robertogreco + mindfulness   55

The mindfulness conspiracy | Life and style | The Guardian
"It is sold as a force that can help us cope with the ravages of capitalism, but with its inward focus, mindful meditation may be the enemy of activism."
capitalism  meditation  mindfulness  2019  ronaldpurser  economics  society  neoliberalism  activism  mindfulness-industrialcomplex  wellness-industrialcomplex  labor  via:austinkleon 
july 2019 by robertogreco
How mindfulness privatised a social problem
[via: https://hewn.substack.com/p/hewn-no-314 ]

“The £3.4trn industry encourages a preoccupation with the symptoms of mental illness, rather than their social causes.”

“In December 2008, while forcibly evicting tenants from a concrete high-rise in south London, Southwark Council pulled off a remarkable feat of complacency. Though residents didn’t know it at the time, every flat in the development that replaced the Heygate Estate would be sold to foreign investors, despite the council’s repeated promises of new social housing.

Recognising that people were “stressed”, councillors hired life coaches and “spiritual ministers” to run workshops teaching residents how to progress emotionally. The company behind the workshop, the Happiness Project, was founded by the British positive psychologist Robert Holden, the author of Shift Happens! The firm’s motto was: “Success is a state of mind; happiness is a way of travelling; love is your true power.”

That people about to lose their homes were stressed is hardly surprising. The council encouraged residents to look inwards, towards their brain chemistry, and in doing so cast itself as a solution, rather than a cause of the problem. Its response typified the idea of “magical voluntarism”, which the writer Mark Fisher described as “the belief that it is within every individual’s power to make themselves whatever they want to be”.

The connection between stress and economics is well documented. In their 2009 book The Spirit Level, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson identified a strong correlation between inequality and poor reported mental health. In a report published last month, Dr Dainius Puras, the UN’s special rapporteur on health, stated that confronting inequality would be a more effective prophylactic for poor mental health than excessive therapy or medication.

Yet governments often opt for treatments that focus on the individual rather than social maladies. “Most don’t want to be thinking about how their policies might be contributing to problems in the first place,” says David Harper, a clinical psychologist at the University of East London. In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a treatment that focuses on raising awareness of negative emotions and developing coping strategies.

A preoccupation with the symptoms of mental illness, rather than their social causes, is because there’s no “big drug lobby behind prevention”, Harper says. Treatments such as CBT have proved a cost-effective cattle prod for herding the mentally ill off welfare benefits. As chancellor, George Osborne introduced the therapy for 40,000 recipients of Jobseeker’s Allowance as part of a back-to-work agenda.

“An industry has formed around the ‘stressed subject’,” says Ronald Purser, a long-standing Buddhist and academic at San Francisco State University. His particular concern is the commercialisation of “mindfulness”, whose original status as a radical Buddhist practice has been almost entirely lost. “The dominant mindfulness narrative is that stress is all inside your own head,” he says. “You can’t separate the individual from the environment. We’re embodied social beings.”

Mindfulness is the psychological practice of focusing one’s attention on experiences in the present moment. It is offered by the NHS, recommended by NICE, and, like CBT, encourages the development of coping strategies. In his new book McMindfulness, Purser takes aim at the lucrative “mindfulness” industry, which was worth an estimated $4.2trn (£3.4trn) in 2017. More than 100,000 books for sale on Amazon have a variant of the word in their title. The US military offers mindfulness training classes. In 2007, Google launched a mindfulness course called “Search Inside Yourself”, which has been spun into a non-profit body. “That’s when I really became suspicious,” notes Purser.

The mindfulness movement took off in 1979 when one of its progenitors, Jon Kabat-Zinn, founded a stress reduction clinic at the University of Massachusetts – the same year Margaret Thatcher became prime minister and a year before Ronald Reagan was elected as US president. Purser argues that mindfulness has become the perfect coping mechanism for neoliberal capitalism: it privatises stress and encourages people to locate the root of mental ailments in their own work ethic. As a psychological strategy it promotes a particular form of revolution, one that takes place within the heads of individuals fixated on self-transformation, rather than as a struggle to overcome collective suffering.

It’s dangerous to generalise about mental health. For some, contemplative practices could be the key to reducing suffering. When I put this to him, Purser cites the American feminist Audre Lorde, who wrote that “caring for myself is not a form of self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”. In McMindfulness, he argues that “reducing suffering is a noble aim and it should be encouraged”. But therapies like mindfulness, as currently practised, perpetuate a form of “cruel optimism”, he warns.

We are told that mindfulness is the path to happiness and security, regardless of our circumstances, and that success, as the Happiness Project piously told Heygate residents losing their homes, is merely a “state of mind”. “
mindfulness  mindfulness-industrialcomplex  wellness-industrialcomplex  society  capitalism  2019  hettieo'brien  economics  neoliberalism  labor 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Are.na Blog / Workshop Debrief: How to Use the Internet Mindfully
"Last weekend I got to collaborate with Willa Köerner of The Creative Independent (TCI) to facilitate a workshop at IAM Weekend, called “How to Use the Internet Mindfully.” The workshop built on an essay series TCI and Are.na published together last year, which asked a group of artists to reflect on the habits and philosophies that help them contend with the online attention economy. This time we wanted to do something similar in person, in a space where creative internet people could talk about our feelings together.

We asked participants to complete a worksheet designed to help them get a better handle on their internet and technology habits. (You can download the worksheet if you’d like to try this—it takes about 35 minutes to complete). The first step was making a mind map of one’s various screen-based activities. Using different colors, everyone then labeled those activities as either harmful or helpful on a personal level. Finally, people jotted down a few “relationship goals” between them and the Internet and brainstormed practical steps for building up their personal agency.

We spent the last part of the workshop sharing results with one another and thinking about reclaiming the web as an intimate, creative social space. Lots of interesting ideas emerged in our conversation, so I want to highlight a few things here that stood out in particular:

1. We often have mixed feelings about certain tools (and specific ways of using those tools). For example, posting to Instagram can be an exploratory and rewarding creative process. But the anxiety about “likes” that comes afterward usually feels empty and harmful. It’s hard to reconcile these opposing feelings within the realm of personal behavior. While we know that we’re ultimately in control of our own behavior, we also know that apps like Instagram are designed to promote certain patterns of use. We don’t want to quit altogether, but we’re struggling to swim against the current of “persuasive” tech.

2. We don’t have enough spaces for talking about the emotional side effects of living with the web. Before we really dug into strategies for using the Internet more mindfully, participants really wanted to share their feelings about social media, Internet burnout, and how the two are connected. We talked about mental health and how hard it is to feel in control of apps that are essentially designed for dependency. We discussed how few of us feel happy with our habits, even though everyone’s experience is different. We wondered about the stigma that surrounds any form of “addiction,” and whether it’s ok to talk about widespread Internet use in those terms. I’m really glad these questions bubbled up, since they helped build enough trust in the room to share the more personal elements of each person’s mind map.

3. We all want to feel personal autonomy, which takes many different forms. We had a lively exchange about different ways to limit the amount of digital junk food we allow ourselves to consume. Apple’s new screen-time tracker was one example that drew mixed responses. Some people felt that a subtle reminder helped, while others felt it was totally ineffective. Some preferred to impose a hard limit on themselves through a tool like Self Control, while others rejected the premise of measuring screen time in the first place. A lot of participants focused on wanting to control their own experience, whether by owning one’s own content or simply feeling enough agency to decide how to navigate the web. We talked a bit about the dilemma of feeling like our decision-making psychology has been “hacked” by addictive design, and how crappy it feels to replace our own intuition with another technical solution. We also acknowledged that setting our own boundaries means spending even more time and emotional capital than our apps have already taken from us. That additional effort is labor we consumers complete for free, even if we don’t usually see it that way.

4. The web feels too big for healthy interaction. We also talked about how using mainstream social media platforms these days can feel like shouting into a giant room with everyone else on Earth. Many of the healthy spaces where participants felt they could genuinely share ideas were ones where they put considerable time and emotional labor into building an intimate social context. People had a lot to say about the fact that users are locked in to their online personas with all kinds of personal and professional incentives. You simply can’t stop looking, or downsize your social circles, or abandon your long-term presence, without breaking an informal social contract you never realized you signed.

The context of the conference also made me think about how we frame the work we put into our relationship with technology. When we get in front of a group, what kind of “solutions” should we be advocating? At what point to individual strategies lead to politics and advocacy?

When you focus on personal habits for long enough, it’s easy to process societal issues as problems originating in your own behavior. But as with other kinds of “self-help,” this is a framing that ignores a grotesque power dynamic. Addiction and burnout are not only matters of consumer choice, but the costs of business decisions made by enormous technology companies. The tech industry – like big tobacco and big oil – has knowingly caused a set of serious social problems and then pushed the work of remediating them onto individual consumers. Now it’s up to users to defend themselves with tools like browser plug-ins and VPNs and finstas and time trackers. As we keep talking about using the internet mindfully, I hope we can connect the dots between this kind of individual action and the larger project of securing universal rights to privacy, anonymity, and personal autonomy. By asking ourselves which tools we want to use, and how we want to use them, hopefully we can open up a broader conversation about how we move beyond surveillance capitalism itself.

I’d be interested in talking more about these connections between individual and collective actions if we get to repeat the workshop. It would be great to work with a smaller group, simplify the worksheet slightly, and get really specific about what questions we’re trying to answer. I’d like to draw on a few other ways of thinking as well, like the Human Systems framework for example. If you’d be interested in collaborating, or just have thoughts on any of this, please send one of us an email: leo@are.na or willa@kickstarter.com. We’d love to hear your thoughts."
internet  mindfulness  are.na  2019  leoshaw  willaköerner  web  online  autonomy  technology  politics  advocacy  browsers  extensions  plug-ins  vpns  finstas  trackers  surveillancecapitalism  surveillance  self-help  power  socialmedia  presence  socialcontract  attention  psychology  burnout  addiction  instagram  creativity  likes  behavior 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Joy [Still Processing] - The New York Times
"Inspired by Netflix’s “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” we decide to KonMari Wesley’s Brooklyn apartment. We ask ourselves what sparks joy in our lives and examine whether Marie Kondo’s philosophy extends into the metaphysical realm.

Discussed this week:

“Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” (Netflix, 2019) https://www.netflix.com/title/80209379

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (Marie Kondo, 2014) https://konmari.com/products/the-life-changing-magic-of-tidying-up

“The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter” (Margareta Magnusson, 2017) https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Gentle-Art-of-Swedish-Death-Cleaning/Margareta-Magnusson/9781501173240 "
jennawortham  wesleymorris  mariekondo  legacy  2019  impermanence  konmarimethod  death  possessions  materialism  decluttering  mindfulness  scandinavia  clutter  tidying  organizing  sweden  cleaning  meaningmaking  joy  gratitude  life  living  self-awareness 
february 2019 by robertogreco
The Stories We Were Told about Education Technology (2018)
"It’s been quite a year for education news, not that you’d know that by listening to much of the ed-tech industry (press). Subsidized by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, some publications have repeatedly run overtly and covertly sponsored articles that hawk the future of learning as “personalized,” as focused on “the whole child.” Some of these attempt to stretch a contemporary high-tech vision of social emotional surveillance so it can map onto a strange vision of progressive education, overlooking no doubt how the history of progressive education has so often been intertwined with race science and eugenics.

Meanwhile this year, immigrant, refugee children at the United States border were separated from their parents and kept in cages, deprived of legal counsel, deprived of access to education, deprived in some cases of water.

“Whole child” and cages – it’s hardly the only jarring juxtaposition I could point to.

2018 was another year of #MeToo, when revelations about sexual assault and sexual harassment shook almost every section of society – the media and the tech industries, unsurprisingly, but the education sector as well – higher ed, K–12, and non-profits alike, as well school sports all saw major and devastating reports about cultures and patterns of sexual violence. These behaviors were, once again, part of the hearings and debates about a Supreme Court Justice nominee – a sickening deja vu not only for those of us that remember Anita Hill ’s testimony decades ago but for those of us who have experienced something similar at the hands of powerful people. And on and on and on.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) kept up with its rosy repetition that social equality is surely its priority, a product feature even – that VR, for example, a technology it has for so long promised is “on the horizon,” is poised to help everyone, particularly teachers and students, become more empathetic. Meanwhile, the founder of Oculus Rift is now selling surveillance technology for a virtual border wall between the US and Mexico.

2018 was a year in which public school teachers all over the US rose up in protest over pay, working conditions, and funding, striking in red states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma despite an anti-union ruling by the Supreme Court.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) was wowed by teacher influencers and teacher PD on Instagram, touting the promise for more income via a side-hustle like tutoring rather by structural or institutional agitation. Don’t worry, teachers. Robots won’t replace you, the press repeatedly said. Unsaid: robots will just de-professionalize, outsource, or privatize the work. Or, as the AI makers like to say, robots will make us all work harder (and no doubt, with no unions, cheaper).

2018 was a year of ongoing and increased hate speech and bullying – racism and anti-Semitism – on campuses and online.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still maintained that blockchain would surely revolutionize the transcript and help insure that no one lies about who they are or what they know. Blockchain would enhance “smart spending” and teach financial literacy, the ed-tech industry (press) insisted, never once mentioning the deep entanglements between anti-Semitism and the alt-right and blockchain (specifically Bitcoin) backers.

2018 was a year in which hate and misinformation, magnified and spread by technology giants, continued to plague the world. Their algorithmic recommendation engines peddled conspiracy theories (to kids, to teens, to adults). “YouTube, the Great Radicalizer” as sociologist Zeynep Tufekci put it in a NYT op-ed.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still talked about YouTube as the future of education, cheerfully highlighting (that is, spreading) its viral bullshit. Folks still retyped the press releases Google issued and retyped the press releases Facebook issued, lauding these companies’ (and their founders’) efforts to reshape the curriculum and reshape the classroom.

This is the ninth year that I’ve reviewed the stories we’re being told about education technology. Typically, this has been a ten (or more) part series. But I just can’t do it any more. Some people think it’s hilarious that I’m ed-tech’s Cassandra, but it’s not funny at all. It’s depressing, and it’s painful. And no one fucking listens.

If I look back at what I’ve written in previous years, I feel like I’ve already covered everything I could say about 2018. Hell, I’ve already written about the whole notion of the “zombie idea” in ed-tech – that bad ideas never seem to go away, that just get rebranded and repackaged. I’ve written about misinformation and ed-tech (and ed-tech as misinformation). I’ve written about the innovation gospel that makes people pitch dangerously bad ideas like “Uber for education” or “Alexa for babysitting.” I’ve written about the tech industry’s attempts to reshape the school system as its personal job training provider. I’ve written about the promise to “rethink the transcript” and to “revolutionize credentialing.” I’ve written about outsourcing and online education. I’ve written about coding bootcamps as the “new” for-profit higher ed, with all the exploitation that entails. I’ve written about the dangers of data collection and data analysis, about the loss of privacy and the lack of security.

And yet here we are, with Mark Zuckerberg – education philanthropist and investor – blinking before Congress, promising that AI will fix everything, while the biased algorithms keep churning out bias, while the education/technology industry (press) continues to be so blinded by “disruption” it doesn’t notice (or care) what’s happened to desegregation, and with so many data breaches and privacy gaffes that they barely make headlines anymore.

Folks. I’m done.

I’m also writing a book, and frankly that’s where my time and energy is going.

There is some delicious irony, I suppose, in the fact that there isn’t much that’s interesting or “innovative” to talk about in ed-tech, particularly since industry folks want to sell us on the story that tech is moving faster than it’s ever moved before, so fast in fact that the ol’ factory model school system simply cannot keep up.

I’ve always considered these year-in-review articles to be mini-histories of sorts – history of the very, very recent past. Now, instead, I plan to spend my time taking a longer, deeper look at the history of education technology, with particular attention for the next few months, as the title of my book suggests, to teaching machines – to the promises that machines will augment, automate, standardize, and individualize instruction. My focus is on the teaching machines of the mid-twentieth century, but clearly there are echoes – echoes of behaviorism and personalization, namely – still today.

In his 1954 book La Technique (published in English a decade later as The Technological Society), the sociologist Jacques Ellul observes how education had become oriented towards creating technicians, less interested in intellectual development than in personality development – a new “psychopedagogy” that he links to Maria Montessori. “The human brain must be made to conform to the much more advanced brain of the machine,” Ellul writes. “And education will no longer be an unpredictable and exciting adventure in human enlightenment , but an exercise in conformity and apprenticeship to whatever gadgetry is useful in a technical world.” I believe today we call this "social emotional learning" and once again (and so insistently by the ed-tech press and its billionaire backers), Montessori’s name is invoked as the key to preparing students for their place in the technological society.

Despite scant evidence in support of the psychopedagogies of mindsets, mindfulness, wellness, and grit, the ed-tech industry (press) markets these as solutions to racial and gender inequality (among other things), as the psychotechnologies of personalization are now increasingly intertwined not just with surveillance and with behavioral data analytics, but with genomics as well. “Why Progressives Should Embrace the Genetics of Education,” a NYT op-ed piece argued in July, perhaps forgetting that education’s progressives (including Montessori) have been down this path before.

This is the only good grit:

[image of Gritty]

If I were writing a lengthier series on the year in ed-tech, I’d spend much more time talking about the promises made about personalization and social emotional learning. I’ll just note here that the most important “innovator” in this area this year (other than Gritty) was surely the e-cigarette maker Juul, which offered a mindfulness curriculum to schools – offered them the curriculum and $20,000, that is – to talk about vaping. “‘The message: Our thoughts are powerful and can set action in motion,’ the lesson plan states.”

The most important event in ed-tech this year might have occurred on February 14, when a gunman opened fire on his former classmates at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff and injuring 17 others. (I chose this particular school shooting because of the student activism it unleashed.)

Oh, I know, I know – school shootings and school security aren’t ed-tech, ed-tech evangelists have long tried to insist, an argument I’ve heard far too often. But this year – the worst year on record for school shootings (according to some calculations) – I think that argument started to shift a bit. Perhaps because there’s clearly a lot of money to be made in selling schools “security” products and services: shooting simulation software, facial recognition technology, metal detectors, cameras, social media surveillance software, panic buttons, clear backpacks, bulletproof backpacks, … [more]
audreywatters  education  technology  edtech  2018  surveillance  privacy  personalization  progressive  schools  quantification  gamification  wholechild  montessori  mariamontessori  eugenics  psychology  siliconvalley  history  venturecapital  highereducation  highered  guns  gunviolence  children  youth  teens  shootings  money  influence  policy  politics  society  economics  capitalism  mindfulness  juul  marketing  gritty  innovation  genetics  psychotechnologies  gender  race  racism  sexism  research  socialemotional  psychopedagogy  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  learning  howwelearn  teachingmachines  nonprofits  nonprofit  media  journalism  access  donaldtrump  bias  algorithms  facebook  amazon  disruption  data  bigdata  security  jacquesellul  sociology  activism  sel  socialemotionallearning 
december 2018 by robertogreco
an xiao mina on Twitter: "The Silicon Valley version of Vipassana meditation is an extension of much of the US iteration of Buddhism — a lot of focus on mindfulness and individual suffering, without paying attention to the larger discourse of Buddhist e
"The Silicon Valley version of Vipassana meditation is an extension of much of the US iteration of Buddhism — a lot of focus on mindfulness and individual suffering, without paying attention to the larger discourse of Buddhist ethics focused on compassion and interconnectedness.

Which is not to say that the non-US iterations of Buddhism have some kind of perfect moral grounding (cf. Myanmar), but rather that US Buddhism takes on a distinctly US character —> individualist, capitalist, goal-oriented. We could say the same of yoga."

[referencing this thread, I think, by Jack Dorsey
https://twitter.com/jack/status/1071575088695140353 ]
buddhism  us  religion  individualism  mindfulness  interconnected  interconnectedness  capitalism  goals  morality  2018  anxiaomina  jackdorsey  vipassana  californianideology  siliconvalley 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Why Americans see Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion — Quartz
"But American secular Buddhism has also produced some unintended consequences. Suzuki’s writings greatly influenced Jack Kerouac, the popular Beat Generation author of On the Road and The Dharma Bums. But Suzuki regarded Kerouac as a “monstrous imposter” because he sought only the freedom of Buddhist awakening without the discipline of practice.

Other Beat poets, hippies and, later, New Age DIY self-helpers have also paradoxically mistaken Buddhism for a kind of self-indulgent narcissism, despite its teachings of selflessness and compassion. Still others have commercially exploited its exotic appeal to sell everything from “Zen tea” to “Lucky Buddha Beer,” which is particularly ironic given Buddhism’s traditional proscription against alcohol and other intoxicants.

As a result, the popular construction of nonreligious Buddhism has contributed much to the contemporary “spiritual but not religious” phenomenon, as well as to the secularized and commodified mindfulness movement in America.

We may have only transplanted a fraction of the larger bodhi tree of religious Buddhism in America, but our cutting has adapted and taken root in our secular, scientific, and highly commercialized age. For better and for worse, it’s Buddhism, American-style."
buddhism  us  counterculture  philosophy  doctrine  2018  sokauniversityofamerica  mindfulness  secularism  religion  beatgeneration  jackkerouac  zen  zenbuddhism  daisetsuteitarosuzuki  thichnhathanh  shakusōen  anagārikadharmapāla  paulvcarus  ernestfenellosa  williamsturgisbigelow  henrydavidthoreau  ralphwaldoemerson  soka  sua 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Shifting Landscape of Buddhism in America - Lion's Roar
"The first wave of academic scholarship on these communities was published around the turn of the millennium, as the study of Buddhism in America emerged as a distinct academic subfield. Influential books included Charles S. Prebish’s Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America (1999), Richard Hughes Seager’s Buddhism in America (1999), and James Coleman’s The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Religion (2002). One common distinction made in this early research was between the so-called “two Buddhisms” in America: “ethnic” and “convert.” According to the researchers, the ethnic or “immigrant” Buddhism of Asian Americans (what scholars now commonly refer to as heritage Buddhism) focused on communal, devotional, and merit-making activities within a traditional cosmological context, whereas the convert Buddhism of overwhelmingly white, upper-middle class practitioners was individualistic, primarily focused on meditation practice and psychological in its approach.

An early challenge to the “two Buddhisms” typology came from scholar Jan Nattier, who observed that not all converts are white, and that some convert-populated communities, such as Soka Gakkai, do not privilege meditation. She proposed an alternative “three Buddhisms” typology—import, export, and baggage—that moved away from ethnicity and race and focused on the mode by which various forms of Buddhism were brought to the U.S.

As Scott Mitchell and Natalie Quli note in their coedited collection Buddhism Beyond Borders: New Perspectives on Buddhism in the United States (2015), and as Mitchell unpacks in his Buddhism in America: Global Religions, Local Contexts (2016), there have been numerous dramatic changes in the social and cultural landscape of America since those studies were published over a decade ago. These changes, as evidenced by the Maha Teacher Council, have brought new questions and concerns to meditation-based convert communities: Who has the authority to define and represent “American” Buddhism? What is the impact of mindfulness transitioning from a countercultural religious practice to a mainstream secular one? How have technology and the digital age affected Buddhist practice? In what ways are generational and demographic shifts changing meditation-based convert communities?

My research explores these questions through a series of case studies, highlighting four areas in which major changes are occurring, pushing these communities beyond their first-generation expressions.

Addressing the Exclusion of Asian Americans

Central to the shifting landscape of contemporary American Buddhism is a rethinking of the distinction between “convert” and “heritage” Buddhisms as practitioners and scholars have become increasingly aware of the problematic nature of both the “two Buddhisms” and “three Buddhisms” typologies. An early challenge came from Rev. Ryo Imamura, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist priest, in a letter to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review in 1992. That winter, magazine founder and editor Helen Tworkov had written that “The spokespeople for Buddhism in America have been, almost exclusively, educated members of the white middle class. Asian American Buddhist so far have not figured prominently in the development of something called American Buddhism.” Rev. Imamuru correctly pointed out that this statement disregarded the contributions of Asian American immigrants who had nurtured Buddhism in the U.S. since the eighteenth century and implied that Buddhism only became truly American when white Americans practiced it. Although written twenty-five years ago, Rev. Imamura’s letter was only recently published in its entirety with a commentary by Funie Hsu on the Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s website. Hsu and Arunlikhati, who has curated the blog Angry Asian Buddhist since 2011, have emerged as powerful voices in bringing long-overdue attention to the erasure of Asian Americans from Buddhism in the U.S and challenging white privilege in American meditation-based convert communities.

Another shortcoming of the heritage/convert distinction is that it does not account for practitioners who bridge or disrupt this boundary. Where, for example, do we place second- and third-generation Asian Americans who have grown up in Asian American Buddhist communities but now practice in meditation-based lineages? What about Asian Americans who have converted to Buddhism from other religions, or from non-religious backgrounds? Chenxing Han’s promising research, featured in Buddhadharma’s Summer 2016 edition, brings the many different voices of these marginalized practitioners to the forefront. Similarly, how do we categorize “cradle Buddhists,” sometimes jokingly referred to as “dharma brats,” who were born into Buddhist “convert” communities? Millennials Lodro Rinzler and Ethan Nichtern—two of the most popular young American Buddhist teachers—fall into this category, having grown up in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. How do such new voices affect meditation-based convert lineages?

Rev. Imamura’s letter echoes the early characterization of primarily white, meditation-based convert communities, observing that “White practitioners practice intensive psychotherapy on their cushions in a life-or-death struggle with the individual ego, whereas Asian Buddhists seem to just smile and eat together.” It is of little surprise then that the theme of community appears strongly in the work of Arunlikhati, Hsu, and Han. Arunlikhati has most recently written about the need to create refuges for Buddhists of color—”spaces where people can find true comfort and well-being”—and shares that his dream “is for Western Buddhism to be like a family that accepts all of its members openly.” In challenging white privilege, Asian Americans and other practitioners of color have been instrumental in recovering and building the neglected third refuge—sangha—in meditation-based convert Buddhism."



"Three Emerging Turns
In my forthcoming book, I posit three emerging turns, or sensibilities, within meditation-based convert Buddhism: critical, contextual, and collective. The critical turn refers to a growing acknowledgement of limitations within Buddhist communities. First-generation practitioners tended to be very celebratory of “American Buddhism,” enthusing that they were creating new, more modern, and “essential” forms of Buddhism that were nonhierarchical, gender-egalitarian, and free of the cultural and religious “baggage” of their Asian predecessors. While the modernization and secularization of Buddhism certainly continues, there is now much more discussion about the problems and pitfalls of these processes, with some exposing the Western ethnocentrism that has operated behind the “essential” versus “cultural” distinction. This understanding acknowledges that meditation-based convert Buddhism is as culturally shaped as any other form of Buddhism. Some, drawing attention to what is lost when the wider religious context of Buddhism is discarded, have called for a reengagement with neglected aspects of the tradition such as ritual and community.

The contextual turn refers to the increasing awareness of how Buddhist practice is shaped and limited by the specific social and cultural contexts in which it unfolds. In the case of the mindfulness debates, critics have argued that mindfulness has become commodified and assimilated into the context of global capitalism and neoliberalism. Another heated debate is around power and privilege in American Buddhist communities. Take, for instance, Pablo Das’s response to Buddhist teachers’ reflections on the U.S. presidential election, in which he critiques their perspectives as reflective of a privileged social location that negates the trauma of marginalized communities. Das suggests that calls to meditate and to “sit with what is” are not sufficient to create safety for vulnerable populations, and he warns against misusing Buddhist teachings on impermanence, equanimity, and anger to dismiss the realities of such groups. Insight teachers Sebene Selassie and Brian Lesage have fostered a dialogue between sociocultural awareness and Buddhism, developing a course for the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies titled “Buddha’s Teaching and Issues of Cultural Spiritual Bypassing,” which explores how unconscious social conditioning manifests both individually and collectively.

The collective turn refers to the multiple challenges to individualism as a cornerstone of meditation-based convert lineages. One shift has come in the form of efforts toward building inclusive sanghas. Another is the development of relational forms of meditation practice such as external mindfulness. And a third expression is the concept of “collective awakening,” hinted at in Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion that “the next Buddha might take the form of a community,” as well as the application of Buddhist principles and practices to the collective dukkha caused by racism and capitalism.

The first generation of meditation-based convert practitioners brought the discourses of psychology, science, and liberal feminism to their encounter with already modernized forms of Asian Buddhism. With the “three turns,” previously excluded, neglected, or entirely new conversations—around critical race theory, postcolonial thought, and cultural studies—are shaping the dialogue of Buddhist modernism. These are not necessarily replacing earlier influences but sitting alongside them and engaging in often-heated debates. Moreover, due to social media and the lively Buddhist blogosphere, these dialogues are also finding a much larger audience. While it is difficult to predict the extent to which these new perspectives will shape the future of Buddhism in America, the fact that they are particularly evident in Gen X and millennial practitioners suggests that their impact will be significant… [more]
us  buddhism  religion  2018  conversion  race  identity  mindfulness  annagleig  whiteprivilege  inclusion  racialjustice  history  diversity  meditation  babyboomers  generations  genx  millennials  pluralism  individualism  accountability  psychology  converts  boomers 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Barbara Ehrenreich's Radical Critique of Wellness Culture | The New Republic
"Ehrenreich contemplates with some satisfaction not just the approach of her own death but also the passing of her generation. As the boomers have aged, denial of death, she argues, has moved to the center of American culture, and a vast industrial ecosystem has bloomed to capitalize on it. Across twelve chapters, Ehrenreich surveys the health care system, the culture of old age, the world of “mindfulness,” and the interior workings of the body itself, and finds a fixation on controlling the body, encouraged by cynical and self-interested professionals in the name of “wellness.” Without opposing reasonable, routine maintenance, Ehrenreich observes that the care of the self has become a coercive and exploitative obligation: a string of endless medical tests, drugs, wellness practices, and exercise fads that threaten to become the point of life rather than its sustenance. Someone, obviously, is profiting from all this.

While innumerable think pieces have impugned millennials’ culture of “self-care”—and argued that the generation born in the 1980s and ’90s is fragile, consumerist, and distracted—Ehrenreich redirects such criticisms toward an older crowd. Her book sets out to refute the idea that it’s possible to control the course and shape of one’s own biological or emotional life, and dissects the desire to do so. “Agency is not concentrated in humans or their gods or favorite animals,” she writes. “It is dispersed throughout the universe, right down to the smallest imaginable scale.” We are not, that is, in charge of ourselves."



"While workout culture requires the strict ordering of the body, mindfulness culture has emerged to subject the brain to similarly stringent routines. Mindfulness gurus often begin from the assumption that our mental capacities have been warped and attenuated by the distractions of our age. We need re-centering. Mindfulness teaches that it is possible through discipline and practice to gain a sense of tranquility and focus. Such spiritual discipline, often taking the form of a faux-Buddhist meditation program, can of course be managed through an app on your phone, or, with increasing frequency, might be offered by your employer. Google, for example, keeps on staff a “chief motivator,” who specializes in “fitness for the mind,” while Adobe’s “Project Breathe” program allocates 15 minutes per day for employees to “recharge their batteries.” This fantastical hybrid of exertion and mysticism promises that with enough effort , you too can bend your mind back into shape.

“Whichever prevails in the mind-body duality, the hope, the goal—the cherished assumption,” Ehrenreich summarizes, “is that by working together, the mind and the body can act as a perfectly self-regulating machine.” In this vision, the self is a clockwork mechanism, ideally adapted by natural selection to its circumstances and needing upkeep only in the form of juice cleanses, meditation, CrossFit, and so on. Monitor your data forever and hope to live forever. Like workout culture, wellness is a form of conspicuous consumption. It is only the wealthy who have the resources to maintain the illusion of an integral and bounded self, capable of responsible self-care and thus worthy of social status. The same logic says that those who smoke (read: poor), or don’t eat right (poor again), or don’t exercise enough (also poor) have personally failed and somehow deserve their health problems and low life expectancy."



"Ehrenreich’s political agenda goes largely unstated in Natural Causes, but is nonetheless central to her argument. Since at least the mid-1970s, she has been engaged in a frustrated dialogue with her peers about how they choose to live. In her view, the New Left failed to grasp that its own professional-class origins, status anxieties, and cultural pretensions were the reason that it had not bridged the gap with the working class in the 1960s and 1970s. It was this gap that presented the New Right with its own political opportunity, leading to the ascent of Ronald Reagan and fueling decades of spiraling inequality, resurgent racism, and the backlash against feminism.

The inability of her contemporaries to see themselves with enough distance—either historical distance or from the vantage of elsewhere in the class system—is the subject of some of her best books: Fear of Falling, a study of middle-class insecurity, and Nickel and Dimed, her best-selling undercover report on the difficulties of low-wage employment. At some level, it’s what all her work has been about. In the final pages of Natural Causes, Ehrenreich stages a version of this lifelong dialogue with her peers. She tries to convince them, in the last act, to finally concede that the world does not revolve around them. They can, she proposes, depart without Sturm und Drang.
Two years ago, I sat in a shady backyard around a table of friends, all over sixty, when the conversation turned to the age-appropriate subject of death. Most of those present averred that they were not afraid of death, only of any suffering that might be involved in dying. I did my best to assure them that this could be minimized or eliminated by insisting on a nonmedical death, without the torment of heroic interventions to prolong life by a few hours or days.


It’s a final, existential version of the same argument she’s made forever: for members of her generation and class to see themselves with a touch more perspective.

Despite Ehrenreich’s efforts, this radical message hasn’t resonated among them as widely as she hoped. She has, meanwhile, worked on building institutions that may foster a different outlook in the years to come. In 2012, she founded the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, an impressive, foundation-backed venture to support journalists reporting on inequality. Ever alert to the threat of social inequality and the responsibility of middle-class radicals, she served until just last year as honorary co-chair of Democratic Socialists of America—that renewed organ of radicalism for the millennial precariat. She is not giving up. “It’s one thing,” she writes, “to die into a dead world and, metaphorically speaking, leave one’s bones to bleach on a desert lit only by a dying star. It is another thing to die into the actual world, which seethes with life, with agency other than our own, and at the very least, with endless possibility.”

It takes a special kind of courage to maintain such humility and optimism across a whole lifetime of losing an argument and documenting the consequences. Barbara Ehrenreich doesn’t meditate. She doesn’t believe in the integral self, coherent consciousness, or the mastery of spirit over matter. She thinks everything is dissolving and reforming, all the time. But she’s not in flux—quite the opposite. She’s never changed her mind, lost her way, or, as far as I can tell, even gotten worn out. There’s the tacit lesson of Natural Causes, conveyed by the author’s biography as much as the book’s content: To sustain political commitment and to manifest social solidarity—fundamentally humble and collective ways of being in the world—is the best self-care."
barbaraehrenreich  mindfulness  wellness  culture  health  boomers  babyboomers  2018  gabrielwinant  politics  self-care  death  generations  perspective  socialism  inequality  dsa  radicalism  millennials  medicine  balance  body  bodies  lifeexpectancy  exercise  self-improvement  westernmedicine  feminism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The Guest House: A Poem - Mrs. Mindfulness
"The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks"
poetry  mindfulness  jellaludinrumi  poems  colemanbarks  hospitality  via:lukeneff 
may 2018 by robertogreco
“The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares” | Stanford Graduate School of Business
"A new book examines the massive health care toll today’s work culture exacts on employees.

Jeffrey Pfeffer has an ambitious aspiration for his latest book. “I want this to be the Silent Spring of workplace health,” says Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “We are harming both company performance and individual well-being, and this needs to be the clarion call for us to stop. There is too much damage being done.”

Dying for a Paycheck, published by HarperBusiness and released on March 20, maps a range of ills in the modern workplace — from the disappearance of good health insurance to the psychological effects of long hours and work-family conflict — and how these are killing people.

Pfeffer recently sat for an interview with Insights. The following has been edited for length and clarity."
psychology  mentalhwalth  work  labor  economics  health  healthcare  2018  jeffreypfeffer  food  eating  diet  culture  society  nuriachinchilla  socialpollution  social  humans  human  employment  corporatism  latecapitalism  mindfulness  well-being 
april 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 67. Carl Abrahamsson & Mitch Horowitz in “Occulture (Meta)” // Anton LaVey, Real Magic & the Nature of the Mind
"Look, I’m not gonna lie to you - we have a pretty badass show this time around. Carl Abrahamsson and Mitch Horowitz are in the house.

Carl Abrahamsson is a Swedish freelance writer, lecturer, filmmaker and photographer specializing in material about the arts & entertainment, esoteric history and occulture. Carl is the author of several books, including a forthcoming title from Inner Traditions called Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward.

Mitch Horowitz is the author of One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life; Occult America, which received the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence; and Mind As Builder: The Positive-Mind Metaphysics of Edgar Cayce. Mitch has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Salon, Time.com, and Politico. Mitch is currently in the midst of publishing a series of articles on Medium called "Real Magic".

And it is that series paired with Carl’s book that lays the foundation for our conversation here."
carlabrahamsson  mitchhorowitz  occult  culture  occulture  magic  belief  mind  ouijaboard  astrology  mindfulness  buddhism  religion  academia  antonlavey  materialism  mainstream  intellectualism  elitism  mindbodyspirit  2018  esotericism  authority  norms  nuance  change  enlightenment  popculture  science  humanities  socialsciences  medicine  conservatism  churches  newage  cosmology  migration  california  hippies  meaning  psychology  siliconvalley  ingenuity  human  humans  humannature  spirituality  openmindedness  nature  urbanization  urban  nyc  us  society  santería  vodou  voodoo  voudoun  climate  light  davidlynch  innovation  population  environment  meaningmaking  mikenesmith  californianideology  thought  thinking  philosophy  hoodoo  blackmetal  norway  beauty  survival  wholeperson  churchofsatan  satanism  agency  ambition  mysticism  self  stories  storytelling  mythology  humanism  beinghuman  surrealism  cv  repetition  radicalism  myths  history  renaissance  fiction  fantasy  reenchantment  counterculture  consciousness  highered  highereducation  cynicism  inquiry  realitytele 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Slow Living: Wendy Parkins and Geoffrey Craig: Berg Publishers
"Speed is the essence of the modern era, but our faster, more frenetic lives often trouble us and leave us wondering how we are meant to live in today's world. Slow Living explores the philosophy and politics of 'slowness' as it investigates the growth of Slow Food into a worldwide, 'eco-gastronomic' movement. Originating in Italy, Slow Food is not only committed to the preservation of traditional cuisines and sustainable agriculture but also the pleasures of the table and a slower approach to life in general. Craig and Parkins argue that slow living is a complex response to processes of globalization. It connects ethics and pleasure, the global and the local, as part of a new emphasis on everyday life in contemporary culture and politics. The 'global everyday' is not a simple tale of speed and geographical dislocation. Instead, we all negotiate different times and spaces that make our quality of life and an 'ethics of living' more pressing concerns. This innovative book shows how slow living is about the challenges of living a more mindful and pleasurable life."

[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bdc_C3yg7gI/ ]
books  toread  slow  slowliving  everyday  body  bodies  globalization  slowfood  wendyparkins  geoffreycraig  mindfulness  2006  food  local  pleasure  slowness 
january 2018 by robertogreco
How the hipster can save the monk (and vice versa) | America Magazine
"That vision is spreading. Just north of New York City, a start-up company has built cabins in the woods that are advertised as retreat spaces for writing or taking a break from the grind of city life. It sounds and looks like a hermitage to me. The only thing missing is God."



"What does this mean for you, members of religious communities who might be reading this? A few things. Consider how closely hipster ideals, as portrayed in magazines and advertisements, now mirror central monastic ideals—simplicity, authenticity, community, self-sufficiency, contemplation. You have rules, long histories and theologies that illuminate these ideals and shape your daily rhythms. Hipsters do not.

One way to engage the world might be to help hipsters—I write as one of them—understand why we find it gratifying to make our own bread, tend our own gardens or brew our own beer. What is it about bodily practices and habituation that speaks to our souls? We know the slowness of our hobbies does something to us, but we don’t quite know what it is.

To learn, we will have to become aware of your existence and your gifts. So you ought to photograph your community and publish those photographs on Instagram. This practice offers an opportunity to meet people where they are—which, by and large, is not anywhere close to a contemplative religious life.

The average young adult spends over four hours of each day on her phone, and she checks social media channels an average of 17 times per day. Further, young people are averse to speaking about religion explicitly. They lack the imagination and vocabulary even to broach the subject of monastic life. But they do possess a highly developed visual grammar and are interested in stylized photographs of agriculture, cooking, handicraft, drinks and books.

Further, contemplative orders should reinsert themselves into the public sphere as the keepers and guardians of real mindfulness. The mindfulness moment that America is having is marred by an extreme sense of self-centeredness. But perhaps mindfulness is contemplation’s shadow on the cave wall. Of course, cultivating a contemplative life requires a lifetime of struggle, a challenging proposition in our age of instant gratification. But a simple—admittedly gimmicky—change of language, from contemplation to “monastic mindfulness,” could generate an audience of people willing to read your articles or attend your retreats. You may not need or even want that audience, but they need you.

All of which is to say, you have a fascinating preaching opportunity, and when this bizarre cultural moment shifts, you will lose that opportunity. So start an Instagram account. Take advantage of the fact that your daily lives entail much of what the authenticity hounds are clamoring after. Take photos of your gardens, your chapels, your candles, your table spread with a feast day dinner.

Perhaps you have an industrial kitchen, buy your food at Sam’s Club and haven’t had a butcher block table in 50 years. Not to worry. Photograph your icons and your books. Document your community as it prays or goes for walks or enjoys recreation. (As we know from Paweł Pawlikowski and Paolo Sorrentino, cassocks and habits are very cinematic.) Tag these photographs with a hashtag like #monklife or #nunlife. Slowly but surely, you will start to develop a following. The Benedictine Monks of Meath, Ireland, who run a wonderful Instagram, have over 900 followers. That may not sound like a lot when many middle schoolers have thousands, but it is a solid start.

Finally, if you belong to an order that supports itself through handicraft or food production, you should market your wares under the hipster umbrella. Los Angeles’s Ace Hotel, the popular hipster hotel chain, is ornamented with handmade leather knickknacks and woolen blankets available for purchase at a hefty price. Maybe those blankets could be woven by your community? In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, a hip men’s store sells “Incense of the West,” which smells suspiciously like church incense. Perhaps that store could be selling your incense instead? Write to hipster boutiques and high-end urban specialty food shops and see if they will stock your products. Your community will make some money, but more important, it will garner interest and curiosity.

A notable American example of monastic engagement can be found in Spencer, Mass., where the Cistercians at St. Joseph Abbey, worried about the costs of running their community, recently started brewing the first Trappist beer in the United States. So many fans were clamoring to visit the abbey and tour the brewery that this past summer the brewery opened its doors to the general public for one day.

•••

Of course, the compatibility of Catholic and hipster visions of authenticity breaks down at a certain point. The Catholic Church, by definition, runs counter to the ideas of exclusivity that hipsterdom associates with authenticity. The church is for everyone. Nonetheless, in tapping into the current hipster lifestyle craze, you have a chance to share what a truly authentic life looks like: a life grounded in God.

Before you go all-in, however, a word of caution. To introduce Instagram or Snapchat into your community could threaten your own attention span. Smartphones and social media might distract the mind from prayer and contemplation. If you are a cloistered community, employing social media or engaging the world through mindfulness presents an implicit threat to your cloistered lifestyle and your vocation. You are no doubt well aware of these threats.

But as St. Augustine writes in De Doctrina Christiana: “We were not wrong to learn the alphabet just because they say that the god Mercury was its patron, nor should we avoid justice and virtue just because they dedicated temples to justice and virtue.” I am not advocating packing smartphones in your cassocks and habits. I am suggesting that you wade into the stream with care. For at the moment, the world needs your wisdom and your model of the good life almost as much as it needs your prayers."
monasticism  monks  mindfulness  hispters  davidmichael  2017  cv  authenticity  catholicism  lifesyle  craft  slow  socialmedia  body  practice  ritual  habituation  slowness  instagram  contemplation  handmade  bespoke  smallbatch  bodies 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Where’s Your School On This Spectrum? Where Do You Want It To Be? | Josie Holford: Rattlebag and Rhubarb
If you’re thinking about branding and how to market your school (and who isn’t these days?) then it’s good to have a strong agreed upon sense of who you are, how you show who you are and what people actually think.

Easy of course to make fun of both ends. One is hopelessly outdated, fuddy-duddy and not meeting the needs of children. And the other end is forever chasing the latest new and shiny thing and not meeting the needs of children.

[image: ""Where is your school?" [spectrum]

1 = traditional, the best of what has been and is now, classical, teacher-centered, standards driven.

10 = experiential, discovery model, learning focussed, innovative, ever-changing, high tech /high touch."]

And in terms of program, the 1 schools probably devote time to cursive writing, teach Latin, emphasize grammar and talk a great deal about grade inflation and enforcing the dress code. And 10 schools spend their time fighting off accusations of permissiveness and failure to teach basic skills while putting in the state-of-the-art design thinking studio. And both are implementing mindfulness because students in 1 schools need a break from the testing, grading and exam stress and in 10 schools because it’s trendy and goes with the gluten-free organic options at lunch. And so on. So complete the descriptors your way.

Where are you?

So try this quick test with your board, your admin team and the faculty. You can also try it with your parents and students when you’re ready to start engaging in the conversation around change.

So try it with your group. Is there a general agreement on where your school is on the continuum?

Where do you want to be?

Now ask this: Where do you want to be? And get everyone to jot down the number before the sharing. Now where are you?

If the two numbers are close then the work is to uncover what that actually means at your school and work on doing it even better. Then getting the word out on the why, the how and the what for.

If there’s a big gap – or if your numbers are all over the place – then you need to do work around your identity. And there’s a clear need educate folks as to who you are what you do, and why.

And what if the numbers from the board are way out of sync with the faculty and admin, let alone the families and the neighborhood reputation?

What if in the course of this exercise it becomes clear that your school is nowhere really? And that in trying to please everyone you have become the all-things-to-all-people-school? Most marketing and communication experts would probably tell you that’s a recipe for disaster.

Watch this space for what you can do about that."
sfsh  schools  identity  education  josieholford  2017  progressive  experientialeducation  purpose  clarity  branding  reputation  mindfulness  permissiveness  teaching  learning  experientiallearning 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Mindfulness training does not foster empathy, and can even make narcissists worse – Research Digest
"Sharing with others, helping people in need, consoling those who are distressed. All these behaviours can be encouraged by empathy – by understanding what other people are thinking and feeling, and sharing their emotions. Enhance empathy, especially in those who tend to have problems with it – like narcissists – and society as a whole might benefit. So how can it be done?

In fact, the cultivation of empathy is a “presumed benefit” of mindfulness training, note the authors of a new study, published in Self and Identity, designed to investigate this experimentally. People who are “mindfully aware” focus on the present moment, without judgement. So, it’s been argued, they should be better able to resist getting caught up in their own thoughts, freeing them to think more about the mental states of other people. As mindfulness courses are increasingly being offered in schools and workplaces, as well as in mental health settings, it’s important to know what such training can and can’t achieve. The new results suggest it won’t foster empathy – and, worse, it could even backfire.

Anna Ridderinkhof, at the University of Amsterdam, and her colleagues divided 161 adult volunteers in three groups. Each completed questionnaires assessing their levels of narcissistic and also autistic traits. It’s already known that people who score highly on narcissism (who feel superior to others, believe they are entitled to privileges and want to be admired) tend to experience less “affective empathy”. They aren’t as likely to share the emotional state of another person. People who score highly on autistic traits have no problem with affective empathy, but tend to show impairments in “cognitive empathy”. They find it harder to work out what other people are feeling.

One group spent five minutes in a guided mindfulness meditation, in which they were encouraged to focus on the physical sensations of breathing, while observing any thoughts, without judging them. The second group took part in a relaxation exercise (so any effects of stress relief alone could be examined). People in the control group were invited to let their minds wander, and to be immersed in their thoughts and feelings.

After these exercises, the researchers tested the volunteers’ propensity to feel cognitive empathy, via the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, which involves identifying emotions from photographs of people’s eyes, and they also tested their affective empathy, by analysing how much emotional concern they showed toward a player who was socially rejected in a ball game.

There is some debate about whether a greater capacity for empathy would be helpful for most people. Some researchers, such as Professor Tania Singer, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, even suggest that an “excess” of empathy explains what’s often termed “burnout” in members of caring professions, such as nurses. But Ridderinkhof’s team predicted that mindfulness training would improve empathy in the volunteers who needed it most: in people with high levels of autistic or narcissistic traits.

It didn’t. While there was no overall effect on empathy in the mindfulness group, further analysis revealed that, compared with the control and relaxation groups combined, non-narcissists who completed the mindfulness exercise did show a slight improvement specifically in cognitive empathy, but for narcissistic people, their cognitive empathy was actually reduced. For the people who scored highly on autistic traits, meanwhile, there was no effect on mind-reading accuracy, though there were intriguing signs of greater prosocial behaviour, indicated by an increase in the number of passes of the ball to socially excluded individuals.

Since volunteers were encouraged not to judge any thoughts they had during the mindfulness meditation, this might indeed have helped non-narcissists let go of self-critical thoughts, allowing them to think more about the mental states of others, the researchers suggest. “By contrast, it may have ironically ‘licensed’ narcissistic individuals to focus more exclusively on their self-aggrandising thoughts.” As a result, they may have thought even less about the mental states of others.

Critics may argue that a single five-minute mindfulness meditation exercise is simply not enough, and that improvements in empathy – in non-narcissists, at least – might perhaps show up with longer sessions. While the research team thinks this is worth exploring, there is evidence from earlier studies (that lacked a proper control group) that five-minute sessions can increase accuracy on a mind-reading test, for example. It was reasonable to opt for a brief session in this study, they argue.

Future research might also investigate whether alternative approaches – perhaps training the related concept of “compassion” (which involves “feeling for” rather than “feeling with” a person in psychological pain, and is advocated by Singer) might help narcissists behave more pro-socially."

["Does mindfulness meditation increase empathy? An experiment"
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15298868.2016.1269667 ]
narcissism  mindfulness  meditation  emmayoung  2017  empathy  behavior  psychology  cognitiveempathy  annaridderinkhof 
may 2017 by robertogreco
On the Wildness of Children — Carol Black
"When we first take children from the world and put them in an institution, they cry. It used to be on the first day of kindergarten, but now it’s at an ever earlier age, sometimes when they are only a few weeks old. "Don’t worry," the nice teacher says sweetly, "As soon as you’re gone she’ll be fine. It won’t take more than a few days. She’ll adjust." And she does. She adjusts to an indoor world of cinderblock and plastic, of fluorescent light and half-closed blinds (never mind that studies show that children don’t grow as well in fluorescent light as they do in sunlight; did we really need to be told that?) Some children grieve longer than others, gazing through the slats of the blinds at the bright world outside; some resist longer than others, tuning out the nice teacher, thwarting her when they can, refusing to sit still when she tells them to (this resistance, we are told, is a “disorder.”) But gradually, over the many years of confinement, they adjust. The cinderblock world becomes their world. They don’t know the names of the trees outside the classroom window. They don’t know the names of the birds in the trees. They don’t know if the moon is waxing or waning, if that berry is edible or poisonous, if that song is for mating or warning.

It is in this context that today’s utopian crusader proposes to teach “eco-literacy.”

A free child outdoors will learn the flat stones the crayfish hide under, the still shady pools where the big trout rest, the rocky slopes where the wild berries grow. They will learn the patterns in the waves, which tree branches will bear their weight, which twigs will catch fire, which plants have thorns. A child in school must learn what a “biome” is, and how to use logarithms to calculate biodiversity. Most of them don’t learn it, of course; most of them have no interest in learning it, and most of those who do forget it the day after the test. Our “standards” proclaim that children will understand the intricate workings of ecosystems, the principles of evolution and adaptation, but one in four will leave school not knowing the earth revolves around the sun.

A child who knows where to find wild berries will never forget this information. An “uneducated” person in the highlands of Papua New Guinea can recognize seventy species of birds by their songs. An “illiterate” shaman in the Amazon can identify hundreds of medicinal plants. An Aboriginal person from Australia carries in his memory a map of the land encoded in song that extends for a thousand miles. Our minds are evolved to contain vast amounts of information about the world that gave us birth, and to pass this information on easily from one generation to the next.

But to know the world, you have to live in the world.

My daughters, who did not go to school, would sometimes watch as groups of schoolchildren received their prescribed dose of “environmental education.” On a sunny day along a rocky coastline, a mass of fourteen-year-olds carrying clipboards wander aimlessly among the tide pools, trying not to get their shoes wet, looking at their worksheets more than at the life teeming in the clear salty water. At a trailhead in a coastal mountain range, a busload of nine-year-olds erupts carrying (and dropping) pink slips of paper describing a “treasure hunt” in which they will be asked to distinguish “items found in nature” from “items not found in nature.” (We discover several plastic objects hidden by their teachers along the trail near the parking lot; they don’t have time, of course, to walk the whole two miles to the waterfall.) By a willow wetland brimming with life, a middle-school “biodiversity” class is herded outdoors, given ten minutes to watch birds, and then told to come up with a scientific hypothesis and an experimental protocol for testing it. One of the boys proposes an experiment that involves nailing shut the beaks of wild ducks.

There is some dawning awareness these days of the insanity of raising children almost entirely indoors, but as usual our society’s response to its own insanity is to create artificial programs designed to solve our artificial problems in the most artificial way possible. We charter nonprofit organizations, sponsor conferences, design curricula and after-school programs and graphically appealing interactive websites, all of which create the truly nightmarish impression that to get your kid outside you would first need to file for 501(c)3 status, apply for a federal grant, and hire an executive director and program coordinator. We try to address what's lacking in our compulsory curriculum by making new lists of compulsions.

But the truth is we don’t know how to teach our children about nature because we ourselves were raised in the cinderblock world. We are, in the parlance of wildlife rehabilitators, unreleasable. I used to do wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and the one thing we all knew was that a young animal kept too long in a cage would not be able to survive in the wild. Often, when you open the door to the cage, it will be afraid to go out; if it does go out, it won’t know what to do. The world has become unfamiliar, an alien place. This is what we have done to our children.

This is what was done to us."



"If you thwart a child’s will too much when he is young, says Aodla Freeman, he will become uncooperative and rebellious later (sound familiar?) You find this view all over the world, in many parts of the Americas, in parts of Africa, India, Asia, Papua New Guinea. It was, of course, a great source of frustration to early missionaries in the Americas, who were stymied in their efforts to educate Indigenous children by parents who would not allow them to be beaten: “The Savages,” Jesuit missionary Paul le Jeune complained in 1633, “cannot chastise a child, nor see one chastised. How much trouble this will give us in carrying out our plans of teaching the young!”

But as Odawa elder and educator Wilfred Peltier tells us, learning -– like all human relationships –– must be based in the ethical principal of non-interference, in the right of all human beings to make their own choices, as long as they’re not interfering with anybody else. As Nishnaabeg scholar and author Leanne Betasamosake Simpson tells us, learning –– like all human relationships –– must be based in the ethical principal of consent, in the right of all human beings to be free of violence and the use of force. Simpson explains:
If children learn to normalize dominance and non-consent within the context of education, then non-consent becomes a normalized part of the ‘tool kit’ of those who have and wield power… This is unthinkable within Nishnaabeg intelligence.


Interestingly, the most brilliant artists and scientists in Euro-western societies tell us exactly the same thing: that it is precisely this state of open attention, curiosity, freedom, collaboration, consent, that is necessary for all true learning, discovery, creation."



"We no longer frame people as either “civilized”or “savage,” but as “educated” or “uneducated,” “developed” or “developing” (our modern terms for the same thing). But we retain the paternalistic attitudes of our forebears, toward our children and toward the “childlike” adults we find all over the world — a paternalism in which the veneer of benevolence is underpinned by the constant threat of violent force.

Control is always so seductive, at least to the "developed" ("civilized") mind. It seems so satisfying, so efficient, so effective, so potent. In the short run, in some ways, it is. But it creates a thousand kinds of blowback, from depressed rebellious children to storms surging over our coastlines to guns and bombs exploding in cities around the world."
education  unschooling  children  childhood  carolblack  attention  culture  society  learning  wildness  wild  wilderness  thoreau  ellwoodcubberley  williamtorreyharris  schooling  schools  johntaylorgatto  outdoors  natureanxiety  depression  psychology  wellness  adhd  mindfulness  suzannegaskins  openattention  miniaodlafreeman  paulejeune  wilfredpeltier  leannebetasamosakesimpson  consent  animals  zoos  nature  johannhari  brucealexander  mammals  indigenous  johnholt  petergray  work  play  howwelearn  tobyrollo  chastisement  civilization  control  kosmos  colonization  colonialism 
may 2016 by robertogreco
First they make you crazy. Then they sell you the cure: Be Mindful of Mindless Mindfulness
"So – if I’m not against art, or coloring, or relaxation or mindfulness what is my problem? Here it is: The explosion of mindfulness as the cure-all du jour. And I’m wondering why is this happening? Why now?

Brave New World is Aldous Huxley’s ironic title for his dystopian novel. In this future the fictional drug soma has “All of the benefits of Christianity and alcohol without their defects.” Huxley takes the word soma – this “Christianity without tears” – from an unknown drug believed to have been used in ancient Indian Vedic cults as part of religious ceremonies. The soma of Brave New World is a perversion of that ancient drug. Rather than conferring insight and wisdom it clouds reality. It is not used to deliver enlightenment but rather to blunt ugly truths that arise to disturb the surface of experience. Soma is a tool of the state to keep its citizens quiet and to prevent them from the seeing the truth and demanding change."



"I have no problem with children learning anything that can help them thrive in our stress-inducing, anxiety-ridden age. My problem lies with the fact that we must first stop creating and exacerbating the problems to which all this is then the answer. As a society we are driving our kids crazy and we have to stop."



"Let’s return for a moment to those backpacking counter cultural wanderers and to those who have searched for inner peace and meaning and found answers that include the moral and spiritual wisdom of the Buddhist tradition. That tradition is about enlightenment and developing our intellectual capacity to the fullest. It is about waking up, compassion and kindness. Admirable goals and worthy aspirations. Nothing wrong with that. It would be good to see schools helping children know themselves better and see themselves as a part of the great universe. But the mindfulness fad is often about mindless acceptance of the unacceptable – more to do with mitigating symptoms of sickness rather than true self-awareness and personal growth."

[See also (referenced within): http://www.salon.com/2015/11/08/they_want_kids_to_be_robots_meet_the_new_education_craze_designed_to_distract_you_from_overtesting/ ]
josieholford  mindfulness  buddhism  schools  buzzwords  fads  2015  children  mentalhealth  anxiety  nclb  grit  health  injustice  testing  standardizedtesting  wellness  trends  education  learning  teaching 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Singing Bowls | Online Meditation Sound Machine
Don't (simply) hit them...

Singing bowls - also known as Himalayan bowls - are used in yoga, music therapy, sound healing, and religious ceremonies. In the Buddhist tradition, they are played to signal the beginning and the end of silent meditation cycles. Tibetan bowls emit very pure tones, close to sine waves. Their sound is a synonym of purity for our ears.

Like a bell, the tone is produced by striking the side of the bowl with a wooden mallet. By running the mallet around the bowl - only with slight pressure - a pure tone will eventually rise. When this happens, the bowl is said to sing - hence its name.

The bowls that have been used here were carefully selected to sing in harmony. Their exact fundamental frequencies are 69 Hz, 276 Hz, and 552 Hz."



"Usage

Each slider controls a particular audio stream. Adjust sliders to taste and mood.

Unlike the other sound generators, this soundscape is not calibrated. This means that sliders are not associated to exact frequencies and that the generator's output will not turn into a pink-like spectrum when sliders are horizontally aligned.

The Animate! button turns the soundscape into an slowly evolving texture. Use this feature if you intend to listen to the generator over a long period of time."
meditation  sound  singingbowls  via:warrenellis  mindfulness  music 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Prototyping Risks when Design is Disappearing
"Our current unsustainability, especially when understood in terms of materials intensity, is in large part a result of design— whether imposed by modernist design experts or tempered by user- or even human-centered design research. Generative design is not especially culpable—at its best it tries to access what might finally be truly needed by its participants rather than just-another creative-yet-still-feasible idea. However, generative design research’s materials-based techniques do tend to encourage creative innovation mostly with respect to more thing-based solutions to latent concerns (rather than leading to service systems for instance, or structural dissolving of those concerns, such as no-build options, value- or lifestyle shifts, etc).

A second thing to note is that our unsustainability is a massive problem, of a size that demands truly radical responses. It is as if there is a kind of problem beyond wicked: in addition to being complex (a large number of interdependent variables) and wicked (because some of those variables are people, who act in not always fully rational ways and change their minds), sustainability is also just a big problem—solutions will require nation-sized infrastructure rebuilding (fuel switching, city renovation and even relocation) and similarly nation-sized notion re-conceptualizations (new ideas about freedom and autonomy, cost and responsibility, etc). Can we get this level of “Big and New” from processes like generative design research?"



"What is dominant in commercial design at the moment are methods that do nevertheless have proactionary elements, by which I mean a deliberate ignoring of imagining future consequential risks. I am referring here to, for example, Agile and Lean product development. These are distinct forms of design management and each a broad church, but consistent across them is a commitment to accelerated iteration of products released to live markets. Design is driven by real-time feedback on how “Minimum Viable Products” (MVP) are being used. The rationale is that many high consequence risks, and opportunities, are unanticipatable. Rather than imagine or sense what these “blackswans” might be, designers should instead focus on being able to respond immediately to what emerges. These Lean Agile philosophies eschew the grand visioning aspects of proactionary advocates, 
but are sympathetic with the downplaying of risk anticipation. As Joi Ito, head of MediaLab at MIT is fond of saying (though I am not sure of his evidence for this claim), “the cost of assessing risk is 
now often greater than the cost of failing” [7].

If Lean Agile, etc, aim at accessing the realizably innovative, the other end of the design dialectic might be Maker culture. These neo-tinkerers also pursue multiple iterations in order to discover serendipitously new uses for existing combinations of technologies, software and/or materials. There is a similar antivisioning driving these hackathons, and in all the rapid building there is also no anticipation of consequential risk.

In either case, the approaches deploy what could be called a “generalized prototyping.” Lean Agile beta-releases and hacked systems are more than prototypes; they are live products being used by people who are not explicitly structured "



"Transition Design aims to promote staged change, not forever changing.

1. A VISION FOR THE TRANSITION to a more sustainable society is needed. This calls for the reconception of entire lifestyles in which communities are in symbiotic relationship with the environment. Lifestyles are place-based yet global in their exchange of technology, information and culture.

2. The vision of the transition to a sustainable society will require new knowledge about natural, social, and “designed” systems. This new knowledge will, in turn, evolve the vision.

3. Ideas, theories and methodologies from many varied fields and disciplines inform a deep understanding of the DYNAMICS OF CHANGE in the natural and social worlds.

4. New theories of change will reshape designers’ temperaments, mindsets and postures. And, these “new ways of being” in the world will motivate the search for new, more relevant knowledge.

5. Living in and through traditional times requires a MINDSET AND POSTURE OF OPENNESS, mindfulness, a willing-ness to collaborate, and “optimistic grumpiness.”

6. Changes in mindset, posture and temperament will give rise to new ways of designing. As new design approaches evolve, designers’ temperaments and postures will continue to change.

7. The transition to a sustainable society will require new ways of designing that are informed by a vision, a deep understanding of the dynamics of change and a new mindset and posture.

8. New ways of designing will help realize the vision but will also change/evolve it. As the vision evolves, new ways of designing will continue to be developed."
camerontonkinwise  2015  design  sustainability  materials  prototyping  via:anne  openness  mindfulness  collaboration  optimism  criticism  change  technology  culture  makers  makermovement  agiledesign  iteration  vision  foresight  modernism  neomodernism  consequences  systemthinking  criticaldesign  designcriticism 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Jennifer Armbrust | Proposals for the Feminine Economy | CreativeMornings/PDX
"“The experimental feminine is all that is not business as usual and vice versa.” — Joan Retallack

What does it look like to embody feminine principles in business? In art? Why does it matter—what’s at stake? What does gender have to do with business? What does business have to do with art? What does capitalism have to do with nature? And what is an economy, anyhow? Can a business be feminist? Why would it want to? Where is money in all of this? Armbrust’s Creative Mornings talk posits a protocol for prototyping an experimental/feminine business."

[Direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7kI7Bsa56g ]
jennarmbrust  via:nicolefenton  2015  capitalism  feminism  masculinity  consciouscapitalism  power  egalitarianism  growth  art  design  criticaltheory  entrepreneurship  business  economics  competition  inequality  ownership  consumerism  consumption  labor  work  efficiency  speed  meritocracy  profit  individualism  scarcity  abundance  poverty  materialism  care  caring  interdependence  vulnerability  embodiment  ease  generosity  collaboration  sustainability  resourcefulness  mindfulness  self-care  gratitude  integrity  honesty  nature  joanretallack  well-being 
july 2015 by robertogreco
No, it's not you: why 'wellness' isn't the answer to overwork
"Despite the endless column inches devoted to how we can find balance in our busy working lives, the solution here isn’t personal, it’s political. Those of us working in the health and wellbeing industries have had our skills hijacked by commercial interests. Employee Assistance Programs, corporate stress management training and the burgeoning multi-billion dollar wellness industry all trade on, support and are supported by the culture of overwork. If we are truly committed to wellbeing, we need to remember who our clients are meant to be and be willing to risk acting in their best interests.

No amount of multivitamins, yoga, meditation, sweaty exercise, superfoods or extreme time management, as brilliant as all these things can be, is going to save us from the effects of too much work. This is not something we can adapt to. Not something we need to adjust the rest of our lives around. It is not possible and it’s unethical to pretend otherwise. Like a low-flying plane, the insidious culture of overwork is deafening and the only way we can really feel better is if we can find a way to make it stop."
work  labor  mindfulness  wellness  2015  zoëkrupka  health  mentalhealth  overwork  therapy  balance 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Muddied Meaning of ‘Mindfulness’ - NYTimes.com
"Most newly stylish coinages carry with them some evidence of grammatical trauma. Consider “affluencer,” “selfie,” “impactful.” Notes of cynicism and cutesiness come through. But every now and then a bright exception to this dispiriting routine appears. A rookie word makes its big-league debut, a stadium of pedants prepares to peg it with tomatoes and — nothing. A halfhearted heckle. The new word looks only passably pathetic. Maddeningly, it has heft.

“Mindfulness” may be that hefty word now, one that can’t readily be dismissed as trivia or propaganda. Yes, it’s current among jaw-grinding Fortune 500 executives who take sleeping pills and have “leadership coaches,” as well as with the moneyed earnest, who shop at Whole Foods, where Mindful magazine is on the newsstand alongside glossies about woodworking and the environment. It looks like nothing more than the noun form of “mindful” — the proper attitude toward the London subway’s gaps — but “mindfulness” has more exotic origins. In the late 19th century, the heyday of both the British Empire and Victorian Orientalism, a British magistrate in Galle, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), with the formidable name of Thomas William Rhys Davids, found himself charged with adjudicating Buddhist ecclesiastical disputes. He set out to learn Pali, a Middle Indo-Aryan tongue and the liturgical language of Theravada, an early branch of Buddhism. In 1881, he thus pulled out “mindfulness” — a synonym for “attention” from 1530 — as an approximate translation of the Buddhist concept of sati.

The translation was indeed rough. Sati, which Buddhists consider the first of seven factors of enlightenment, means, more nearly, “memory of the present,” which didn’t track in tense-preoccupied English. “Mindfulness” stuck — but may have saddled the subtle sati with false-note connotations of Victorian caution, or even obedience. (“Mind your manners!”)

“Mindfulness” finally became an American brand, however, a hundred years later, when the be-here-now, Eastern-inflected explorations of the ’60s came to dovetail with self-improvement regimes. In the 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist in New England and a longtime meditator in the Zen Buddhist tradition, saw in Rhys Davids’s word a chance to scrub meditation of its religious origins. Kabat-Zinn believed that many of the secular people who could most benefit from meditation were being turned off by the whiffs of reincarnation and other religious esoterica that clung to it. So he devised a new and pleasing definition of “mindfulness,” one that now makes no mention of enlightenment: “The awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”"



"If it’s a revolution, it’s not a grass-roots one. Although mindfulness teachers regularly offer the practice in disenfranchised communities in the United States and abroad, the powerful have really made mindfulness their own, exacting from the delicate idea concrete promises of longer lives and greater productivity. In January, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kabat-Zinn led executives and 1 percenters in a mindfulness meditation meant to promote general well-being. Many in pinstripes and conference lanyards also took time away from panels on Bitcoin and cybersecurity to communally breathe, and to attend a packed session called The Human Brain: Deconstructing Mindfulness, led by Thomas R. Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health."



"Mindfulness as “keeping in tune” has a nice ring to it. But it’s “focused on the task at hand” that appeals to managers, like Jackson, who are conscious of performance goals. Might workplace mindfulness — in the cubicle or on the court — be just another way to keep employees undistracted and to get them to work harder for nothing but airy rewards? In this context of performance enhancement, “mindfulness” seems perilously close to doggerel from the same playbook that brought us corny affirmations, inner children and vision boards.

Maybe the word “mindfulness” is like the Prius emblem, a badge of enlightened and self-satisfied consumerism, and of success and achievement. If so, not deploying mindfulness — taking pills or naps for anxiety, say, or going out to church or cocktails — makes you look sort of backward or classless. Like driving a Hummer.

As usual with modish and ideologically freighted words, this one has also come to inform high-minded prescriptions for raising children. Evidently they’re no longer expected to mind their manners; we are expected instead to mind their emotional states. Recently, Hanna Rosin, in Slate, argued that mindful parenting might be a Trojan horse: Though the mindful mother claims to stay open-minded about her child’s every action and communication, she ends up being hospitable to only the kid’s hippie, peacenik side — the side she comes to prefer.

In Rosin’s example, a mother supposedly mindful of her son’s capacity for violence nonetheless doesn’t rest until he gives a peaceable, sympathetic explanation for it — that he was hurt and overreacted. “I was mad, and he had it coming,” which might be the lad’s own truth, doesn’t fly. The mother’s “mindful attention,” rather than representing freedom from judgment, puts a thumb on the scale.

It’s profoundly tempting to dismiss as cant any word current with Davos, the N.B.A. and the motherhood guilt complex. Mindful fracking: Could that be next? Putting a neuroscience halo around a byword for both uppers (“productivity”) and downers (“relaxation”) — to ensure a more compliant work force and a more prosperous C-suite — also seems twisted. No one word, however shiny, however intriguingly Eastern, however bolstered by science, can ever fix the human condition. And that’s what commercial mindfulness may have lost from the most rigorous Buddhist tenets it replaced: the implication that suffering cannot be escaped but must be faced. Of that shift in meaning — in the Westernization of sati — we should be especially mindful."
mindfulness  2015  productivity  labor  words  virginiaheffernan  sati  buddhism  jonkabat-zinn  rhysdavid  meditiation  posturing  trends  openmindedness  parenting  davos  mentalhealth  awareness  via:ablerism 
april 2015 by robertogreco
79 Theses on Technology. For Disputation. | The Infernal Machine
"Alan Jacobs has written seventy-nine theses on technology for disputation. A disputation is an old technology, a formal technique of debate and argument that took shape in medieval universities in Paris, Bologna, and Oxford in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In its most general form, a disputation consisted of a thesis, a counter-thesis, and a string of arguments, usually buttressed by citations of Aristotle, Augustine, or the Bible.

But disputations were not just formal arguments. They were public performances that trained university students in how to seek and argue for the truth. They made demands on students and masters alike. Truth was hard won; it was to be found in multiple, sometimes conflicting traditions; it required one to give and recognize arguments; and, perhaps above all, it demanded an epistemic humility, an acknowledgment that truth was something sought, not something produced.

It is, then, in this spirit that Jacobs offers, tongue firmly in cheek, his seventy-nine theses on technology and what it means to inhabit a world formed by it. They are pithy, witty, ponderous, and full of life. And over the following weeks, we at the Infernal Machine will take Jacobs’ theses at his provocative best and dispute them. We’ll take three or four at a time and offer our own counter-theses in a spirit of generosity.

So here they are:

1. Everything begins with attention.

2. It is vital to ask, “What must I pay attention to?”

3. It is vital to ask, “What may I pay attention to?”

4. It is vital to ask, “What must I refuse attention to?”

5. To “pay” attention is not a metaphor: Attending to something is an economic exercise, an exchange with uncertain returns.

6. Attention is not an infinitely renewable resource; but it is partially renewable, if well-invested and properly cared for.

7. We should evaluate our investments of attention at least as carefully and critically as our investments of money.

8. Sir Francis Bacon provides a narrow and stringent model for what counts as attentiveness: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

9. An essential question is, “What form of attention does this phenomenon require? That of reading or seeing? That of writing also? Or silence?”

10. Attentiveness must never be confused with the desire to mark or announce attentiveness. (“Can I learn to suffer/Without saying something ironic or funny/On suffering?”—Prospero, in Auden’s The Sea and the Mirror)

11. “Mindfulness” seems to many a valid response to the perils of incessant connectivity because it confines its recommendation to the cultivation of a mental stance without objects.

12. That is, mindfulness reduces mental health to a single, simple technique that delivers its user from the obligation to ask any awkward questions about what his or her mind is and is not attending to.

13. The only mindfulness worth cultivating will be teleological through and through.

14. Such mindfulness, and all other healthy forms of attention—healthy for oneself and for others—can only happen with the creation of and care for an attentional commons.

15. This will not be easy to do in a culture for which surveillance has become the normative form of care.

16. Simone Weil wrote that ‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity’; if so, then surveillance is the opposite of attention.

17. The primary battles on social media today are fought by two mutually surveilling armies: code fetishists and antinomians.

18. The intensity of those battles is increased by a failure by any of the parties to consider the importance of intimacy gradients.

19. “And weeping arises from sorrow, but sorrow also arises from weeping.”—Bertolt Brecht, writing about Twitter

20. We cannot understand the internet without perceiving its true status: The Internet is a failed state.

21. We cannot respond properly to that failed-state condition without realizing and avoiding the perils of seeing like a state.

22. If instead of thinking of the internet in statist terms we apply the logic of subsidiarity, we might be able to imagine the digital equivalent of a Mondragon cooperative.

23. The internet groans in travail as it awaits its José María Arizmendiarrieta."

[continues on]

[A collection of follow-ups and responses is accummulating here:
http://iasc-culture.org/THR/channels/Infernal_Machine/tag/79-theses-on-technology/

For example: “79 Theses on Technology: On Attention”
http://iasc-culture.org/THR/channels/Infernal_Machine/2015/03/79-theses-on-technology-on-attention/

And another round-up of responses:
http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2015/04/more-on-theses.html ]
alanjacobs  anthropology  culture  digital  history  technology  attention  dunning-krugereffect  anosognosia  pleasure  ethics  writing  howwewrite  jaronlanier  alextabattok  stupidity  logic  loki  cslewis  algorithms  akrasia  physical  patheticfallacy  hacking  hackers  kevinkelly  georgebernardshaw  agency  philosophy  tommccarthy  commenting  frankkermode  text  texts  community  communication  resistance  mindfulness  internet  online  web  josémaríaarizmendiarrieta  simonwiel  society  whauden  silence  attentiveness  textualist  chadwellmon  surveillance  2015 
april 2015 by robertogreco
How To Fight Depression
"Talk to someone. The somewhat facile message of "get help" can be pretty annoying if you're a depressed person, because the state of mental health care in most places is a real mess; getting good help can be difficult, expensive, scary, and prohibitively exhausting for a person who's having trouble just getting out of bed. But talking to someone is crucial, whether it's a friend, a family member, a clergy person, or a counselor. I know it seems basic, but saying what you're feeling–honestly and straightforwardly—can lighten your burden anywhere from a little to a whole lot. And don't be scared to ask for exactly what you need, whether it's just an ear or help with grocery shopping; people can be daunted by depression and not know what to do, but if they care about you, they'll be glad to help you out. (Don't forget to be mindful of the fact that caring for a depressed person is a lot of emotional labor, but I think most depressed people lean too little on others rather than too much.)



Exercise. Oh, I hate this one. Exercising is hard and sucks. But what I probably hate the most about it is that it actually works, so now I have to do it. You don't have to become a gym rat or anything, but adding just a little movement and sweatiness to your day does some annoyingly super-effective mood-boosting thing to your brain. If you're not a gym or sports person (lord knows I'm not), try to work it into your daily routine by walking to a farther transit stop than usual, taking the stairs at work, or doing an exercise video at home. The real trick, though I've never managed this one myself, is to do it often enough that you get "addicted" to it—this is what people say happens! I swear!—and then you're stuck being slightly happier forever. Good luck with that.

Stop drinking, at least for a bit. This one can be pretty hard, because alcohol is fun, tastes good, makes socializing easier, and breaks up the monotony of your shitty feelings a bit. People will tell you alcohol is a depressant, and if you're anything like me, you'll smugly be like, "Actually, that's not technically even what depressant means," and finish your delicious beer.

But you know, even if alcohol doesn't actually make you more depressed (I anecdotally think it does, though the studies tend to be bedeviled by the obvious entanglement of cause and effect), it makes you more impulsive, which is extra dangerous when you're depressed. When you don't drink, you might be way bored and awkward at social events, and have to stay brutally aware of all your feelings (I'm sorry, I'm not really selling this), but you're also much less likely to scare the shit out of your friends with your uncontrollable weeping or to make a big old mess texting your ex. Who needs to deal with the consequences of drunk behavior when you're already depressed? Plus, the dark synergy of depression + hangover is to be avoided at all costs, and I always find my mood the day after drinking is a little lousier than usual. Worth giving it a rest for a bit, just to see if it helps. (And if you find you can't give it a rest, that tells you something important, too.)

Try practicing mindfulness. The idea of mindfulness comes from Buddhist practice; stated most basically, it means being non-judgmentally present in the moment, no matter where you are or what you're doing. Which maybe makes it sound really hard and not that fun: Probably the present moment doesn't seem that great, right? But with practice it can be an astonishingly anti-depressant brain habit that makes the present much more tolerable. It's got something for everybody—you can connect it with spiritual practice if you're into that, or do it on its own, and it also has a lot of support from peer-reviewed research as a treatment for anxiety and depression.

Hang out with some animals. I don't know what it is about animals that has such an anti-depressant effect. Maybe it's that they remind you that there's a different way to move through the world than "excruciatingly," or just that they're funny and cute or cool-looking. I like to go to the aquarium because looking at fish chills me out; either that or I play with a friend's dog. Volunteering at an animal shelter is another good way to get some quality animal time, plus doing any sort of volunteer work gets you out of the house and creates a brand new source of meaning in your life—another challenging but really effective anti-depression tactic.

Think about medication. This is a obviously a super-personal choice that requires the care and guidance of experts far more expert than me, and lots of people are opposed to taking antidepressants for all sorts of legitimate reasons, but talk to a handful of people who have dealt with depression and you'll definitely find someone who says medication saved his or her life. To me, this makes it at the very least worthy of some thoughtful consideration and discussion with a doctor. There's nothing to be ashamed of in using medications for depression, any more than there is for any other illness. They can give you the breathing room you need to get better.

Don't give up. "Easier said than done" is an understatement. But people who struggle with depression can have awesome, happy lives, too. Because if this endless winter proved anything, it's that even endless things don't last forever."
depression  lilybenson  2015  mindfulness  alcohol  mentalhealth  exercise  conversation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Creation and Destruction of Habits
"1/ There are two kinds of stories: about forming habits, and about preserving them. Superhero movies and Christmas movies.

2/ While you have room to grow in your life, forming habits is much easier than breaking habits. Neither is easy, however.

3/ A habit, once formed, demands use. This is because it exists as a sunk cost. Disuse would imply depreciating value.

4/ A living habit generates returns and grows more complex over time. This is growth. Growing habits occupy more room over time.

5/ A dying habit generates losses and grows simpler over time. This is decay. Dying habits decay to occupy less room over time.

6/ You are grown up when you run out of room to grow and are forced to break old habits in order to form new ones.

7/ The alternative to growing up is to preserve existing habits against decay through mummification. This is ritualization.

8/ To ritualize a habit is to decide to sustain steady losses for the indefinite future. This means feeding it with make-work.

9/ Living habits are ugly. Constant growth and increasing complexity means they always appear as an unrefined work-in-progress.

10/ The reward of a ritual is comforting, relived memories of once-profitable habits. These can be passed on for generations.

11/ Rituals are beautiful. Mummification is the process of aestheticizing a behavior to produce comfort instead of profit.

12/ Comforts must be paid for. But it is an easy decision to rob the ugly to pay the beautiful. Growth must pay for decay.

13/ Living habits can be valued in terms of expected future returns. Comforts cannot because they are being sustained despite losses.

14/ Living habits have a price. Rituals are price-less. They represent comforts worth preserving at indeterminate cost.

15/ Price-less comforts evolve from things-that-cannot-be-priced to things-that-must-not-be-priced. This is sacralization.

16/ The sacred price-less is the economic priceless. We drop the hyphen and add a notional price of infinity. This is a sacred value.

17/ The ritualized habit associated with a sacred value becomes a virtue: a behavior that serves as is its own justification.

18/ Virtues are behaviors that are recognized as their own justification by their unchanging beauty. The sacred is beautiful.

19/ Vice is that which cannot visibly co-exist with virtue: it is behavior that justifies its own suppression or marginalization.

20/ Profanity is an inchoate mixture of virtue and vice. Experimentation separates ugly profanity into future virtues and vices.

21/ When your living habits cannot pay for their own growth, and you sacrifice beauty for experimentation, you get innovation.

22/ When your living habits can pay for their own growth and your comforting rituals, you have a beautiful life. This is individualism.

23/ When living habits can pay for themselves but not for comforts, you have a problem. This is failed individualism: depression.

24/ If you try to strip away comforts and retain only growth, you have cognitive-behavioral cancer. This is being manic.

25/ You can pretend that comforts are profits. To do this you deny new data and restate old justifications. This is called derping.

26/ You can also strip away rituals, deliberately making your life uglier by unburdening living habits. This is called empiricism.

27/ You can strip away enough ritual to keep your life ugly at work and beautiful at home. This is called being a loser.

28/ You can confuse the beautiful with the living and the ugly with dying and strip away the wrong things. This is called cluelessness.

29/ You can consciously develop your ability to contemplate both ugliness and beauty with equanimity. This is called mindfulness.

30/ You can strip away rituals up to the limit of your mindfulness, staying on the edge of manic-depression. This is being a sociopath.

31/ The most common response to failed individualism, however, is to get others to pay for your comforts. This is called culture.

32/ A culture that cannot pay for its own comforts overall is a called a tradition. One that has no comforts to pay for is called a frontier.

33/ Tradition is beautiful, frontiers are ugly. To mistake one for the other is the defining characteristic of the clueless middle class.

33/ A culture that is more tradition than frontier is a loser culture. Sincere partisan conservatism and liberalism are both for losers.

34/ A culture that is more frontier than tradition is sociopath culture. It offers few comforts and fewer sacred ones.

35/ A compassionate culture is one that drives each member to the limit of their mindfulness. It is inclusive by definition.

36/ A beautiful culture is one that highlights comforting tradition and hides profit and profanity. It is extractive by definition.

37/ A culture cannot be both compassionate and beautiful at once without ceasing to grow. To be a sociopath is to recognize this.

38/ A culture that ceases to grow is a culture that increasingly trades compassion for beauty, paying more for its priceless elements.

39/ A culture that chooses to grow is one that systematically devalues beauty and resists the allure and comfort of pricelessness.

40/ Civilization is the mortal tension between the imperative to keep growing and the imperative to remain beautiful.

41/ Those who choose beauty tell one kind of story, about a relatively shrinking set of beautiful things that define the human.

42/ Those who choose growth tell another kind of story, about an expanding zone of mindfulness that defines the superhuman."
culture  humans  ideology  venkateshrao  2014  habits  growth  frontiers  balance  tradition  ritual  sociopathy  conservatism  liberalism  individualism  mindfulness  cluelessness  comforts  empiricism  derping  depression  experimentation  beauty  marginalization  pricelessness  comfort  complexity  ritualization  makework  mummification  sacralization  sacredness  virtue  justification  life  living  behavior  manicdepression  civilization  rituals 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The unhealthy underside of the wellbeing agenda
"Is it a mere coincidence that this trend booms at a time when the inescapable issue of the conference agenda is the staggering inequality in the world? In the 1970s Christopher Lasch claimed that in the wake of the political turmoil of the 1960s (the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal), many people had lost faith in politics, instead focusing on individual projects, such as “eating health food, taking lessons in ballet or belly-dancing” or “immersing themselves in the wisdom of the East, and jogging”.

When people no longer believe in political transformation, an appealing alternative is individual transformation. When the world cannot be changed for the better, we put all our energies into improving ourselves.

Davos pre-recession

When the sociologist Richard Sennett visited the annual meeting in Davos in 1998, health and wellness were not on the agenda. After spending some time in conference rooms, champagne receptions and ski slopes, Sennett began to realise that the defining feature of the Davos men was their flexible nature. With this attitude, they would not look at tumultuous changes in life circumstances as a threat, but as an opportunity to be relished.

The “Davos man”, as Sennet calls him (no mention of a her), is someone who constantly reshapes their profile and rebrands their persona. They would not define themselves exclusively by what they do because they always work on more than one project. They could be discussing government policies and developing a new technology, while in the next moment, marketing catastrophe bonds, contemplating a pop music career and skiing high above the mountain resort.

This ability to live many lives at once and be uncertain about anything seemed to be underpinned by a capacity to let go of your past. If you were a state bureaucrat in the past, that didn’t matter. That was the past. What mattered was the latest technology or the newest innovation in the financial markets.

This flexible nature also made it easy to forget about the basic existential questions of the majority of people on earth. But the Davos man is not completely unaware of the bitter feelings this nurtures of the great mass of humanity living below the snow-line. According to Sennett, whenever the Davos man begins discussing the people who are “left behind”, they become distinctly uncomfortable and start fidgeting. Clearly they recognised the existence of the 99% who are not so comfortable with building their lives on the shifting quicksand of entrepreneurial capitalism.

Much has changed since Sennett ventured into the mountains in 1998. We have been through numerous financial meltdowns, an extended campaign of war in the middle east, a series of global uprisings against untrammeled globalisation, the overthrow of many dictators and much more.

A changing world

Just as the world has changed, so too has Davos. The elite who descend on the Magic Mountain no longer display an indifferent attitude, but radiate with compassion and purpose. At the meeting, social responsibility is at the top of the agenda. Shying away from the people who are “left behind” has also faded. Instead of nervous fidgeting, participants at the WEF put global inequality top of the agenda.
Yet how much of this talk is sincere and how much is it part of the participants convincing themselves that they are on the right side of history? Like Sennett’s Davos man, the new wellness men are concerned about their moral appearance. If being a flexible high-achiever was the aspiration then, now it is to be compassionate, healthy and spiritual.

Contemporary politics is getting taken over by the wellbeing agenda. This could have many upsides: who could argue against better healthcare, cleaner environments and more exercise? However, the way it is often used tends to turn away from these more structural issues and uses wellbeing as a badge of being a member of the new global elite.

To be a Davos man now does not just mean waxing lyrical about the powers of the free market – you also need to frequently check your steps on your fit-bit, spend some time in a mindfulness class, work out at the same time as you network, deal with global inequality and work out how market solutions like “pandemic bonds” might help to solve Ebola.

The ideal solution for bringing this altogether for our new nomadic elite is of course the latest management fad – the walking meeting. That way they can burn off the champagne, network and also build up steps on their pedometer, which will allow a child in Africa to have a new bicycle."
well-being  appearances  mindfulness  publicimage  davos  richardsennett  sincerity  compassion  morality  ethics  symbolism  politics  absolution  inequality 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Instagramming Dinosaurs: Clive Thompson on Mindfulness as a Defense Against Digital Distraction (3 of 4) | Moosha Moosha Mooshme
"Yeah, get into conversation with people about these experiences and then reflect on it. She might find someone who she didn’t really know respond, “I was there last year and here is my thoughts on it.” Scientist call this “multiples,” which is the fact that people are often thinking of the same thing you are thinking about. They discovered earlier on that frequently someone would start working on a scientific problem and they would spend four years on it only to discover that someone around the world was working on the same exact thing. It’s because, you know, great minds think alike. So scientist realized a long time ago they should be thinking public because then they will be able to find each other.

But the point you raise is about relatives that worry about someone being overly mediated, not paying attention, to the world around them. I do think those fears are a little bit over-blown because we have actually done studies of people’s behavior in public places. It turns out that there is only quite a small minority of people resorting to their phones. A recent Canadian scientist gathered dozens and dozens of hours people outside in a park. And only 3% to 10% of the people were actually on the phones. I would go, “Wait a minute? Seems like there is a lot more.” Well, that’s because I’m sort of noticing the kind of annoying people who will stare at their phones and I’m not noticing the people that are just walking around looking with their eyes.

I will say one thing that I think some of your relatives might be on to, which I agree with, are the danger of our connective thinking, with connection to other people, with the fact that we have devises with us all the time. It can be a distraction. When we have all these different ways to reach and contact each other, we are social beings, so we start to build up too much of a habit of yanking our phone out all the time, just to see what people are saying. And distraction is a real issue if you want to absorb something. Now, I think that actually recording it, talking about it via your phone, is actually a way of paying attention to it. But if you are sitting here looking at the dinosaur and suddenly feel a buzz and you pull out your phone and then see someone in Facebook talking about the party that they are going to have on Friday and you start talking about that, well, now you are in what they a call a completely different domain. You are no longer at all thinking about dinosaurs. And that is a distraction. I think that is a genuine bad thing for your cognition.

But how do you cultivate practices to distinguish between using media to augment the way that you are looking at the world and using it in away that distracts you?

Well, this has to do with mindfulness. Our brains are very flighty, self-distracting things. Half the time when we are distracted it’s not because a phone rings but because our brains just go, “Oh, I wonder about that.” And we stop what we are doing. Monks noticed this a thousand years ago and they started developing mindfulness, which is paying attention to your attention, noticing what you are paying attention to, so that when your brain wants to go and check Twitter “just because” you notice your brain doing that. And when you start paying attention to attention, we become much better at resisting non-productive distractions, like when I will be sitting here, looking at the dinosaur, and part of my brain will go, “Huh! I wonder if anything interesting is happening on Instagram.” If I gave into that temptation and pull it out I will be distracting myself. But if I’m paying attention to my attention, I will sort of notice where this is going and I can decide to check it in a hour when I’m having a coffee.

I have talked to a lot teachers who train their kids, saying, “Hey, you have a brain. Don’t be a slave to where your attention goes. Just pay attention to it.” If you just spent 10 minutes a day practicing it, it starts to become a habit and a really good habit. So it’s something that can be taught.

I’m not even vaguely a meditation person. I joke I’m the least centered person I know. But the truth is, even when I started learning about this, I started paying attention. And it really worked. If I’m out at a museum and looking at the exhibit here, looking at this fossilized head of a T-Rex in front of us, and part of my brain goes, “There is an email coming in!” instead of just being a slave to that I’m like, “I’m aware that my brain is trying to do that to me.”

So mindfulness is the key to using media in a way that augments and enriches your thinking in a way that doesn’t distracts your thinking.

The funny thing is, when I started researching my book, the more I looked at it the more I realized there is no magic bullet here. There really is a human problem here we’ve being dealing with for a long time. Every new technology that offers us new media has always sort of freaked us out; we’ve had to make our peace with them. When glass became cheap in the 19th century and windows suddenly emerged, writers like Virginia Woolf sort of panicked because it was actually distracting to have this window next to you while you worked. I mean it sounds funny but it’s true. I like to joke, We have lot of windows on our computers and on our phones, but those are the original windows."

[The full set: http://www.mooshme.org/?s=clive+thompson ]
clivethompson  amnh  2014  barryjoseph  attention  socialmedia  focus  scrivener  timeout  mindfulness  reflection  publicthinking  writing  behavior  distraction  teaching  howwelearn  howweteach  habits  habitforming 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Don't Just Sit There, Do Something | Tricycle
“Ever since Western converts began adopting Buddhist traditions, their community has sought a balance between the quest for personal peace and tranquility and the sense of social engagement that has sometimes expressed itself, most recently on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, with the well-worn activists’ phrase No justice, no peace.

That seemingly irreconcilable conflict made itself felt when several generations of Buddhists came together for the 2014 National Gathering of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (or “BPF”). That noteworthy group, now 36 years old, congregated during Labor Day weekend at the East Bay Meditation Center, housed in a low-slung, two-story building in Oakland, California’s economically revitalized heart. At the gathering, the fellowship’s newest, post-Occupy incarnation seemed to carry a message for its more solitary, meditation-oriented elders: Don’t just sit there, do something.

The relatively small size of the event, as well as its modest setting, stood in sharp contrast to that of well-attended, corporate-funded mindfulness conferences such as Wisdom 2.0. In a private conversation the first evening of the gathering, I told Thai Buddhist activist Sulak Sivaraksa (addressed “Ajahn [teacher] Sulak”) of my own written criticism of that conference, and of the “engaged Buddhist” teachers who privately thanked me for “saying what needed to be said” but refused to support that position publicly.

“If they can’t say publicly what they feel privately,” said Ajahn Sulak, “we call that ‘being a hypocrite.’ I’ve experienced that myself, many times. Teachers or abbots tell me ‘I agree with you, but I can’t say so publicly.’ That means they have economic interests that prevent them from speaking up. Even Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a friend and whom I consider a teacher, is reluctant to speak as freely as he did before he ran such a large institution.” A good spiritual friend (kalyana mitta), Ajahn Sulak continued, speaks the truth: “That’s why I admire the American Quakers. They tell the truth, no matter what the consequences.”

Western Buddhists have at times been reluctant to speak truth to power. Some Buddhist organizations and entrepreneurs have, instead, unabashedly cozied up to it, hoping some prestige would rub off on them. That practice was perhaps best exemplified by an admiring (some might say “fawning”) interview of Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s “Darling Tyrant,” at the 2014 Wisdom 2.0 conference. Kagame's practice of mindfulness was apparently so inspiring that it allowed his audience to ignore his administration’s involvement in, according to the Spanish government, “crimes of genocide, human rights abuses, and terrorism,” as well as his government’s suspected involvement in the murders of Rwandan dissidents and threats to the journalists who reported them.

Corporate-sponsored “mindfulness” seems to be a growth industry. The Quaker “Religious Society of Friends,” in contrast and as a result of its practices, has “never become large . . . or powerful,” Ajahn Sulak told me. “But they tell the truth. All Buddhists should learn from the Quakers.”

The following morning’s meditation was followed by a plenary session on the “Future of Engaged Buddhism,” with perspectives from “five veteran BPFers”: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Susan Moon, Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Martha Boesing, and Donald Rothberg. For the morning breakout session I chose Rothberg’s workshop on “Keeping Cool in the Fire: Becoming More Skillful with Inner and Outer Conflicts.” Drawing extensively on the work of Norwegian conflict resolution expert Johan Galtung, Rothberg may have been unaware how quickly he was to be drawn into a conflict of his own.

The primary goal of Rothberg’s presentation, which included graphic representations and other practical tools, was to offer guidance on how to bring two sides of a conflict into agreement—preferably in a “win/win” scenario. The presentation was engaging and extremely useful. But it quickly drew objections from some of the young activists in the crowd, for reasons I could easily understand.

“This doesn’t apply when there’s a severe imbalance of power between two forces,” said one. My heart was with them—especially since, as Rothberg himself had said, Western dharma practitioners “tend to be conflict-avoidant.”

The conference’s keynote speakers, Ajahn Sulak and American Buddhist writer Joanna Macy, had touched on the same point during their opening addresses the night before. “Western Buddhists . . . are very suspicious of attachment,” said Macy. “They feel they need to be detached . . . so don’t get upset about racism, or injustice, or the poison in the rivers, because that . . . means you’re too attached.”

This causes some difficulty for me,” she continued, “because I’m attached.”

She added: “I think one of the problems with Westernized Buddhists is premature equanimity. When the Buddha said ‘don’t be attached,’ he meant don’t be attached to the ego.”

During our private interview, Ajahn Sulak emphasized many of the same points. “Anger arises,” he said. “That’s okay. But you must learn to translate that anger into change.”

“Some people want to be ‘goody-goody Buddhists,’” Ajahn Sulak continued, “saying nice things all the time and never challenging power. We believe in nonviolence, but that means we cannot ignore the long-term harm caused by structural violence.”

Or, as BPF’s literature says: “The system stinks.”

While the urge to avoid confrontation is strong in some sections of the Western Buddhist community, many of the leaders it reveres have been unafraid to speak bluntly. They’ve even been unafraid to use terms that border on the politically forbidden. The Dalai Lama, for example, has said he is “not only a socialist but also a bit leftist, a communist. In terms of social economy theory, I am a Marxist. I think I am farther to the left than the Chinese leaders. They are capitalists.”

Ajahn Sulak’s teacher, Buddhadasa, said, “If we hold fast to Buddhism we shall have a socialist disposition in our flesh and blood … [an] ideal of pure socialism which must be acted out, not just talked about for political purposes or for selfish, devious gain.” Ajahn Sulak told a group of Japanese Buddhists that “unless we stand united against consumerism and capitalism, we will not be able to create Dhammic Socialism.”

The Peace Fellowship’s Gathering ended with a refuge ceremony. Experienced dharma practitioners will understand that, by this action, everyone who participated became a Buddhist (or renewed their Buddhist vows). It could also be said that the people in attendance took refuge collectively, as a sangha, as a beloved community.

But there was more to come. A smaller group gathered that evening at a park in downtown Oakland. Their purpose was to demonstrate against the Urban Shield conference, which was about to take place. Urban Shield is, in effect, a trade conference for our cities’ increasingly militarized police forces—and for the vendors who profit off their purchase of heavy weaponry, drones, and other tools for the imposition of violence and the removal of personal privacy and autonomy. It was a good choice for protest, sitting as it does at the intersection of violence and capitalism.

A group of demonstrators planned to block the entrance to the Marriott Hotel, where many attendees were staying, while the rest were there to show their support. The Buddhists gathered before the watchful and slightly skeptical eyes of the park’s denizens: urban families, skateboard-wielding teens, and a homeless person or two. Protesters raised their signs: “Make Peace, Disarm Police”; “Marriott, Evict Urban Shield”; “Urban Shield = Urban Warfare.”

After a few minutes of planning and debate the group—a mix of laypeople and monastics—began its several-block-long walk to the Marriott. Accompanied by the monks’ drumming and chanting, the group passed curious pedestrians and drivers honking horns in passing automobiles, the Wells Fargo Bank glittering in the sun’s final late-evening rays. A giant flag waved atop the Oakland Tribune building, but no reporters emerged to cover the demonstration.

Once at the hotel, a dozen protesters unfurled a sign that read “Evict Urban Shield.” Then they blocked the front entrance and sat in lotus position as supporters cheered them on from the sidewalk.

I found myself moved by these young faces, some of which I now knew by name, as they sat before the hotel doors, their faces serene and their meditation posture largely impeccable. That’s Katie, in the white t-shirt. She’s one of the organizers. And that’s Dawn, her colleague. I think I saw that man, the one next to Dawn, in one of the breakout sessions…

I found myself kneeling before them, ostensibly to take their pictures.

They chose not to get arrested that evening, and the demonstration began breaking up as night fell. I walked away through the now-darkened streets of downtown Oakland. I felt a sense of parting, of separation from a community, as I walked back to my car. Outside the Oakland City Center office complex I passed a bicycle, still locked to a pole but stripped of its wheels and gears.

Driving home, I found myself lost in some back streets, passed bars filled with partiers (that’s right, it was a holiday weekend), and made my way back to a borrowed apartment. Once there I thumbed through the pictures I had taken on my phone.

Don’t just sit there, do something. At the close of this gathering, these demonstrators had resolved that generations-old conflict. There, outside the Marriott Hotel, they had done both."
2014  buddhism  richareskow  religion  individualism  socialjustice  activism  mindfulness  sulaksivaraska  thichnhathanh  quakers  truth  truthtopower  corporatism  equanimity  confrontation  socialism  marxism  politics  urbanshield  detachment  attachment 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The Pitfalls of Productivity - NYTimes.com
"There’s also the question of who really benefits when workers get more done. Mr. Poole writes critically of companies’ productivity initiatives:

“The latest wheeze is the Big Data field of ‘workforce science,’ in which everything – patterns of emails, the length of telephone calls — may be measured and consigned to a comparative database to create a perfect management panopticon. It is tempting to suspect that the ambition thus to increase ‘worker productivity’ is aimed at getting more work out of each employee for the same (or less) money.”

And while workers who get more productive may initially see raises or promotions, the labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein told Op-Talk, companies will soon come to expect that higher level of productivity from everybody: “over time, and not very much time, the corporation will say ‘this is the new work norm.’” This has already happened, he added, with the expectation that workers be reachable around the clock. A better approach, he said, would be to improve job protections and stability, since workers are actually more productive when their employment is more secure.

For Mr. Bailey, though, productivity doesn’t necessarily mean working more at your job: “I think everybody has a different reason for wanting to become more productive, and I think you should figure that out before you invest in your productivity,” he said. “I think of productivity as way to accomplish more meaningful things in a short amount of time, so you can make more time for the things that are actually important to you.”

And Dr. Gregg suggested that the systems we use to organize our work could be used to bring us together rather than to drive us apart. “I would like to encourage a kind of mindfulness that is less individual and more collective,” she said. Her hope for productivity apps and other technologies is that “they’ll allow us to have a better conversation about collective work practices, and what are the conditions that individuals feel that they need to get done what’s being asked of them in the workplace.”

“Mindfulness can also mean being mindful of others,” she said, “and that’s really the collective labor tradition that I would like to see continue.”"
gtd  gettingthingsdone  productivity  busyness  2014  annanorth  chrisbailey  stevenpoole  frederickwinslowtaylor  efficiency  melissagregg  slow  taylorism  jessicalamb-shapiro  bigdata  nelsonlichtenstein  mindfulness  labor  work  capitalism  industrialization 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Mindfulness Backlash - NYTimes.com
"She’s not the only one to question the emphasis on meditation as a path to productivity. In Salon earlier this year, Joshua Eaton argued that the new corporate embrace of mindfulness — he mentioned a panel titled “Three Steps to Build Corporate Mindfulness the Google Way” — privileged a particular kind of “individual spiritual development” over any kind of collective consciousness or social activism. “Many Buddhists,” he wrote, “now fear their religion is turning into a designer drug for the elite.”

Michael Stone sounded a similar note a few weeks later, also in Salon, when he called for Buddhists to speak out against the use of meditation by large corporations and the U.S. military. “Mindfulness is a deeply political practice,” he wrote, “designed to reduce stress and suffering both in our own hearts and in the world of which we are a part.” It shouldn’t, he argued, be used to make members of the world’s biggest military better at killing.

In a response to Mr. Stone at BigThink, Derek Beres argued that what Google and other companies are offering isn’t really mindfulness, because it’s in the service of a product that’s fundamentally anti-mindful (that is, the Internet). If your goal is to make people surf the web more, he wrote, all the meditation in the world isn’t going to bring you true enlightenment.

At the core of this debate is a question about what mindfulness should be. For some, it remains a fundamentally religious practice, one rooted in Buddhism’s ethics and understanding of social justice (Stone writes, “The first ethical principle that the Buddha taught in his description of living mindfully is ‘not Killing’”).

But in the mainstream, mindfulness is often seen simply as a tool, a way of calming and focusing oneself. As such it can be used to de-stress after a long day, to get more done at the office, or even to wage war."
mindfulness  productivity  appropriation  2014  meditation  buddhism  annanorth  stress  military  via:jeeves 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Library as Church, Bookshelf as Altar — Or: Why I Gave Up Praying, but Carried On Reading — Medium
"I used to pray. But I also used to read. Actually, I used to read quite a bit. Brought up in a book-loving family, a naturally dutiful child, a hard worker, I threw myself at it. A set time each day…

The difference: I still read. A lot. In fact, I’ve been reflecting recently that reading has become a form of prayer, a form that pretends less, and — perhaps — achieves more.

Reading, just like prayer, is a deliberate act of focus, a form of meditation almost. It takes time. Not economically productive, it can be easily mocked as ‘useless,’ — and in the modern age it is hard to find space to get deep into it without being yanked away by the ping of notifications or other noises from the jungle of digital distractions.

Yes, like prayer, reading can be hard. But, most importantly, just like a prayer, the act of reading a novel, or a work of thoughtful non-fiction, is about sensitizing oneself to others and to the plight of the world outside of your everyday experience.

Studies show that this is the case: those who read literary fiction have more empathy than those who don’t. Why? Because, as the leader of one project put it, ‘in literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others.’ Films and video games don’t work in the same way: the full visual experience lends itself to ‘completing’ characters, leaving little room for the imagination.

To read widely, and often, is thus to hope to be changed, to still believe that change is possible. It is never, ever a waste of time. Be it an essay or short story or novel or article, a good read never goes unanswered because a good read opens up a world that requires our attention. That might be the inner world of the self, it might be the domestic world of a family relationship, or it could be the plight of a whole people."



"Some of my friends think I’ve lost my faith by giving up on prayer. I disagree. Yes, I now refuse the easy inaction of intercession — and there’s nothing like cancer to bring that up short — but, through constant, deliberate, mindful reading I hope to be daily opening myself wider to being sensitive to the world around me, and allowing the words and stories of writers and protagonists from the furthest reaches of experience to both challenge me to act, and inspire me with hope that change remains possible.

In fact, what worries me far more than any erosion of the time people spend in prayer are the statistics about the chronic reduction in time people spend reading. Really reading, deeply and thoughtfully. Because without this, with only short bursts of tweets and YouTube, from which well will empathy and care be drawn from?"
kesterbrewin  prayer  reading  books  libraries  empathy  perspective  change  openmindedness  openmind  mindopening  mindfulness  concentration  attention  2014  religion  christianity 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Towards a More Mindful Practice | Art Museum Teaching
"Where is the family in family programs?

First, what is billed as a family program often turns out to be a program for kids but the parents/caregivers have to stay with them. Adults are rarely engaged in a meaningful way and connections within the social group are neither acknowledged nor fostered. For example, when a family program facilitator takes families into a gallery, they often sit the children on the floor and the adults (either because they don’t really know what else to do or because they don’t want to sit on the floor) stand around in a semi-circle behind the kids. For me, this is a clear example of an invisible pedagogy. We are teaching adults that this experience is for kids and adults need not participate. When I talk with family program educators, they usually say they want adults to engage in the program. Sometimes they go so far as to imply that it’s the fault of the parents, as in “They won’t get off their cell phones.” Having been one of those adults at a family program who dearly wanted some sort of diversion and thought often about pulling out my phone, I ask, “What are we offering to the adults that is more interesting than their mobile devices?”

A host of questions emerge for me that I would love some e-conversation about: Why do we repeat this model over and over again? Does our training push us towards a developmental model where we know only how to program towards children or adults, but not both at the same time? Is the skill of encouraging parent child engagement one that is better fostered through other disciplines and thus should we be looking at best practices in other disciplines such as social work or psychology?

Why do we use a school model of discussion and interaction in family programs?

I’ve watched many well-meaning facilitators sit or stand in front of a work of art and make eye contact with the children almost exclusively. Not only does this tell parents to stand back but children quickly figure out that they are supposed to look at the facilitator and most of them conform. Children are asked questions and they raise their hand to answer, just like in school. Families tend to have fluid conversations, a lot of give and take, and while we might remind a child to not interrupt we rarely ask our children to raise their hands when having a conversation around the family dinner table. Why then do we default to the school model in the museum experience?

Even more frustrating is that this school model draws attention away from the objects and instead focuses attention on the educator. I’ve taken time-lapse photos and the average time spent looking at the art when sitting in this configuration is about 2-3 seconds – total, unless of course a child is not paying attention to the facilitator and looks at the art anyway.

How does the experience leverage the uniqueness of the museum?

The most important issue for me is that too many of the activities we offer in family programs don’t maximize the value of what the museum has to offer.

Engaging people of all ages in hands-on activities in the galleries can be a wonderful way to guide them into a deeper appreciation of the artwork. Yet, I’m concerned because too often the activities don’t connect very well with the artwork or the way the artist worked. I keep asking, “Why is this activity happening in the museum?” Most of what I see could be done anywhere and, sometimes, would be more effective without the visual distraction and noise of the gallery. I wonder, do we continue to under-maximize the uniqueness of the museum because we aren’t clear on what that is? Or do we operate on the assumption that families aren’t able to grasp it?

What will be my focus at the Gardner Museum this summer?

As I continued to think about these issues I realized I was focusing only on how the educators planned and implemented programs. I began to wonder if I, too, have gone on autopilot. I know what kind of family experiences I’d like to see in the museum but, as I frequently warn my colleagues, using ourselves as a representative for the general visitor is not very smart. So, during the month of July I’ve invited families to come to the Gardner and allow me to accompany them.

I won’t have an agenda, lesson plan, protocol, notebook, or audio recorder and I plan to allow both the “educator me” and “evaluator me” to recede to the background. I want to explore facilitating “with” families rather than “for” them. I want to pay more attention to invisible pedagogies – both how the physical space itself instructs and how actions from people (me included) communicate behaviors and attitudes. I will invite the families to begin where they want to. I will have a few things with me, such as a flashlight for dark corners, some sketching materials, and magnifying glasses but I may not ever pull them out. I’m imagining, for instance, that as conversations evolve the need for things like that magnifying glass will naturally arise and I will, much like Mary Poppins, slide it out and hand it to the adults so they can facilitate the experience for their family.

Admittedly I’ve had moments of near panic just thinking about the unstructured quality of this experience. I have no idea what will happen and have to trust that if I stay mindful, sensitive, and observant that I will notice new things and be filled with wonder. I’ve invited local museum educators to come hang out with me. They can’t bring notebooks either and they have to agree to talk with me afterwards and write up a reflection of their experience."
education  museums  2014  mariannaadams  teaching  informal  unstructured  pedaogy  invisiblepedagogies  participatory  conversation  collaboration  collaborative  mindfulness  instructivism  instruction  howwelearn  howweteach  families  children  arteducation  exploration 
july 2014 by robertogreco
miscellany - "The more we persist in misunderstanding the...
"
The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life…the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity, and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not. Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds, and join in the general dance.


—Thomas Merton, from New Seeds of Contemplation

Dear Self: so yeah, today’s a birthday. You’re doing the smart thing, paying down on the sleep debt you’ve accrued for the past week or so (20 hours of shut-eye over six nights? Seriously?), reflecting on the time that’s passed since the last time you were here, thinking on how you might invest the next 365 days. Time to remember all the steps you take towards your better self. Today’s theme is rededication. But don’t spend all afternoon. The sun’s shining, and the skies are blue— invitation to get outside and soak it all in. Or, as Merton says, join the general dance."
thomasmerton  contemplation  life  living  purpose  focus  mindfulness  presence  sadness  absurdity  despair 
june 2014 by robertogreco
BBC News - The slow death of purposeless walking
"A number of recent books have lauded the connection between walking - just for its own sake - and thinking. But are people losing their love of the purposeless walk?"
walking  thinking  2014  flaneur  wandering  charlesdickens  georgeorwell  patrickleigh  constantinbrancusi  thoreau  thomasdequincey  nassimtaleb  nietzsche  brucechatwin  wgebald  johnfrancis  fredericgros  geoffnicholson  merlincoverley  observation  attention  mindfulness  rebeccasolnit  finlorohrer  vladimirnabokov 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Science teacher: "We've always done it this way..."
"
You should share my reliance on those old, old truths which shallow, drawing-room talk contemptuously dismisses as "commonplaces", though they have more marrow in them, and are quite as seldom wrought into the mental habits as any of the subtleties that pretend to novelty. —Marian Evans (George Eliot) via Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind

We love the new, the shiny, the splashy, next big thing.

When we focus on the newest tech tool, we can let go of the harder questions. We can bask in the light of the new while quietly ignoring the mess we've left behind. We focus on the bright green foliage at the edge of the cesspool.

When we focus on the newest tech tool, we confuse the surges of adrenaline and dopamine we get from novelty with the warm satisfaction of working our way towards wisdom. The tool becomes the truth.

I love tools--I've used a drill, a mallet, a cross-cut saw, a measuring tape, a socket wrench, and a wheel barrow all within the last few hours to build a raised garden bed to grow vegetables that we plan to harvest with our hands.

The point is, literally, the fruit of our labors.

***

That anyone uses the "we've always done it this way" as a defense for a particular practice strikes the technophile crowd as galling, and on the face of it, I agree. The more interesting question would be why has it "always" been done this way? Does it work?

I am trying a raised bed for the first time this year, but I will not know if it is an improvement until I see the results in late summer. I've invested some time and money in the effort for something that I know works for many, but has never been tried on this particular patch of land here in my backyard.

I will still bury my beans one knuckle deep, as I have always done. I will still use jute twine to hold up the vines, as I have always done. I will still mix some compost and aged manure into the earth, as I have always done.

My goals have not changed--I want to eat fresh basil and sun-warmed tomatoes within an hour of harvest--and I use tried-and-true ways for obvious reasons.

The art of educating human larvae may have lost its way--these things happen when crowds wander around aimlessly without a consensus on the destination. The high tech crowd keep selling us marvelous GPS devices that do everything they promise to do, and we keep mindlessly buying them, hoping to reach our destination quicker.

Unless you know where you want to go, you're never going to get there."
michaeldoyle  education  teaching  technology  newness  shininess  squishynotslick  maps  compasses  wandering  dérive  derive  mindlessness  mindfulness  unschooling  deschooling  curriculum  2014  process 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The Craftsman, the Trickster, and the Poet, by Edith Ackermann [.pdf]
"I suggest that art as a way of knowing is about “re-souling” the rational mind. This, in turn,occurs as a consequence of being mindfully engaged, playful in spirit, and disposed to usection—or the powers of myth—as windows into our inner and outer realities. Here, I of-fer a few thoughts on how people make sense of their experience, envision alternatives intheir minds, and most importantly, how they bring forth what they envision in ways thatcan move and inspire others (those at the receiving end of a creator’s oerings)."

[quoting: http://linkedith.kaywa.com/p138.html ]

"The craftsman, the trickster, and the poet are emblematic of the creative side in all of us: a deeply-felt reluctance to freeze the nuances of human experience into set categories, or representations, that rid themselves of the imaginal for the sake of proof or "reason". The artist sticks to the image. And that is why s/he captures our imagination. When art is "true", we know how to read between the lines! What the poet especially warns us against is to look at words as signs (instead of symbols, or indices),: “As we manipulate everyday words, we [shouldn’t] forget that they are fragments of ancient stories, that we are building our houses with broken pieces of sculptures and ruined statues of goad as the barbarians did” (Schultz, 1993. p. 88). The scientist instead is more of a Saussurian. He wants words to be signs, and he cringes when their meanings are “sticky” (fused to their contexts), “thick” (polysemic), or ambiguous (could be seen in more than one way). As for he rationalist in us: s/he wont seek to delight, amuse, or move us (spark insights). Instead, s/he’s here to reason, argue, and prove (provide evidence)!"

[video: http://www.exploratorium.edu/knowing/video.php?videoID=1241851064001 ]

[Edith Ackermann: http://web.media.mit.edu/~edith/ ]
poetry  poets  crafts  craftmanship  trickster  editchackermann  mindfulness  2011  art  artists  creativity  science  stickiness  reason  imagination  beginnersmind  neoteny  play  playfulness  richardsennett  ellenlanger  georgsimmel  jesters  clowns  bricolage  gastonbachelard  making  piaget  ernstcassirer  mending  tinkering  jeanpiaget 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Aesthetics of Dispersed Attention: Interview with German Media Theorist Petra Löffler :: net critique by Geert Lovink
"GL: You got a fascinating chapter in your habilitation about early cinema and the scattering of attention it would be responsible for. The figure of the nosy parker that gawks interests you and you contrast it to the street roaming flaneur.

PL: Yes, the gawker is a fascinating figure, because according to my research results it is the corporation of the modern spectator who is also a member of a mass audience––the flaneur never was part of it. The gawker or gazer, like the flaneur, appeared at first in the modern metropolis with its multi-sensorial sensations and attractions. According to Walter Benjamin the flaneur disappeared at the moment, when the famous passages were broken down. They had to make room for greater boulevards that were able to steer the advanced traffic in the French metropolis. Always being part of the mass of passers-by the gawker looks at the same time for diversions, for accidents and incidents in the streets. This is to say his attention is always distracted between an awareness of what happens on the streets and navigating between people and vehicles. No wonder movie theatres were often opened at locations with a high level of traffic inviting passers-by to go inside and, for a certain period of time, becoming part of an audience. Furthermore many films of the period of Early Cinema were actualities showing the modern city-life. In these films the movie-camera was positioned at busy streets or corners in order to record movements of human and non-human agents. Gawkers often went into the view of the camera gesticulating or grimacing in front of it. That’s why the gawker has become a very popular figure mirroring the modern mass audience on the screen.

Today to view one’s own face on a screen is an everyday experience. Not only CCTV-cameras at public spaces record passers-by, often without their notice. Also popular TV-shows that require life-participation such as casting shows once more offer members of the audience the opportunity to see themselves on a screen. At the same time many people post their portraits on websites of social networks. They want to be seen by others because they want to be part of a greater audience––the network community. This is what Jean Baudrillard has called connectivity. The alliance between the drive to see and to being seen establishes a new order of seeing which differs significantly from Foucault’s panoptical vision: Today no more the few see the many (panopticon) or the many see the few (popular stars)––today, because of the multiplication and connectivity of screens in public and private spaces, the many see the many. Insofar, one can conclude, the gawker or gazer is an overall-phenomenon, a non-specific subjectivity of a distributed publicity."



"GL: I can imagine that debates during the rise of mass education, the invention of film are different from ours. But is that the case? It is all pedagogy, so it seems. We never seem to leave the classroom.

PL: The question is, leaving where? Entering the other side (likewise amusement sites or absorbing fantasies)? Why not? Changing perspectives? Yes, that’s what we have to do. But for that purpose we don’t have to leave the classroom necessarily. Rather, we should rebuilt it as a room of testing modes of thinking in very concrete ways. I’m thinking of Jacques Rancière’s suggestions, in his essay Le partage du sensible, about the power relation between teachers and pupils. Maybe today teachers can learn more (for instance soft skills) from their pupils than the other way around. We need other regimes of distribution of power, also in the classroom, a differentiation of tasks, of velocities and singularities—in short: we need micropolitics.

More seriously, your question indicates a strong relationship between pedagogy and media. There’s a reason why media theorists like Friedrich Kittler had pointed to media’s affinity to propaganda and institutions of power. I think of his important book Discourse Networks, where he has revealed the relevance of mediated writing techniques for the formation of educational institutions and for subjectivation. That’s why the question is, what are the tasks we have to learn in order to exist in the world of electronic mass media? What means ‘Bildung’ for us nowadays?

GL: There is an ‘attention war’ going on, with debates across traditional print and broadcast media about the rise in distraction, in schools, at home. On the street we see people hooked on their smart phones, multitasking, everywhere they go. What do you make of this? This is just a heightened sensibility, a fashion, or is there really something at stake? Would you classify it as petit-bourgeois anxieties? Loss of attention as a metaphor for threatening poverty and status loss of the traditional middle class in the West? How do you read the use of brain research by Nicholas Carr, Frank Schirrmacher and more recently also the German psychiatrist Manfred Spitzer who came up with a few bold statement concerning the devastating consequences of computer use for the (young) human brain. Having read your study one could say: don’t worry, nothing new under the sun. But is this the right answer?

PL: Your description addresses severe debates. Nothing less than the future of our Western culture seems to be at stake. Institutions like the educational systems are under permanent critique, concerning all levels from primary schools to universities. That’s why the Pisa studies have revealed a lot of deficits and have provoked debates on what kind of education is necessary for our children. On the one hand it’s a debate on cultural values, but on the other it’s a struggle on power relations. We are living in a society of control, and how to become a subject and how this subject is related to other subjects in mediated environments are important questions.

A great uncertainty is emerged. That’s why formulas that promise easy solutions are highly welcomed. Neurological concepts are often based on one-sided models concerning the relationship between body and mind, and they often leave out the role of social and environmental factors. From historians of science such as Canguilhem and Foucault one can learn that psychiatrist models of brain defects and mental anomalies not only mirror social anxieties, but also produce knowledge about what is defined as normal. And it is up to us as observers of such discourses to name those anxieties today. Nonetheless, I would not signify distraction as a metaphor. It is in fact a concrete phase of the body, a state of the mind. It’s real. You cannot deal with it when you call it a disability or a disease and just pop pills or switch off your electronic devices."
via:litherland  attention  distraction  2013  petralöffer  geertlovink  walterbenjamin  flaneur  gawkers  cities  internet  audience  diaphanesverlag  montaigne  albertkümmel  siegfriedkracauer  frankfurterschule  kant  tibot  psychology  daydreaming  media  mediaarchaeology  richardshusterman  film  micropolitics  friederichkittler  education  subjectivation  massmedia  bildung  nicholascarr  sherryturkle  frankschirrmacher  culture  values  culturalvalues  brain  bernardstiegler  socialmedia  marketing  entertainment  propaganda  deepreading  petersloterdijk  mindfulness  self-control  mediatheory  theory  theodoradorno  weimar  history  philosophy  reading  writing  data  perception  siegfriedzielinski  wolfgangernst  bernhardsiegert  erhardschüttpelz  francoberardi  andrewkeen  jaronlanier  howardrheingold  foucault  micheldemontaigne  michelfoucault 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Interrupt the program — Medium
"Spoiler alert: I am about to tell you what to do.

1. Talk to a stranger

It’s simple, and harmless, and generous, a beautiful interruption. You can do it without even slowing down your pace. Catch someone’s eye, smile in passing, say “have a good day,” or “how’re you doing.” These are mundane utterances that are also deeply profound. They say to someone: I see you there, we are both people walking down this street or through this lobby, we are both real and it’s worth a nod to that. If you are still smiling for two seconds after you pass by, you are doing this right. You have created a moment of street intimacy.

2. Fall down a rabbit hole

Ignore the kerfuffle about what the internet is doing to your attention span. There are kinds of distraction that are deeply focused. There are many clicks involved in this. Someone, somewhere on your internet has posted something that intrigues you, that you want to know more about. Read it, watch it, wonder about it. What questions does it leave you with? Dig deeper into it. Or, what does it remind you of? Follow unexpected tangents. You are not scattered, you are on a quest. You are looking for answers. If what you find are more questions, you are doing this right. You have been distracted from what you were doing when you started all this. You have been curious.

3. Do nothing

Sit by yourself somewhere in public for 7 minutes without looking at your phone. It has to be somewhere without a TV. Neither of these are bad, I like them too. Do it anyway. This may make you uncomfortable. Do it anyway. Unless you choose to sleep, you will find that you are forced to look at something. What is it? Are you reading signs or looking at things in store windows? Are you looking at other people? Are you looking at trees? Water? Sand? Cement? If you start talking to yourself in your head, you are doing this right. I should have said at the beginning, take a pen in case you want to write something down. You can write on your hand, it’ll wash off. You have been awake."
kiostark  strangers  2013  intimacy  conversation  idleness  stillness  distraction  internet  attention  focus  depth  messiness  curiosity  advice  solitude  awakeness  slow  time  noticing  mindfulness  observation  engagement  people  life  living  interruption 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Peace is The Way Films
"THE SECRET OF THE 5 POWERS

3 Superheroes of Peace use the 5 Powers of Faith, Diligence, Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight to change the course of history and inspire millions around the world. Planting seeds of peace in the deep mud of war. 

The documentary weaves powerfully illustrated comic book animation with contemporary and historic footage that follows the lives of Alfred Hassler, an American anti-war hero, Vietnamese peace activist Sister Chan Khong and Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, whom Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. 

The film also reveals the story of the powerfully groundbreaking, yet largely unknown, 1958 Martin Luther King Jr "Montgomery Story" Comic Book Project, initiated by Alfred Hassler and Martin Luther King Jr,.  A comic book that has been secretly changing the course of history around the world, to this present day."
film  peace  chankong  thichnhathahn  alfredhassler  martinlutherkingjr  faith  diligence  mindfulness  concentration  insight  history  activism  classideas  srg  edg  vietnam  vietnamwar  buddhism  nonviolence  mlk 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Ben Pieratt, Blog - If you have any interest whatsoever in...
"If you have any interest whatsoever in mindfulness, awareness, or meditation, I highly encourage you to watch this talk given by Jon Kabat-Zinn at Google.

I stumbled onto it a few months ago and haven’t stopped thinking about it or practicing it since."

[Direct link to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc ]
jonkabat-zinn  meditation  mindfulness  awareness  benpieratt  2013 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Machines of Laughter and Forgetting - NYTimes.com
"The hidden truth about many attempts to “bury” technology is that they embody an amoral and unsustainable vision. Pick any electrical appliance in your kitchen. The odds are that you have no idea how much electricity it consumes, let alone how it compares to other appliances and households. This ignorance is neither natural nor inevitable; it stems from a conscious decision by the designer of that kitchen appliance to free up your “cognitive resources” so that you can unleash your inner Oscar Wilde on “contemplating” other things. Multiply such ignorance by a few billion, and global warming no longer looks like a mystery."

"Imagine being told that “you visited 592 Web sites this week. That’s .5 times the number of Web pages on the whole Internet in 1994!”

The goal here is not to hit us with a piece of statistics — sheer numbers rarely lead to complex narratives — but to tell a story that can get us thinking about things we’d rather not be thinking about. So let us not give in to technophobia just yet: we should not go back to doing everything by hand just because it can lead to more thinking.

Rather, we must distribute the thinking process equally. Instead of having the designer think through all the moral and political implications of technology use before it reaches users — an impossible task — we must find a way to get users to do some of that thinking themselves."

"While devices-as-problem-solvers seek to avoid friction, devices-as-troublemakers seek to create an “aesthetic of friction” that engages users in new ways. Will such extra seconds of thought — nay, contemplation — slow down civilization? They well might. But who said that stopping to catch a breath on our way to the abyss is not a sensible strategy?"
design  friction  frictionlessness  seams  scars  ambient  evgenymorozov  canon  civilization  thinking  2013  slow  slowtechnology  transparency  problemsolving  problemshowing  contemplation  via:anne  cognitiveresources  technology  globalwaming  mindfulness  narrative  forgetting  memory  seamlessness 
march 2013 by robertogreco
The Long, Slow, Constant, Mindful Writing Life - The Conversation - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"One of my favorite cultural critics, Albert Murray, began publishing his writing at age 46. I imagine him during his 19-year career in the Air Force, mulling over the ideas that one day would dazzle me and many others. I imagine him practicing thought riffs and idea phrases so that when he decided to set words to the page, they sparkled with their elegant composition and elucidation. It strikes me as beside the point to call him a late bloomer. I’d rather call him a man who wrote on his own time—the right time. If we are open, we can see that possibility in us all."
via:ayjay  mindfulness  slowness  slow  2012  imaniperry  cv  readiness  time  writing  latebloomers  albertmurray  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
Values, Vision, Mission & Strategy — Mind & Life Institute
"The Mind & Life Institute is a non-profit organization that seeks to understand the human mind and the benefits of contemplative practices through an integrated mode of knowing that combines first person knowledge from the world’s contemplative traditions with methods and findings from contemporary scientific inquiry. Ultimately, our goal is to relieve human suffering and advance well-being.

Values
To guide us in our Mission, Vision and Strategy, the Mind & Life Institute has adopted a set of core values:

Love, Mindfulness and Compassion
Trust and Integrity
Teamwork and Collaboration
Impeccability and Continuous Improvement
Open Communication and Transparency
We aspire to bring these values into our work, lives and culture as we grow the Mind and Life Family of researchers, contemplatives and participants."
massachusetts  resilience  well-being  life  living  opencommunication  communication  transparency  self-improvement  collaboration  teamwork  integrity  trust  mindfulness  via:thatistyping  dalailama  mindandlifeinstitute 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Lift
"Tracking = Mindfulness

Proponents of habit design often work as if they have complete control of your environment. But they don’t. The secret defense for the chaos in your life is to develop mindfulness, or as one of our most successful friends says, “the ability to pay attention.” The universal tool for developing mindfulness is tracking. You could use a piece of paper, or, in August, you could use Lift.

Lift is a habit tracking tool, which has some pros and some cons. Mindfulness is one of the biggest pros…

Beyond Gamification

The feedback loops above evolved from an idea we had to gamify your life, which is a friendly way of making you as addicted to living a good life as you might be to playing video games or slot machines. We ended up dropping any semblance of gaming because we found the above feedback loops just as powerful and much more flexible."
habittracking  gamification  applications  iphone  goalsetting  goals  thepowerofhabits  habits  tracking  quantifiedself  feedbackloops  2012  mindfulness  obviouscorp  lift  ios  from delicious
june 2012 by robertogreco
Ichi-go ichi-e - Wikipedia
"Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会, literally "one time, one meeting") is a Japanese term that describes a cultural concept often linked with famed tea master Sen no Rikyu. The term is often translated as "for this time only," "never again," or "one chance in a lifetime."

Ichi-go ichi-e is linked with Zen Buddhism and concepts of transience. The term is particularly associated with the Japanese tea ceremony, and is often brushed onto scrolls which are hung in the tea room. In the context of tea ceremony, ichi-go ichi-e reminds participants that each tea meeting is unique.

The term is also much repeated in budō (martial ways). It is sometimes used to admonish students who become careless or frequently stop techniques midway to "try again," rather than moving on with the technique despite the mistake. In a life-or-death struggle, there is no chance to "try again.""
sennorikyu  japanese  ichigoichie  ichi-goichi-e  uniqueness  philosophy  mindfulness  teaceremony  transience  mistakes  japan  buddhism  scrolling  from delicious
june 2012 by robertogreco
The Outsourced Life - NYTimes.com
"As we outsource more of our private lives, we find it increasingly possible to outsource emotional attachment…

Focusing attention on the destination, we detach ourselves from the small — potentially meaningful — aspects of experience. Confining our sense of achievement to results, to the moment of purchase, so to speak, we unwittingly lose the pleasure of accomplishment, the joy of connecting to others and possibly, in the process, our faith in ourselves.

There is much public conversation about the balance of power between the branches of government, but we badly need to confront the larger and looming imbalance between the market and everything else.

A society in which comfort, care, companionship, “perfect” birthday parties and so much else is available to those who can pay for it?"

[via: http://randallszott.org/2012/05/06/why-relying-on-professional-artists-is-a-bad-idea-outsourcing-creativity/ ]
life  attachment  conversation  process  mindfulness  meaningmaking  meaning  leisurearts  diy  money  class  outsourcing  psychology  sociology  markets  arlierussellhochschild  2012  relationships  patience  impatience  desire  capitalism  time  slow  lifestyle  emotion  artleisure  from delicious
may 2012 by robertogreco
Mark Williams on Mindfulness on Vimeo
"Is mindfulness the answer to all our prayers? The benefits are compelling: it’s free, you can do it anytime, anywhere, and it’s been scientifically proven to work. It is recognised by those in and out of the health profession as a useful tool for generally improving our mental wellbeing, as well as dealing with more serious issues such as depression or anxiety disorders.

Professor Mark Williams, a leading authority on mindfulness, takes to our pulpit to explore the science behind it and look at its practical application in everyday life. He takes us through the myths, realities, and benefits of meditation, and looks at how such practices can help us to live lives of greater presence, productive and peace."
attention  noticing  imagination  ptsd  peace  presence  meditation  anxiety  well-being  teens  mentalhealth  mindfulness  2011  markwilliams  sadness  depression  life  health  parenting  philosophy  psychology  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
Frank Chimero — Anonymous asked: What advice would you give to a graphic design student? [This is not just for graphic design students.]
"Look people in the eyes when you are talking or listening to them. The best teachers are the ones who treat their classrooms like a workplace, & the worst are ones who treat their classroom like a classroom as we’ve come to expect it… Libraries are a good place. The books are free there, & it smells great… beat them by being more thoughtful. Thoughtfulness is free & burns on time & empathy… The best communicators are gift-givers… Don’t become dependent on having other people pull it out of you while you’re in school. If you do, you’re hosed once you graduate. Keep two books on your nightstand at all times: one fiction, one non-fiction… Buy lightly used. Patina is a pretty word & beautiful concept… Learn to write, & not school-style writing… Most important things happen at a table. Food, friends, discussion, ideas, work, peace talks & war plans. It is okay to romanticize things a little bit every now & then: it gives you hope… Everyone is just making it up as they go along."

[Book list: http://blog.frankchimero.com/post/993864785/you-put-together-the-remarkable-text-playlist-along ]
advice  design  education  frankchimero  empathy  thoughtfulness  patina  beausage  teaching  learning  interestingness  libraries  books  work  life  careers  glvo  tcsnmy  writing  craft  whatmatters  meaning  mindfulness  hope  truth  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  gifts  self-directed  self-education  relationships  discipline  graphics  graphicdesign  tools  wisdom  toshare  topost  from delicious
august 2010 by robertogreco
The Elements of Living Lightly | zen habits
"Hamlet said, ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
psychology  happiness  expectations  judgement  zenhabits  mindfulness  philosophy  choice  simplicity  tips  lifehacks  advice 
july 2010 by robertogreco
City Brights: Howard Rheingold : Attention literacy
"Mindfulness and norms, my students helped me see, are essential tools for those who would master the arts of attention.

The point of this story isn't to get everyone to pay attention to me or professors in general - it's that I want my students to learn that attention is a skill that must be learned, shaped, practiced; this skill must evolve if we are to evolve. The technological extension of our minds and brains by chips and nets has granted great power to billions of people, but even in the early years of always-on, it is clear to even technology enthusiasts like me that this power will certainly mislead, mesmerize and distract those who haven't learned - were never taught - how to exert some degree of mental control over our use of laptop, handheld, earbudded media."
education  howardrheingold  pedagogy  multitasking  laptops  learning  attention  1to1  1:1  21stcenturylearning  21stcenturyskills  literacy  learning2.0  classroom  tcsnmy  mobile  phones  media  socialmedia  lindastone  continuouspartialattention  productivity  mindfulness  listening  conversation  focus  classrooms 
may 2010 by robertogreco
slowLab > slow design laboratory
"What does it mean to be Slow? Mindfulness. Imagination. Intention. Collaboration. Action. As you greet 2010, we hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on how these qualities might be part of your year ahead."

[more here: http://www.good.is/post/mass-reduction/]
design  ideas  slow  sustainability  creativity  slowdesign  slowlab  lcproject  mindfulness  collaboration  acition  imagination  intention  activism  duurzaamheid 
january 2010 by robertogreco

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