The Zombie epidemic

You know the experience of mindlessness: you arrive at your destination, with a sudden flash that you simply don’t recall the drive. Or you walk into a room in your home and come up blank on your purpose. Or my personal Achilles’ heel: you are cooking dinner and suddenly realize you’ve polished off half a box of crackers. Multi-tasking, that supposed skill essential to accomplish ALL, feeds right in to mindlessness.

The autopilot mindset that is mindlessness is rampant. Cultural forces (from ever-present technology that fosters work addiction to sleep deprivation) threaten to suck out our brains like so many zombies. You know this is true when the comic strip Doonesbury devotes a whole week to the topic, as it did January 31 through February 4. (Enjoy it by clicking here.)

Why is this a problem? Extra calories and pounds, accident potential, and the frustration of standing in a room wondering what you were going to do next aside, so what? Why not drift through life, oblivious?

The opposite of mindlessness is mindfulness. Mindfulness connotes awareness, attention, and remembering. Implicit in healthy mindfulness is an attitude of acceptance and lack of judgment. It is popularly talked about as ‘being in the now’ or ‘living in the moment.’ Mindfulness directly translates into what Oprah calls “living your best life” or Gretchen Rubin, in The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, calls “living the right life.”

Mindfulness enables us to:

  • see and accept what is
  • be less self-obsessed
  • experience the richness of life in each moment
  • act more purposely to get what we want
  • smooth interactions with others

Mindfulness makes us less likely to drift through life at the whim of random forces. With mindfulness, we can fully live our lives, the master rather than the servant; the driver, not the driven.

Mindfulness, while seemingly not innate given cultural pressures, isn’t hard. It doesn’t take much time–but it does take practice to develop the skill. In the words of John Teasdale, founder of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: “mindfulness isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is to remember to be mindful.” Your grandmother was talking about mindfulness when she said “stop and smell the roses.”

To develop this skill, just truly notice. Check in with your five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing. Where are you? What is your body doing? What are you feeling? What are your thoughts? If you sense your sixth sense, trust that intuition as well. Let these perceptions register–remember that just 20 or 30 seconds at a time can enable your brain to develop this skill.

Here’s the hard part: offer yourself acceptance, not judgment about where you are, what you are feeling in each moment. Speak to yourself as nicely as you would a loved one. Acknowledge that we are always doing the best that we can do. Embrace your humanity. It’s just what is. Take a deep breath and move forward with change, if needed, ever mindful of controlling what you can and letting go of the rest.

Best way I know to forestall the Zombie apocalypse.

4 thoughts on “The Zombie epidemic

  1. Vivienne McNeny says:

    Boy are you ever spot on today Ann! Nothing to do with age either, I have always “zoned” out while travelling, not necessarily driving because I lived in train run London for all my life until I came here, I think I’m present and paying attention until I “wake up”. This dates back to college days…yikes. Is it the monotony, that endless monotony, of doing the same thing over and over again?
    And what’s with the crackers while cooking, try 1/2 a bottle of wine gone in, snap, the blink of an eye!
    Can one live in the moment when it’s a crazy day?
    Some moments perhaps, but living in every moment? That would slow us down…oops, that’s the purpose isn’t it?

  2. Francescaroo says:

    Gosh, this really made me think (and laugh: Zombie Apocalypse)! What am I missing by always being on the Blackberry? I read this: the other day and I really thought hard about how I can be mindful in my use of social media. I love that you took it to the next level and made it about all parts of our lives. It seems like whenever I read something that really resonates with me, it’s immediately followed up by something else related that really drives whatever point home, as though the universe is smacking me across the head with it! Thanks for being the smack.

  3. Ann Dunnewold says:

    I love the Tricycle post! Thanks for sharing it.

    There is such a tendency to “keep up” and an illusion that we will miss out on some important thing by failing to keep up. With the end result that we lose something in the moment. I remind myself with Post-it notes: be here NOW>

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