May 2, 2012

A Possible Way to Convince Skeptical People that Mindfulness is a Good Thing

Recently a student asked me whether mindfulness optimizes the information processing capacities of the body and mind.

Here’s how I replied:
Your idea that mindfulness optimizes the information processing capacities of body and mind both makes sense and may be extremely important in terms of convincing skeptical people that it's worth putting time and energy into the practice. 
If you think of my "putatively operationizable" definition of mindfulness--Concentration Power, Sensory Clarity, and Equanimity--this would exactly translate into an electronic receiver with: 

Does that not pretty much sum up what one would want in an optimal information processing system?
If we assume that optimal information processing in the human nervous system is advantageous (evolutionarily, functionally, hedonically...) and if indeed mindfulness training does significantly improve information processing as defined by a generally agreed upon metric, then there's good reason for humans and for humanity to adopt it.


  1. It is a thing, neither good nor bad.
    Just a tool, use it as you want to.

    The Norwegian mass killer Breivik makes extensive use of different kinds of meditation to increase concentration, clarity of mind and emotional stability.

  2. Are you kidding? Anders Breivik is a paranoid schizophrenic. That is the functional OPPOSITE of a person well-versed in mindfulness practice.

  3. Thank you Shinzen, for articulating this so well. It inspires me to work harder. I don't know if this would convince skeptical people. I became convinced when I saw a friend go into a meditation room and emerge looking like his energy had become organized, harmonious. At that moment I knew I needed to have that ability. I alway wish that others could have the insights I have gained from listening to the lectures of Shinzen. But so far, it seems like what Shinzen said in a lecture has held true: one has to either be looking for this, or one may notice a significant positive change in someone they know, and wish to know how they achieved it. Still, , I search for a way to interest people in mindfulness ,and this explanation of Shinzen's has helped me. Thanks.

  4. Sorry if I came across as belligerent in that post. I looked up Breivik and it turns out he was given a second diagnosis of 'extreme narcissism' but is not in fact a paranoid schizophrenic. However, his self-described meditative methodology involves becoming numb to and dissociated from compassion, sentiment, and emotion in general. This is also a functional opposite of mindfulness. I was right but for the wrong reason.

    From everything I have read, witnessed and experienced I can confidently say that mindfulness meditation is far more than just a tool; it is a catalyst for the transformation of one's personality to a more loving, open and free state of existence.

    May you have a happy May ;)

  5. I've been practicing mindfulness meditation for a couple of months, and all I can say is that it has meant a big change in my life. Now everything seems different, full of meaning, interesting, exciting.


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