The Very Useful Definition of Mindfulness

I just finished listening to Lex Fridman’s interview with John Vervaeke. I have been hearing about John and found his ideas intriguing. He is a thinker and a narrator that I feel connected to. I enjoy his talks, but they are always heavy, which makes listening to him “work.” His content is heavy and complex. It is demanding. It is not easy to stay focused, and therefore I have to be walking while listen to him. That’s my best way of staying focus. I stop often to take notes while listening to him on walks. It’s refreshing and tiring listening to him, but the insights are significant.

In this particular interview, he shared how he looked at mindfulness. I used to consider mindfulness a term that encompasses all meditative practices. He disagreed and posited that mindfulness should be an ecology of practices. These are practices that work on our ability to see more clearly, perceive more broadly, and then intuit more cohesively.

Specifically, he included three things in the ecology of mindfulness practices:

  1. Meditative practices
  2. Contemplative practices
  3. Mindful movements practices

The meditative practices are to inspect the “lens” we have on our experiences. These lens typically include emotions and sensations. Meditative practices work on our ability to notice these “lens,” and to work on seeing things without these lens, and then integrate this realization back to our day to day life, when we have the “lens” back on. In other words, we meditate to see how feelings arise and change our awareness. We meditate to accept them, label them, and experience how to be with these lens.

Contemplative practices work on our ability to look at ourselves from a 3rd person perspective, a wider perspective. These are practices to see the identities of us, and identities we assign to ourselves. For example, one of the contemplative practices is to ask, “what’s within our control and what’s outside of our control.” This question requires us to step away from the identity of us being the main antagonist of the situation, while at the same time investigate this antagonist’s circumstances and options. What’s in his control and what’s not?

Lastly, mindful movement practices work on using the rest of the machinery of our body to “gather information” about us and everything around us. The first two practices work on the brain, and the 3rd practice work on the entire body. These movement practices need to make us move consciously. Dance, Tai Chi, martial arts, are example of such practices. These practices have clear definition of form, movements, and effort. It also involves the brain, the lungs, and the body. It’s both thinking, perceiving, breathing, moving, feeling and not doing all of the above. It’s so woo woo I cannot not love it!

I am glad John provided such clear ideas of how to live more mindfully. I am eager to practice. I have large voids that I do not know how to fill, and so I am grateful there are ways to make this void useful – the urge to fill this void has become the single most tenacious source of motivation for me to try and live better. I suppose that’s the best way, the only way, to make use of this void (contemplative practice in action).


Here are my notes from the episode:

Lex and John 7Sep2022
https://pca.st/episode/6af11efc-d005-4294-8665-6c23361987e9

  • Sin is failing to love wisely
  • Bullshit is triggered salience without triggering reflective truth seeking
  • Meaning is being. Being is non being. It is participating.
  • An ecology of practices: opponent processing. Check and balances:
    Mindfulness is both meditative and contemplative practices. Meditation is stepping back and looking at, reflecting upon. Contemplation is looking through, deeply into. It’s both looking at the glasses and looking through the glasses. Framed awareness to improve self regulation and insights. It is both to break an inappropriate frame and make and realize a new frame (insights).
  • If you just do contemplation you can suffer from inflation and projective fantasy. If you just do meditation you could suffer from withdrawals, spiritual bypassing, avoiding reality. You need to cycle through both.
  • The integrated practices:
    • Meditative: Vipassana – the Len is the sensations and emotions. Labeling the process and the distractions.
    • Meta contemplative practice: stoicism. wake up from constantly assuming an identity and assigning an identity. It’s meta because it’s looking at ourselves from a bigger higher wider perspective. You have to do it step by step.
    • Mindful Movement. Flow induction – tai chi:
      • flow state – slightly beyond your abilities. Best experience and best performance. It needs clear information, immediate feedback/no time lag response between your actions and the environment, failure must matter. They report oneness because of the clarity of info and feedback. On going sense of discovery. It feels effortless because there is no effort in guessing and wondering. Realness. Participation of Grace. Super salient. Implicit learning. Learning outside of deliberate locus. You don’t know how you came up with that knowledge but you know you came up with that knowledge. This is intuition. Explicit learning removes all the adaptiveness of implicit learning.
  • What do we need to do explicitly to facilitate implicit learning? Create an environment that helps us distinct causations from correlations. How ? Experimental environments, where variables are not confounding, too variable, ambiguous, hypothesis can be falsified.
  • Depression is anti flow.

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