Three “D’oh!”s in a Fountain, or Mindfulness 101


“This one a long time have I watched. Never his mind on where he was.” ~Yoda,  The Empire Strikes Back

I have a bit of a confession to make today. While I, along with millions of others, was laughing my posterior off at the plight of the “Fountain Lady,” aka Cathy Cruz Marrero, aka I Can’t Walk and Text at the Same Time Without Making An Ass Of Myself, I find myself often letting my mind wander and stray in all sorts of directions. Not so much that I’d walk straight into the path of an oncoming fountain. It’s not that bad.

"Text and walk at the same time, you should not."

 

Like so many things I see in the news, it made me stop and give pause. How many of us go through our lives fairly oblivious to everything? Texting, on our iPhones or iPads, listening to our favorite music? Dr. Temple Grandin talks about this phenomenon in her book Animals in Translation, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It is called “inattentional blindness.” A famous experiment was conducted, of which this is a variation:

I’ll also admit to not noticing the obvious in this one myself. We don’t expect to see it; therefore, our mind simply filters it out. With no natural predators in our midst, humans don’t need to be constantly vigilant the way animals in the wild do.

Or do we?

One of the tasks I’ve set for myself, as I’ve continued to explore my spiritual side, is the idea of mindfulness. This is a tenet of Christianity as well as Zen Buddhism, especially the latter. Live in the moment. Do not set your mind on the future or the past. It’s a cheesy maxim from a thousand office posters or embroidered pillows, but today is called “the present” because it is a gift.

I have a problem focusing on the present because of my autism spectrum diagnosis. Others may be diagnosed with AD/HD, dyslexia, or other disabilities. I’m of the impression that the spike in diagnoses we are currently seeing for these conditions are the result of a constant bombardment of sensory input. The mind simply cannot, nor is it designed to handle, all these inputs from the modern world.

What I have tried to do is really stop and focus once in a while. Do I feel the breeze blowing past my ears? Is that a wood fire I smell coming from the neighbors’ house? Maybe a dog is barking somewhere off in the distance? Often, just getting outside and away from the artificial stimuli of my mostly indoor existence is a kind of revelation. Meditation has also been a key ingredient in my becoming more mindful. Contrary to what many believe, meditation is not always sitting around thinking of nothing. It can be a deep form of prayer, a creative exercise, a celebration of life. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but the main idea behind it is to be mindful and to listen to the rhythms of your body and the thoughts going through your mind.

I don’t think Ms. Marrero should sue the mall. To me, she doesn’t have a case, especially considering she actually WORKED there. In honesty, I think her so-called accident is pretty funny, and it should serve as a wake-up call to all those who aren’t being even mindful enough to look where they’re going. (A personal variation I’ve seen on this theme is a kid who, while texting, walked straight into a streetlamp pole. I wish I’d have captured it on tape.)

Stop texting for a while and actually call a friend or loved one. Pet your cat or dog instead of watching bad TV shows. Cook a meal from scratch instead of ordering out. Play a board game with your kids, or read a favorite story together. Ask your higher power to give you wisdom and insight instead of money and sex. All are forms of meditation.

I don’t think we’re all meant to be like the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa or Archbishop Desmond Tutu. But we can begin to see the world around us more, pay more attention, and start seeing what’s really important. And then we will start noticing that the Force is with us…always.

Interrupt me, do not, when listening to Steely Dan I am!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on January 22, 2011.

2 Responses to “Three “D’oh!”s in a Fountain, or Mindfulness 101”

  1. I gotta admit, I didn’t see the obvious in that video as well. You’d think that’d be impossible to miss. Hm. Clearly I too need to be more mindful. 😛 I haven’t walked into a fountain or a streetlamp yet either though…

  2. I like that you’ve got a little mindweaver juju going on. The rubber band vid was cool. I failed. My eyes were already burning of sleep deprivation before I tried to count. By the way, I got the number wrong too.

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