Practicing mindfulness would help us slow down


Practicing mindfulness would help us slow down

To the editor:

I read with interest the columns by Max F. Russell and Stephanie Haines (“It can wait,” “Tough decisions can help society regain focus,” July 26, A4). While each took a different approach, they both highlighted the problems with our society’s constant lack of attention to the task at hand. Both wrote eloquently about the danger this poses when drivers choose to do other things while driving.

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see another driver talking on a cellphone or even hands-free. As Stephanie points out, hands-free phone use is still as dangerous as having enough alcohol to test over the legal limit. And I often notice those drivers because they are pulling out into traffic or nearly backing into people or another car.

But distracted living also has its consequences — increased blood pressure, cognitive fatigue, ulcers and muscle and joint pain, among others.

So what do we do about our over-dependence on all things electronic? First, turn them off, as Stephanie suggests. No one would suggest doing this all the time. But pick times of the day when these devices will not be a part of our lives.

While out birding at Thornwood Preserve on a recent evening, I noticed a couple of families get out of their cars with children from very small to pre-teen. They spent 45 minutes to an hour noisily wandering the woods. Not one person was plugged into an electronic device. I want to applaud those families’ adults for taking leadership in getting their children out. According to one of the adults, they do this on a regular basis. More applause for this family.

But there is another way to unplug and better deal with our raucous world. A practice called mindfulness is moving from eastern traditions to the west and is being accepted by people from all across our society. It costs nothing. If you or your children take part in martial arts training, you have likely heard about at least some of these skills. You can likely find books or tapes on these practices in our local libraries. They require no special tools or tapes or classes, although hearing someone describe the skill can enhance and make the learning of the skills go more quickly.

There are many mindfulness skills, including being one mindful, focus on the moment, stay in the moment, deep breathing, etc.

Stephanie and Max highlighted why we are in danger from our fast-paced society. They offered some excellent ideas for changing this. And mindfulness is one more set of tools for slowing us down.

Jim Matthews