Tag Archives: mindfulness

On The Sightseer’s Mind: The Symbolic Complex Revisited

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I wrote about “The Symbolic Complex” a few years ago in a post entitled, “Walker Percy and the Symbolic Complex.” In no way did this post adequately capture the depth of Percy’s thought, rather it was a hasty and casual attempt to better understand his most potent idea for life-making. The main quotation that I used (from Percy’s Loss of the Creature)  was, “Impossible to see: the thing as it is, has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer’s eye (47).”

The Receiver is in Control

In essays and books by communication theorist and executive consultant Lee Thayer, the idea that the receiver of any communication message is always in control of what that message means is spoken about to great lengths. It is not necessarily “the sightseer’s eye,” but rather the sightseer’s way of interpreting what is said or seen or felt or touched or tasted–the sightseer’s mind–that needs to be taken into account. What something means to a person will depend on the ways in which that mind makes meaning. Minds will make the kinds of meaning that they are equipped to make and nothing more, nothing less. In this way, it is important to be mindful of how one is interpreting something and if that way of interpreting is the best possible way of minding that thing.

Appropriation

Percy is right when he says that the raw thing-in-itself is impossible to see and in knowing this did Percy, perhaps come closer to being able to truly “see” the things of the world as they ought to be seen? Was he able to re-appropriate them to useful ends? If the receiver controls how things are interpreted given that receiver’s unique ability to comprehend and make meaning, then everything is at stake when we contemplate the symbolic complex in light of who we are speaking to and how clearly we are able to communicate.

Make Meaning

The world or the things in the world are not meaningful in and of themselves. We make them meaningful as Saint-Exupery reminded us and many echoed before and after him. What Percy is calling for is for us to seek to recover the world, to rescue it from how we habitually interpret it and, in doing so, to come to live in a new world. Practicing new ways of interpreting the familiar is an exercise most worthy of our time. It takes mindful practice and persistence to develop such a way, but what are the consequences? Would they, perhaps, be able to give us a little more control over our own thought and our own destiny? Is it the creators of the world (the purposeful interpreters) that are the ones who are able to interpret the things of the world in new and startling ways? I certainly hope so.

10 Tips for Mindful Work

Here are 10 general mindfulness exercises for when you are working.

1. Engage yourself in your work as if your job depends on it.

2. Become the best at what you do, not the best at gabbing around the office.

3. If you finish a project early, review your work and look for ways to improve upon it.

4. A big project is filled with small tasks, which may seem menial and/or tedious, but remember that the large project can only come together through the doing of the small tasks. Do them well.

5. Learn from your co-workers by asking the right questions.

6. If you are becoming overwhelmed by your workload, consider coming to work early. A quiet office very early in the morning can be quite refreshing and may be a nurturing atmosphere for productivity.

7. An afternoon walk outside may provide a solution to that problem you are trying to work out and the stimuli may help, too.

8. Build your work competencies daily by asking questions and learning as much as you can about your current position.

9. The better you are at what you do, the more meaningful your work will be.

10. From CL wisdom, “Do the NOW well.”

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Please help me expand this list. What techniques for mindful working work for you?

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Oh, Failure!: The Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, said, “The deep root of failure in our lives is to think, ‘Oh how useless and powerless I am.’ It is essential to think strongly and forcefully, ‘I can do it,’ without boasting or fretting.”

What the Dalai Lama is calling for in this quotation is a recognition of the impact of how our thought influences our behavior in terms of “failure.” Someone who talks about what they “can’t” do, probably won’t do it, even if it is something that, as viewed from without, is something they actually would be capable of doing. Self-talk has a way of sneaking up on us and clouding our eyes in ways that may be devastating to our personal performance.

On the other hand, it is good practice to focus on ways of thinking that promote the growth of our self-capacity and a way of thinking that, instead of setting up the impossibility of the situation before actually embarking on it, frames the situation as a problem that you can solve.

For the Dalai Lama, this is the “deep root of failure.” It is the inability to imagine oneself capable of doing and thus, not doing, by virtue of one’s own self-talk. Change your way of thinking to lead you where you want to go. Don’t set up imaginary boundaries, because the imaginary boundaries will become real boundaries.

Another article from the “failure” series is:
Oh, Failure!: Elbert Hubbard

10 Articles for Improving Your Mental Hygiene (Vol. 2.0)

Here are ten articles that I want to share with you. These articles deal with the following themes among other things: work, play, society, living, writing, poetry, language, effort, dance, spirituality, imagination, mindfulness, education and learning.

I hope that you will find something of value.

1. Alan Watts: Work as Play
2. Georg Simmel: The Stranger
3. Bill Knott: Path out of View
4. Neojaponisme: Missives on Outlander Japanese
5. Elbert Hubbard: A Message to Garcia
6. Kenneth Goldsmith (editor): Publishing the Unpublishable
7. Rudolf Steiner: On Eurythmy
8. Simone Weil: 5 Flashes of Weil
9. Thich Nhat Hanh: Mindfulness of Ourselves, Mindfulness of Others
10. Ivan Illich: Deschooling Society

Here is the first in this series: 10 Articles for Improving Your Mental Hygiene (Vol 1.0)

The Gift of Being Sick

It is funny how “catching a cold” grounds me to the present moment by continually reminding me of my “unhealthy” physical condition. It is hard to move past the barrier of “pain” that being sick creates. In our healthy moments, the body disappears (for the most part), while under the condition of sickness, it becomes a subject of woeful rumination.

In these times, I am reminded of the fragility of the body and the delicate condition of health. Being healthy is indeed a gift. And, in some ways, being unhealthy is also a gift if only for it’s power of reminding me that I indeed do exist through a physical body, one that weakens with age and one that needs to be taken care of.

As the weather shifts and the coldness of winter approaches, take care of yourself.

Mindful Absorption: Fluidity and Mindfulness

Carl Rogers talks about “the fluid nature of the self.” But, how does one achieve such an awareness of the fluid nature of the self? Aside from my recent article, I will expand on a few key elements to this most elusive yet ordinary way of living, hopefully, moving us toward a better understanding of “fluidity” and, “mindfulness” in general.

I think it is extremely important to, in moments of great concentration (of a task, a conversation, a lecture, cleaning the sink) allow yourself to be fully drawn into the situation at hand. The catch is that if you find yourself thinking about how you’re being drawn into the situation, the absorption in the task has ceased to be so. It’s like reading a book and suddenly realizing that you are reading a book. In doing so, you’ve temporarily lost the “story.” When you realize that you are reading a book, you cease to be engrossed in the story or the argument and start to think about other things (sometimes even as you eyes continue “reading”). When you are fully engaged in the book, you lose track of time and, at that moment, you are in the realm of the author. So, the first trick is to permit oneself to “let go” of analysis of the situation and permit oneself to be 100% “into” the situation.

But, I want to clarify that “letting go” does NOT mean recklessly doing whatever you want to do regardless of the consequences. No, not at all. In fact, the opposite. It means “letting go” to the situation in such a way that you are “tuning in” to it more clearly and more in accord with what needs doing or what is being presented to you in the situation. Therefore, the teacher becomes a better listener and speaker, the police officer becomes more attentive to crime, the musician becomes better focused on the production of sound and so on. It is a kind of realistic alchemy for daily living.

Whenever you are having a conversation with someone, you are absorbed in something greater than each individual word that you are saying. Becoming more mindful of what you say and how you say it could help you along your path – “letting go” and “tuning in.” In order to have a conversation, you must enter the flow of the words, while attending to the meaning – you do this automatically, for the most part. Learn to become a better speaker through the control and edification of the words that you use with others. It’s like the old Japanese Butoh-fu poem, “Balance chaos and control, like a calm rider on a stampeding horse.”

For now, and for the sake of “blogging brevity”, I would advise that you do as many things as possible and in the doing of those things, do them well. More than “well”, do them to the very best of your ability. Become mindful of your limits and, if need be, work purposely to change those limits so that they are in accord with where you want them to be instead of where they are by “default.”

I work with a seventy-year-old man who has told me on numerous occasions, that he “doesn’t have a future.” A common reaction to that line might be, “Oh, but you DO have a future. You’ll be around a long time. Don’t worry about it.” However, he is always smiling, attentive and jolly. He is smiling because, more important than having a future, he has a present. Each task he does, each conversation he has, has meaning for him NOW. He does what needs to be done and holds to the purpose of the now. Old age has taught him a lesson. Hopefully, when and if I am his age, I, too, will be as engrossed in the moment as he is. Nonetheless, with those of us, who absolutely must plan for upcoming goals or events in our life, the best way to handle them is with the recollection that what you are doing now is leading you somewhere and it is what you are doing now that is of utmost importance to the quality and control of your life. The question is: Is what you are doing now leading you where you most want to go? If not, you may want to re-evaulate the doing part of your life and change what or how you do things. Change what you are doing now and start leading yourself to the imagined destination that you dream of. Getting there will probably be more fun than arriving, anyway.

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20 Mindfulness Exercises for Improving Your Mental Hygiene

1. Become aware of your sitting, your clothes, the temperature and all that is “outside” of you now.

2. Imagine you are not separate from the ground, but a living happening of the world. (from Butoh)

3. Take a walk and open your ears to all of the sounds around you, experiencing them as they are.

4. Listen to the drifting habitual patterns of your own inner voice; let it float by you and around you.

5. Practice the art of stretching, using a book or guide that fits your needs and stretch daily.

6. Thank the objects that you use for their continued help. (from Constructive Living)

7. Practice saying a set amount of “thank you’s” on a daily basis to those around you. (from Constructive Living).

8. Become the face of the others around you that you see and interact with.

9. Clean your surroundings with complete attention to the task-at-hand.

10. Learn an “art” or “craft” like playing music, painting, building, dancing, gardening and so on.

11. Notice the colors that are surrounding you.

12. Meditate on Korzybski’s quotation: “Whatever I say a thing is, it is not.”

13. Allow yourself to completely savor the taste of what you eat and drink.

14. Exercise and become aware of how your body changes. How did it change?

15. Take into account the habitual movements and speech patterns that you use.

16. For one day, listen to others more than you speak to others.

17. For one day, control your use of the word “is.” (from Aleister Crowley)

18. Do a familiar task with your eyes closed, noticing the sensory change (from Constructive Living)

19. Focus on the ways in which “you” are embedded in your surroundings.

20. Fully engage yourself with tasks, people and objects that are meaningful to you.

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