Mindful or Mind Full

I find it quite interesting, while crossing into other areas of study, you run across terms that are the same but hold vastly differing meanings.

Take mindfulness for example. In the world of counseling, being mindful is being purposefully and actively aware of your sensory experiences in the moment without judgment. There are many wonderful exercises and techniques to help ground you in the moment, help slow down your thoughts, and bring your attention and focus to being fully present in the moment. It is a calming thing. It is quite helpful for those who struggle with anxiety or racing thoughts. Being mindful can help you “get out of your head”.

However, in the world of education, being mindful is something a bit different. Ellen Langer, in her book The Power of Mindful Learning, defines mindfulness as being open to new information, new categories being continually created, and awareness of multiple perspectives. She continues to discuss how we can learn “the basics” to various things and practice them so much that the skills become “overlearned”. This causes a risk to miss the nuances of the individual components and lose out on the ability for fine tuning adjustments.

Maybe, these widely different terms are more closely related than I initially thought upon a first read. Possibly, through the magic of amalgamation, these separate things can converge into one interesting thing.

Perhaps that is just it. We miss out on things we really can learn when we are not focused on the moment or are tuned-out by the repetition of muscle memory tasks. Being open, purposeful, and actively aware in a learning environment may help us suspend our previous thoughts and ideas, either as teachers or as students, and gain awareness to new categories and multiple perspectives. If we “get out of our heads” regarding teaching, learning, and pedagogy, then more creative, organic, and interesting methods of learning can come into our awareness.

Now, with a mind full of thoughts on how to look at education and learning with a mindful approach, I am excited to see what new ideas and perspectives pop up. I hope that quieting and stilling my mind can open me up to seeing and understanding more in the world of education, as well as counseling. And in true counselor form, I will practice my mindfulness and continue to allow my thoughts to roll gently past, like fluffy white clouds against a bright blue sky. I will suspend judgment and notice what all happens.


9 thoughts on “Mindful or Mind Full

  1. Thanks for your post! I like your thoughts on the words “mindful” and “mind full”. I think we can look at it in two ways. One is that when we learn, we should focus on the subject and think about it in various aspects instead of just “looking at it” or just “listening to it”. What is it about? Does it make sense under any context? The other is that we should be careful not to be too concentrated to lose broad picture of the information. Not to take it all in, but leave some space for creativity and flexibility.


  2. Nice post. We are indeed really entangled in our muscle memory… To the extent that we do sometimes miss details, from how comfortable we are with something… Or sometimes we know how to do something so well under certain conditions, because we’ve memorized it. Once these conditions change, we have to take a few steps back, and think deeply how the original action was being done, to achieve the variation. I appreciate your writing style. Pretty nice 🙂


    1. Thank you Sarah! It is nice to hear you appreciate my writing style. I hope that my genuine self can be expressed in the style of my blogging. And yes, muscle memory can be SO strong…for example, I’ve almost walked into the wrong classroom this evening because I was chatting with a friend. Muscle memory kicked in because of my lack of being mindful, the room next door was for my class last semester! LOL….funny thing is my friend was doing it too, as we shared that class last semester!


  3. Karen your blog heading made me think of this cartoon: http://www.vopus.org/en/gnosis/lets-smile/mindful-or-mind-full.html and how appropriate your post is for that as well. We get so caught up and mind full versus mindful. After having read your post and about mindful teaching and learning I really do believe that falling back to comfortable patterns is really not the way contemporary pedagogy can progress….after all change is the only constant in life!


  4. Clever title! Just a question in response to your description/list of benefits of mindfulness in the learning environment: do you think mindfulness promotes discovery? Even in the lab/field/research setting, we can get caught in that mindless mode propelled by muscle memory. I think it’s important to remember that mindfulness can encourage discovery, even during the most monotonous of tasks.


    1. Yes Jake, I do think mindfulness can promote discovery. When we slow down our thoughts, it is amazing sometimes to see how we can view things differently, or be less emotionally attached to things to allow a different perspective. I think we do have to be extra careful when doing the monotonous tasks!


  5. I agree with Jake, great title! To be honest because of your title thats why I decided to read your blog. I actually felt identify with what you said in the first paragraph because that was the main reason why I decided to read the book Mindfulness Solutions. Im the kind of person that never stop thinking even when Im trying to sleep. I knew that I had to find a way to tell this taughts “get out of my head” and I find that way by being mindful. Im not saying that Im completely mindful but at least Im on the right path to accomplish it.


    1. Thanks for the comment! You should check out the link that jyots21 posted in her comment listed above. Freddie, it can be quite difficult to slow the thoughts and clear our mind, especially before bed. I’m happy to hear you’ve looked into practicing mindfulness! It can be super helpful, but it does take practice. Keep at it and you will be able to ease into those mindful exercise at will.


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