Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mindfulness & Awareness in Portlandia

By Patrick Groneman for

I finally had a chance to watch an episode of the much-hyped TV series Portlandia this week.  It pokes funs at Oregon's hipster mecca in a sweet-yet-universal-truth-telling sort of way.
I thought this scene was a pretty hilarious example of our tendency as humans to get sucked into the digital realm.
I also thought it was a great illustration of how "mindfulness" and "awareness" operate, as taught in the Buddhist tradition.  Sometimes in our culture these two words are used interchangeably, but in fact, they have two distinct meanings.
Buddhist Psychologist Mark Epstein defines mindfulness as " being aware of exactly what is happening in the mind and body as it is occurring.”  And awareness as more simply our "bare attention", which notices whatever is going on.
In the scene Fred's attention is jumping from his computer, to his cell phone, to his DVR, with no sense of continuity or intention in his action.   In my experience, this is just what it feels like to be lost in thought during meditation (or lost in anything else for that matter).

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