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Mindlessness may be one of the villains of our age. We live in a state of mind that is not alert, this author has observed. When we are mindless, she says, we are like programmed automatons, treating information in a single-minded and rigid way, as though questionable facts are true regardless of circumstance.

When we are mindful, she explains, we are sensitive to truth and newness, liberated from the tyranny of old mindsets.

Her examples are compelling. In most nursing homes the elderly are "warehoused," permitted to live their lives out in semi-stupor. A few others attempt to keep their inhabitants alert and aware, giving them chores, houseplants to nurture, and pet animals for which to care. The results have been as expected: those individuals live longer, healthier lives, filled with purpose.

She notes the dangers of automatic thinking in the case of a particular plane crash that could have been avoided. Although the crew went through their usual check-out before leaving the ground, they performed the review in a mindlessly routine manner -- forgetting the fact that in Washington, D.C., in winter, more attention than usual should have been devoted to the icing on the plane's wings.

Our tendency to categorize people is a form of mindlessness. There are particular characteristics that we apply to various races, religions, men, women, children, the elderly, the rich and the poor. A mental laziness takes over and we permit behavior to be mired in prejudice.

Mindless behavior is often the product of habit. Repetition can lead to performance lacking in understanding. Consider the work of a busy cashier, store clerk, or bus driver -- how remote their awareness is, although a routine is being followed.

It is such mindlessness that compounds boredom, indifference, and inefficiency. The rebound effect permeates the individual's life and work.

"Mindlessness also allows us to compartmentalize uncomfortable thoughts," Langer contends. "By locking 'pets' into one category and 'livestock' into another, we can eat meat without qualms." Most of the cruelties of human existence are rationalized in that matter. So is the inevitability of war in the minds of people.

The careers of Napoleon and Hitler are examples of mindlessness. Their blind obsession drove them to tragic ends. Napoleon's insistence on marching to Moscow, winter was imminent and disaster clearly defined, is representative of a mindset that disregarded logic and prudence. Hitler's obsession played out the same drama.

Existing in a mindful state, the author explains, "may be likened to living in a transparent house...where objects would be available. When in the living room, we could still see the object in the basement...Thus, while it is true that we cannot think of everything at once, everything can be kept available...Mindful awareness of different options gives us greater control."

For anyone interested in longevity, stress-reduction, better self-control and self-esteem, increased personal mindfulness will grant individuals greater control over their lives.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Vegetus Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1989
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