Turn on the Light of Mindfulness

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.)

Share your thoughts in the comments.

revised from the archives

5 thoughts on “Turn on the Light of Mindfulness

  1. Lynn

    Poor squirrel! They do tend to be a bit of nuisance especially around bird houses, yet I could be more empathetic toward them! 🙂 Interesting how the perspective study showed we tend to blame others instead of their circumstances. I’ll definitely be watching my thoughts today, so I practice empathy instead of blame on a person who may just be having a bad day.

  2. Martha J Orlando

    As mindfulness is my word of the year, I found this to be so enlightening, Lisa. No, we can’t control the situations in which we find ourselves, but we can certainly make the best of things by being alert and aware.

  3. Jean Wise

    What a great analogy with your loss of electricity and this book. Love how you applied the lessons. And the quote: “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.” Ouch Ouch. so true and good to acknowledge this default mode of our brains so we can reframe it.

  4. Tea With Jennifer

    Great analogy Lisa, we’ve had our fair share of electricital black outs over the years, one lasted 7 days after a horrific storm! I actually burst into tears when it came back on, 7 days was just too much.
    blessings, Jennifer

  5. Michele Morin

    Whenever we lose electricity I go through the house flipping switches out of habit. Then when the power comes back on, I find lights blazing all over the place! (Speaking of mindless activity…)

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