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  • People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. So says a study that used an iPhone Web app to gather 250,000 data points on subjects’ thoughts, feelings, and actions as they went about their lives.

    To track this behavior, Killingsworth developed an iPhone app that contacted 2,250 volunteers at random intervals to ask how happy they were, what they were currently doing, and whether they were thinking about their current activity or about something else that was pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant.

    “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Killingsworth and Gilbert write. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
    Unlike other animals, humans spend a lot of time thinking about what isn’t going on around them: contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or may never happen at all. Indeed, mind-wandering appears to be the human brain’s default mode of operation.

    ~ Harvard Gazette, 11/11/10

    It looks like mindfulness is not about to take root across the land. At least not among iPhone users.

    I don't own a smartphone. I haven't felt the need for one, and I have seen how distracted their users can be. Disconnected from the planet at the same time they are plugged into something else that just happened somewhere else, attempting to be in too many places at once.

    I have plenty of trouble with the here and now without the siren song of the there and then. As much as I want to heed the advice of Ram Dass,

    Be here now

    I find it excruciatingly hard. It would probably help if I started meditating again, I know. But right here, right now, I am sitting at my desk writing. I've just looked up some sources, and am getting on with composing this story, which I first started thinking about two days ago. When I was thinking of writing something, I wasn't being there then. Now that I'm writing it, I guess I am in the moment as much as I can be and not be just sitting still with eyes closed, chanting my mantra.

    It helps that my computer is not wired to alert me with blinks and blips when email arrives, Facebook updates or news events are broadcast. But there are people coming in and out of the room, and the kitties sometimes chase about behind me. That's OK. I put up with it because they're family, and I really don't mind such interruptions, at least not every so often.

    Anyway, it's all part of being here now. Good mindfulness training. Reminds me that my thoughts aren't the most important part of my life. And if that's true, they surely aren't the most important part of your life either.

    So, if you haven't done so already, stop reading this now. Sleep your screen, turn around, and check out what's going down around you. Hopefully that doesn't include a TV across the room. Sit for a moment. Notice your breath rising and falling. Watch yourself get up and walk into the kitchen. Observe how you approach the refrigerator, open the freezer door and reach for the container of ice cream.

    Go ahead, have some ice cream. Be one with the ice cream.

    Keep it up, You're doing great.

    @image: Cover of Be Here Now by Ram Dass, Lama Foundation, 1971, a book that has been in continuous publication for 42 years.
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