Want to be happy? Slow down

I enjoyed this read.


In 1972, Matthieu Ricard had a promising career in biochemistry, trying to figure out the secrets of E. coli bacteria. A chance encounter with Buddhism led to an about turn, and Ricard has spent the past 40+ years living in the Himalayas, studying mindfulness and happiness. In this free-wheeling discussion at TED Global in October 2014, Ricard talked with journalist and writer Pico Iyer about some of the things they’ve learned over the years, not least the importance of being conscious about mental health and how to spend time meaningfully. An edited version of the conversation, moderated by TED Radio Hour host Guy Raz, follows. First, Pico Iyer on how he became taken with the idea of staying still:

Guy Raz (left), Pico Iyer (center), and Matthieu Ricard (right) discuss mindfulness and the importance of being still at TED Global 2014. Photo by Duncan Davidson/TED. Guy Raz (left), Pico Iyer (center), and Matthieu Ricard (right) discuss mindfulness and the importance of being still at TED Global 2014. Photo by Duncan Davidson/TED.

Pico Iyer: When I was in my twenties, I had this wonderful…

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Mindfulness in the Independent School Advisory Program

In the 2012-2013 school year, The Kinkaid School revamped its advisory program. The following post contains the Mindfulness activity that I developed for 11th grade advisors to use over a two-period time frame.

Recently (February, 2104), Time Magazine featured the cover story, “The Mindful Revolution.”

The Mindful Revolution Cover Image

If you did not see or buy the issue on the stands, that’s okay: here’s a PDF of it for you (if you can’t access it, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to find another one) — PDF of Time Magazine.

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By now, there are very few Americans who have NOT heard the term mindfulness being tossed around like a whiffle ball. But few people have a sense of what this term means — for good reason: it means different things to different people.

Here is a working definition for the general Western audience, from a website called MindfulSchools.org.

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As a media darling, the catchphrase “mindfulness” relates to another contemporary catchphrase — “Emotional Intelligence.” Both imply a state of psychological equanimity that results in more inner and outer peace. In short, the mindful person or the emotionally intelligent person proceeds through life experiences with a deeper level of awareness about what is going on in any given moment, and this deeper awareness naturally provides him or her with more options for how to behave and respond in any situation, no matter the level of intensity.

Whereas the term “Emotional Intelligence” derives from Western psychology, the term “Mindfulness” is traditionally linked with the Eastern practice of Meditation. As a meditative practice, mindfulness can refer to traditional “sitting” meditation — where one focuses on an object, such as the breath or a mantra (like “Om”) — or it can mean bringing one’s full awareness to any given activity; for example, one can walk mindfully or eat mindfully. (Update — I have included a script for a fun “eating” meditation — the Raisin Eating Meditation — in the activities section. The advisor could read the script while each student follows along, eating a single raisin. One small box of raisins should be enough for every student to have one raisin.)

As mindfulness is linked to the Eastern tradition of Buddhism, mindfulness practitioners usually eschew attaching a goal to their practice; that is, they don’t meditate so that they can be more peaceful, or better learners. Nevertheless, the practice of meditating may lead to more personal peace and more ease in learning.  As Jon Kabat-Zinn says in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are, “Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.”

The best way to understand what it means to be mindful is to practice being mindful. So here are a few links to some different types of basic mindfulness activities. It’s important to note that it’s through the regular practice of being mindful that we grow or develop our capacity for more peacefulness and psychological equanimity.


1) Here is a basic exercise — presented by Jon Kabat-Zinn at Google — of bringing mindfulness to the breath. (12 minutes)

Note that in this video, around minute 4, Kabat-Zinn stops talking and breathes with the audience for 2 minutes. Then around minute 6, he begins again to talk about what goes on during meditation.  I suggest preparing students for this silence in the middle of the video, and I would encourage them to close their eyes at this point and try what Kabat-Zinn is suggesting.

2) Here is a very short, animated introduction for how to bring mindfulness to the breath for a minute, used by Howard Rheingold in his Stanford course on Participatory Media Literacy:

Meditation in a Minute by Marty Boronson (5 minutes)


3) Here is an audio exercise for bringing mindfulness to the breath (around 7:30 mins)

Audio Guide: Meditation on the Breath

from Mindful Schools


4) Raisin Eating Script — from West Virginia University. For this exercise, the advisor leads students through the action of eating a raisin mindfully. One small box of raisins should provide enough for an advisory. This exercise should take about 7 to 10 minutes, but it could be shortened or elongated, depending on the time-frame. It should be done fairly slowly, in any case.

(featured image from Crazy Frankenstein)