Be Aware Be Strategic Be Mindful Be Still
The whole concept of how EAP works is based on the idea of pragmatic laziness. It’s the concept that it is possible to live mindfully without practicing mediation. A little bit like being fit without having to go to a gym. We’ve been introduced to the concept of mindfulness primarily through Eastern philosophies, which rely on practices like mediation and yoga as the means for being more mindful. This Eastern approach to mindfulness was first introduced to the West (the USA, UK, Australia and Canada) in the 19th Century by the Theosophical Society. In the mid 20th Century the Maharishi introduced the Western world to Transcendental Meditation, which became very popular in the 70s.
With Buddhism gaining acceptance in Western societies, and His Holiness, The Dali Lama being revered throughout the West, His Holiness found a position of influence that saw him challenge sympathetic scientists to research the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. By the turn of the century, medical scientists like Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn actively promoted his 8 week course entitled Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Kabat-Zinn became nationally famous in the USA after his approach was featured in Bill Moyer’s PBS special Healing and the Mind. Dr Mark Williams (Oxford), Drs John Teasdale (Cambridge) and Zindel Segal (Toronto) went on to develop Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for the prevention of relapse and recurrence in depression. Currently, the researched benefits of meditation and mindfulness will see it become an integral part of Western medical approaches to healing. It’s ironic that in the not-to-distant past, some Christian religions labeled mediation and yoga as evil, something to stay away from.
So what does pragmatic laziness have to do with mindfulness? Let’s begin by looking at the meaning of pragmatism and laziness. To be pragmatic, according to the Oxford dictionary is to deal with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations. Laziness on the other hand is the quality of being unwilling to work or to use energy. Of course being unwilling is about not being eager to do something. The philosophical idea of will suggests that it’s about the capacity to act decisively on one’s desires. So let’s put this all together. Pragmatic laziness is to deal practically with what you want by not acting decisively.
The Oxford dictionary describes mindfulness as the fact of remembering somebody/something and considering them/it when you do something. Remembering somebody or something could also be called being aware. In the context of EAP this capacity to be aware is the practical (pragmatic) part of this approach to mindfulness. The act of consideration (careful thought) does not necessarily include a change in behaviour, which is the lazy part of this mindfulness approach. So not acting decisively in other words.
So here is how it works. Becoming more aware is absolutely necessary to start off with. Awareness and mindfulness are not the same thing. Becoming aware means that you have an expanded appreciation of someone or something. You have more knowledge or understanding, meaning you are now more aware. Now, being more aware means that as you engage life, you can choose to remember that new awareness. Remembering that new awareness in each moment is what is called being mindful.
The act of sustaining that mindfulness is essential to creating new neural pathways in the brain. When sustained over extended periods or strongly reinforced emotionally, the new neural pathway (even though it hasn’t been reinforced through changed behaviour) is established sufficiently and there comes a time when the new pathway almost entices you to change paths and the new behaviours are seamlessly adopted. That is the mechanism of pragmatic laziness. Remember how it all started with awareness? More about that next week.
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