Words evolve; they change meaning over time. Get over it!
Virginia Heffernan has written an eloquent but ultimately convoluted critique of the Mindfulness movement. Some of her more amusing and insightful comments are reprised below, but let’s get to the heart of what’s problematic about her article.
Had Ms. Heffernan been alive in Elizabethan times, one imagines she would have panned Shakespeare’s plays for their impure “Continental influenced” language. The Bard rather brazenly borrowed and invented words, and developed disruptive forms of theater that initially annoyed many in the establishment.
It was ever thus and ever shall it be. Meanings of words, of entire concepts change from decade to decade, from century to century and, of course, from widely different culture to another.
What exactly does the word “jazz” mean in 2015 – especially compared to 70 or 80 years ago? How about the word “gay” or “queer”? Another example of a word that has changed its meaning over time: “artificial” — it used to mean “full of artistic or technical skill.” In the realm of religion, just consider the Catholic Church’s concept of “indulgences” in 14th and 15th centuries and compare it to the way the word is used now.
Yes, we don’t use Mindfulness in the same way a related word might have been used in the Pali language 2,000 or more years ago any more than we use the word “angst” as Goethe used it in the original German in the late 1700s.
More to the point, wide-ranging concept like “self” and “mind” have always had meanings that are contentious and highly dependent on context, in time and in place. In fact most people would struggle to compose a succinct definition of the word “mind” right now, without confusing it with the word “brain.” And how does the concept of “mind” relate to the concept of “cognition”? All this is fodder to endless academic debate.
Highlights from an excellent article about human relationships and existential meaning at work in The Guardian newspaper of Britain:
Bank of America found that giving call-center employees breaks together, instead of forcing them to take breaks alone resulted in a more cohesive staff. With this simple change, the company dropped its turnover rate from 40% to 12%.
Within the positive organizational universe, the experts tend to divide into two camps: Those who feel that employee happiness hinges largely on a sense of purpose, and those who feel that relationships are the secret sauce.
“Having positive relationships at work is seen as a major predictor of employee engagement, and that’s a major driver of customer engagement.” – Jane Dutton, professor of business administration & psychology at the University of Michigan.
“Evidence on the almost instantaneous effect of positive human connections on people’s bodies convinces me that if I had to choose whether my workplace had purpose or positive connections, I’d bet on connections.” – Jane Dutton
“If you have positive connections between employees, that means it’s also probably easier to cultivate meaning in the work they’re doing. And similarly if your employees feel they have a purpose, it’s easier for them to cultivate positive connections with each other.” – Jane Dutton
You find yourself lost in a repetitive cycle of clicking from web page to web page, checking your e-mail every couple of minutes or passively skimming through a Twitter feed while paying little attention to what you’re reading in it. Mindless media use is a growing problem; Mark Carrigan has some useful reflections:
This is starting to be referred to as “continuous partial attention” and the behavior driving it as “distraction addiction.”
Tension and anxiety are created by “the sheer scale of what we’re missing out on and our growing awareness of all the other things we could and perhaps should be doing.
“The most obvious way to reduce mindless media consumption is simply to recognize that you’re doing it. Putting a name to the experience makes it easy to identify what you’re doing and so help you drag yourself out of an impending technology loop.
The website www.donothingfor2minutes.com offers a helpful antidote to the frenzied hyperactivity which characterizes the technology loop.
Other tips: Buy a pay-as-you-go phone for when you really want and/or *need* to get away from the Internet. You’ll have a phone for emergencies and other basic communication.
You can also delete the mail settings on my iPhone when you want to disconnect but nonetheless retain the capacity to consult, for example, Google Maps or the weather report.
Staying focused throughout the working day; continuous partial attention, distraction addiction, Internet detox, media overwhelm, digital detox