It was unexpected. No howling winds. No pelting rains. No booming thunder.
Just one single POP.
And then darkness.
Mindlessness is going through the motions without even thinking. If you feel like you’re drifting through your day mindlessly, try losing electricity.
Going from light to darkness is one way to shake you out of mindlessness and into mindfulness.
Here are 4 ways to help you be more mindful (without having to lose electricity) from Ellen Langer’s classic book Mindfulness.
1. CREATE NEW CATEGORIES
Children are naturals at reframing things—sticks become guns; blankets become hide-outs; Ken becomes Prince Charming.
But we adults sometimes lose this imaginative ability.
When the lights went out last week, I thought, This day is ruined. But to the contrary, the day became a new adventure of accomplishing meals and tasks in different ways. There’s almost always more than one way to get things accomplished.
2. WELCOME NEW INFORMATION
There’s always more to learn, more new information to let in.
I unconsciously flicked light switches again and again when I was without electricity. But eventually my brain caught on and stopped trying the old ways. I put fresh batteries in the flashlight and lit some candles instead.
3. CONSIDER OTHERS’ PERSPECTIVES
Langer says studies show we tend to blame circumstances, not ourselves, when we mess up. But when others make errors, we blame them, not their circumstances.
This faulty attitude can stunt our potential to make useful changes in ourselves, and prevent us from being empathetic toward others. As I stumbled around in the dark, I gained a new respect for those who live beautiful and meaningful lives with visual impairments.
4. VALUE THE PROCESS, NOT JUST THE OUTCOME
If I were to rank the productivity of my hours without electricity, it might have been low. But a day is as much about journey as destination. It’s not how polished the outcome is, but how we’re seeing and growing through the process.
And this day, being kicked into darkness helped turn on the light of mindfulness.
I later found out the electricity outage was caused by a squirrel blowing a transformer in the neighborhood. (Not a good day for the squirrel.)
revised from the archives
- On the Blog—April 2023
- Their Delight Is Precious Love