicing Mindfulness” by Michael Baime, M.D.