Today I am excited to follow up on my November blog about mindfulness and meditation. While looking for books for my children last fall, I happened to see the book Mindfulness by Harvard professor Ellen J. Langer; the bookstore was celebrating the 25th anniversary of the book’s publication. Since social-emotional wellbeing is integral to Dawson’s Strategic Plan, and since mindfulness is of particular interest to me, I decided to read it. I found especially interesting Langer’s Western interpretation of mindfulness as a complement to the Eastern practices more often associated with mindfulness: things like meditation, the quieting of the mind, and the relinquishing of thoughts. Though these tools are useful forms of supporting one’s overall sense of mindfulness, those less familiar with their numerous benefits sometimes dismiss them.
Langer’s take on mindfulness is refreshing and has, I think, broad-ranging application to our personal lives and to our collective work in defining the future at Dawson. To properly understand her interpretation of mindfulness, we first need to understand the concept of mindlessness, which Langer spends considerable time exploring. For Langer, mindlessness is manifested through automatic behavior, repetition, and a belief in limited resources, and it can lead to a narrow self-image, a perceived loss of control that limits choices, and learned helplessness. Think about that for a moment. This description of... » read more