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5449002019_c15cd9cc3a_b_editI have awoken to an America that I do not recognize.

The 2016 election shows that what I thought I knew about national politics is wrong and I feel humbled.

Nearly all of the expert analyses of the election turned out flawed including my own amateur efforts.

What is frustrating about the failure of professional and academic analyses of this election is that the methods used to project outcomes are the same methods used to explain the outcomes.

That makes it hard to trust any analysis as to why Trump and the GOP succeeded against expectations; it also makes it hard to trust analyses of what Trump is doing and where our country is going.

A source of error in the projections was that the pollsters and the media did not accurately represent the portion of the electorate who made the difference and that turns out to be half of the voters.

That omission is important to reflect upon because the nearly 60 million people who elected Donald Trump are misread by those of us who were caught unawares on election night.

Trump supporter and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel provides a clue about that misreading;

“I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media always is taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously, but not literally.” [1]

Thiel’s distinction makes all the difference in how we interpret one another across the political divide.

For instance, I suspect that many on the left suppose that Trump cannot practically deliver on promises that he made in the campaign and conclude that this inconsistency will disillusion his supporters and weaken his base.

That conclusion follows only if Trump supporters interpret his Duck-Rabbit_illusionpromises literally and I have come to believe that Trump voters construct his meaning not all literally, but symbolically.

If there are multiple ways to make alternate meanings out of the same words, we must strive to comprehend all of those meanings together.

Unless the people on the opposite sides of the political divide become visible and clear to one another the prospects for national unity will continue to dim.

In the political struggle that fractures America, most of us are boxing with shadows.

I do have one data point to rely on in my account of this election because in August I attended a Trump rally in Everett, WA.

I wanted to find out personally what attraction this unconventional candidate held for his followers.

I want to tell my progressive colleagues and readers that Tump supporters are not bad people; not deplorable.

I talked with a dozen rally attendees and observed hundreds and for the most part, I liked them as individuals.

The rally was thousands large and had a festive atmosphere with families, kids dancing and no physical violence that I witnessed.

The campaign rhetoric was jarring to my ear and I had difficulty referencing what people told me.

They all said that the economy is failing, the military is in decline, billionaires are incorruptible and that America’s core values have been undermined.

None of it looks that way to me, but I did not argue, I listened and listening may be the most important part of dialog.

In academia and on the left of center we have not been listening to half of the electorate and we paid the price for that insensibility on election night.

candle-335965_960_720Perceiving the need to listen to people whose ideas we reject lights a path to a way forward for those of us who value dialog and the exchange of ideas as a means of growth.

The opportunity is to step up to the challenge of creating conversations between people who are not hearing and seeing one another.

This conversation is possible because we all have so much in common.

This conversation is hard because we generally disbelieve what the other side sees as true.

This conversation is necessary because finding our common ground is the one hope that we have to transcend our growing national chasm of ideologies.

To Trump supporters reading this I want to say that those of us who emphasize justice, equity and individual rights are not bad or deplorable either.

We are operating with caricatures of one another, you and I, and it is to our mutual interest to understand how those false images come about and to what purpose.

You know as well as I that election victories are temporary and the political pendulum will swing back in time, so what matters to the good of our nation is how we manage the change together.

I genuinely want to understand what you think and what you trust and what kind of world you aspire to.

flag-american-heart_editWhen enough of us recognize the reflections of ourselves in the human beings on the other side, the bridge building will begin.

I pledge to work towards producing opportunities for political reconciliation and human communication across our community.

I hope that you, dear reader, will join that effort in your own way to make America work together again.

 

Sources
[1] Roller, E. Peter Thiel Wants You to Take Trump Seriously, but Not Too Seriously. November 1, 2016.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/opinion/campaign-stops/peter-thiel-wants-you-to-take-trump-seriously-but-not-too-seriously.html

Image Acknowledgements

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https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5298/5449002019_c15cd9cc3a_b.jpg

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Duck-Rabbit_illusion.jpg

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https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2014/05/02/12/41/candle-335965_960_720.jpg

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http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=85942&picture=flag-american-heart

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nc bc cc 10%Our national election occurs on Tuesday November 8 and I urge you to vote however your heart and mind lead you, but I also want to tell you who will be our next President and one significant reason why I believe that candidate will succeed.

The important point I want to demonstrate is far beyond a single election because the matter at issue is the future of American democracy.

In 2008 the Obama campaign produced an unprecedented combination of data analysis, social media and campaign outreach to win the Presidency.

The data analysis aspect used new techniques in what is commonly known as data-mining or big data analytics.

Both Democrats and Republicans have long kept databases of voters; you and I and every other eligible voter in the US is in these data-sets.

What Obama’s campaign innovated was a 100 item index that pulls from public and for-sale data sources such that every voter is categorized by education level, home ownership and value, permits and licenses, magazine subscriptions, charitable contributions and much more.General_election_polls_2016_Clinton_v_Trump

The campaign also buys data from companies such as Facebook to track which ads you click on and who your friends are.

The Democrat campaign knows more about you than you know about yourself in the sense that you may forget some of the details while their database, called “Catalyst,” does not.

The campaign technicians render all this data into a 1-5 scale that assigns probabilities to 2 behaviors for every voter: whether they will vote and who they will vote for.

What the campaign does with those ratings is the key to their electoral strategy because those individual profiles based in huge correlations of personal data are used to produce campaign tactics aimed specifically at you and voters like you; this tactic is called micro-targeting.

One way that micro-targeting is used was revealed when the Obama campaign recruited 2 million volunteers through Facebook and then provided each of them with instructions for door-to-door visits with specific individuals based on their ratings in Catalyst.

Another use of micro-targeting is to assign campaign ads to individual social media users. The political ads that you see on social media may well have been crafted uniquely for you, at least if they are from the Democrat campaigns.

Moreover the reactions of micro-targeted individuals are gathered and fed back to the database creating a dynamic loop that is capable of measuring large group responses based on tracking behaviors of individuals within the group.

After the 2008 election victory Obama directed the data analysts on his campaign to develop ways to use that technology for conducting White House policy efforts and called the resulting system “Legacy.”51i-UovOAYL._SY346_

This ultra-sophisticated use of data analysis to conduct a political campaign is studied in a fascinating book, Hacking the Electorate: How Campaigns Perceive Voters by Yale political scientist Eitan D. Hersh.

In addition to describing how political data-analysis and micro-targeting work, Hersh postulates that the sources of public data that campaigns draw from are likely to skew the data-set to preference some voter characteristics over others; for instance consider the data sources in which individuals are classified by race.

Why does any of this matter to you?

It matters because human beings have a peculiar relationship with our own thoughts in two ways.

The first is that it is hard for us to distinguish between our subjective feeling of certainty and the objective degree to which a claim about the world is certain.

For example, in this column I am claiming to know who will win the 2016 election.

In fact I cannot know that for certain because all sorts of events could occur to prevent that from happening, so I am really asserting a probability of an outcome based upon assumptions about the conditions.

LW268-MC-Escher-Hand-with-Reflecting-Sphere-1935Still, in my gut I feel totally certain about it despite being a skeptic about most things, and cannot convince my subjective sense to entertain more doubt.

The second peculiarity of human thought is while you and I know what we think and believe, we typically do not know where those thoughts and beliefs came from.

Try it yourself; consider some of the ideas (thoughts and beliefs) that you feel strongly about. Where did you get those ideas? Were you born with them? Were they taught to you? Did you inherit them? Did you discover them or make them up yourself?

If you are like most of us, then even the thoughts that you feel most certain about do not provide you with signs of their origins.

I am confident that you have reasons in favor of those ideas, but are those reasons actually the causes from which you formed the belief in the first place or are they premises that you developed to justify a belief that you already held?

Attend closely and I think that you will find that it is not easy to be sure about the workings of your own mind.

Why does this matter? Because there are interest groups who work hard to put ideas into your mind and once an idea is in your mind it is likely that you will experience it as certain and true, largely because it presents itself as your own idea.

To put it as clearly as I may: if I can get an idea into your mind and also get you to view it as your own idea, then I have succeeded at manipulating your mind.6914441342_605f947885_z

The manipulation of beliefs – the deliberate changing of people’s minds – is an ancient practice that we find today in advertisers, propagandists, magicians, preachers and teachers.

This mental manipulation is what the data-driven campaign is designed to do.

To be fair, politicians have sought to understand the public mind and put ideas into the minds of the people since at least ancient Greece.

Data-driven campaigning is not new, although the technological sophistication produces an unprecedented level of control over messaging.

That brings me to my prediction that Clinton will be elected President by a wide margin with the Democrats taking the Senate and making gains in the House.

That may not seem like a bold prediction to you because it has become common wisdom on the eve of the election, but I am basing my view on the uses by the Clinton campaign of whatever the Catalyst data-base has become.

One point to draw from this observation is that a candidate’s campaign foreshadows what their administration will be like.

Clinton’s campaign, like the Obama campaigns, are highly organized, disciplined and data-driven.

I view organization and discipline as positive attributes of an executive administration and they stand in stark contrast to the Trump campaign which spent more money on “Make America Great Again” hats than on data analysis.

However you evaluate these facts the reality of contemporary political dynamics calls for rigorous critical thinking about the messages that you receive and believe, if you care about your individual freedom as a thinker.

The future of the American political system is all about data and the more that you know about those processes, the better equipped you will be as a citizen and voter.

 

Image Acknowledgements

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http://apps.cytoscape.org/media/cytonca/screenshots/nc%20bc%20cc%2010%25.jpg

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https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Y37Z5OW

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http://www.mcescher.com/gallery/italian-period/hand-with-reflecting-sphere/

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/75279887@N05/6914441342

Images are found via CC Search for Creative Commons licensed content.

storytellingA recurring topic at Death Café Corvallis is the legacy.  This may be material inheritance such as money and property, it may be creative inheritance such as a beautiful garden, it may be moral inheritance such as the impact of one’s actions in the world, and it may be communicative inheritance such as the story of your life.

Some people bequeath the story of their lives to their successors by writing memoirs or an autobiography.  Not all of us have time or skill to write a book, but we all have the resources to write our own story.  Writing your story has powerful benefits for your loved ones when you are gone and for your self while you are present.

A valuable guide to writing your story in preparation for your death is Having the Last Say by Alan Gelb.  He provides a practical workflow for developing a single story that conveys meaning from your life.  Gelb describes his process in an interview with thanatologist Gail Rubin – The Consequences of Death.

An interesting element of Gelb’s book is the set of questions that he poses throughout in order to prompt reflection and creativity. Questions such as;

When has my mind and body ever felt in perfect harmony?

If I had to relive moments in my life, which one’s would they be?

If I had to imagine a place in the world that puts me at total peace, what is that place?

Just having these questions is valuable to anyone who thinks about death. They are certainly provocative of personal creativity for addressing a topic that some findmel_blanc_gravestone_505x278 daunting – the story of your own life.

Notably, Gelb emphasizes that the project of value in writing your story is not in order to create a summary or evaluation of your life.  Quite simply you are telling a story about your experience that has significance for you.  That is enough to convey rich meaning for others.  I propose that Gelb’s idea is worth an effort for everyone. Consider the following propositions (mine):

Proposition: we cannot understand what death is unless we understand what life is. 

Corollary: in order to effectively conceptualize our own death, we must accurately conceptualize our own life.

The beauty of Gelb’s approach is that any part of our life experience that has significance for us is sufficient for that conceptualization, in part anyway.

At the least your story will provide content for your survivors as they find need to speak about you and think about you.  At best you may find personal growth through meaning making about that most rare and precious topic – you.

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Image Acknowledgements

CC Search – https://creativecommons.org/

“It’s a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

orloj-1102369_960_720Time, of course, does not really change pace but our subjective experience of time does.

If time seems to be speeding up to you, it is because you are not getting as much done as you want to in the time that you have.

How you manage what you need to do determines whether time is your enemy or your friend.

The most powerful tool that I know of at OSU for managing your time is the academic coaching program available at the Academic Success Center in 102 Waldo Hall.

At no cost students may meet with an academic coach in order to organize tasks, priorities and schedule, then meet regularly to maintain progress.

Many time and task management systems are available on paper and online.

The Uncalendar from People Systems is a 53 week calendar book without pre-set dates so that you can start today with templates for recording objectives, tasks, priorities, resources, notes and much more.

I track my due dates and tasks on both a paper date book and online because entering twice forces me to double-check which catches errors.

Trello, my favorite online project-management application, works as a list-making tool with capabilities for check-lists, due dates, reminders, labeling, and sharing.

Cross-platform mobile apps include the richly featured MyLifeOrganized to the simpler Wanderlust and Any.do.

Important as it is to organize time and activity many people experience the frustration of consistently running up against deadlines; where does the time go?

Figuring out how you use your time is crucial to effective self-management and there are many time-use tracking applications, most of which are oriented toward business contexts but a 556656621_ba9e8c870f_zclever student could use any of these to produce an analysis of personal time and resource utilization.

Some cross-platform apps for desktop and mobile are Klok, RescueTime, ManicTime

For iOS there are Atracker, Eternity, Timely; Android users may look for Toggle, Yast and Timesheet.

Windows phone 8 supports ONTRACK, TimeSheet Tracker, and Time to Harvest.

Time trackers only work if you are consistent and honest with your time-logging, which if done for a month will give you the general patterns that allow for deliberate change; consciousness leads to control.

When you know what you need to do and how much time you have to do it, you may apply a powerful productivity technique called “Pomodoro.”

To use this technique you will need a simple timer with an alarm.

Here is how to apply Pomodoro:

1.Choose the task to be done

2. Set the timer to 25 minutes

3. Work on the task until the timer rings

4. Take a short 3 minute break

5. Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 twice more

6. Take a 15 minute stretch break

7. Start back at 1

At the end of this you have worked 2.5 hours plus 24 minutes break time, so it all took 3 hours – repeat the process or move on to another task.

ancient-1246694_960_720Several mobile and desktop applications help apply Pomodoro technique to different situations; look carefully at apps before committing to one as some are multi-featured and some are just timers.

Do Pomodoro every day and your productivity will increase.

Anxiety and the speed of subjective time are related and you can gain time by worrying less about it.

A 2015 study, “Mindfulness Meditation and the Experience of Time,” shows that practicing mindfulness leads to an overall perception of lengthening time.

As the study’s main author Sylvie Droit-Volet explains;

“Mindfulness training has two major goals. The first is to access a deep state of calm. The second is to focus attention and awareness on what is happening in one’s own body and mind as it happens, that is, in the present moment. Mindfulness therefore changes the relationship with time by focusing individuals’ attention on the present moment.” (P.89).

If you have time to worry and feel anxious, then you have time to practice mindfulness and there are numerous opportunities to do so.

Community colleges, Universities, recreation centers, and community health organizations offer workshops, classes and sessions focused on mindfulness.

Spiritually-oriented organizations such as Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Tibetan Meditation and others offer instruction.

Books and audio guides address mindfulness techniques.

The Great Courses offers The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being on video or audio along with other self-directed high-quality spiral-544400_960_720_trcourses.

Some educators have embraced mindfulness and meditation as teaching/learning strategies, generally called Contemplative Learning.

Oregon State University has a Contemplative Studies Program in which courses within the general curriculum are taught using mindfulness techniques.

You can take courses in writing, psychology, philosophy, religion, and natural resources management that use mindfulness techniques in the class.

These are not courses about mindfulness, rather they use mindfulness methods to teach academic subject matters.

In other words, you can practice mindfulness, learn a topic, and satisfy degree requirements all in one classNow that is an effective use of time.

All of the techniques mentioned above take some time to discover and do. Perhaps you feel that you simply don’t have time enough to bother.

Therein lies the puzzle, when you are running out of time it is a sign that it is time to compel yourself to walk.

“When in doubt, I find retracing my steps a wise place to begin.” J.K. Rowling, The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Image Acknowledgements

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdbaskin/7192766626

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/bogenfreund/556656621

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https://pixabay.com/en/spiral-words-thoughts-mindfulness-544400/

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