R. Ann Parris on Mentality Check: Mindfulness


Mentality Check: Mindfulness by R. Ann Parris

Fear not: I’m not about to go woowoo-ology on us or attempt to infect others with my eco-freak leanings.

Mindfulness isn’t just “paying mind” to something, or being attuned to what’s around us. Mindfulness absolutely is situational awareness, but it’s the flip side of the coin from being poised to act.

The key attribute of mindfulness is the attitude we take with our observations and thoughts. Foremost is that we accept those thoughts and observations, withholding judgement. We relax and are comfortable enough to let them play out.

The importance for preppers is what comes of that mindfulness. See, by repressing our biases and negative judgements, we’re able to come up with this really incredible thing called “original ideas”.

Originality and creativity are key in finding novel and quality solutions.

By practicing mindfulness — keeping a kind, open, accepting attitude toward the stimuli around us and our own thoughts — we avoid the mental ruts that can develop. It’s basically the opposite of the old adage “if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

It’s human nature to draw on things from our experience. Each time, we home in more and more from within our past history. After spending so much time in that zone of “this works”, we stay there. That zone narrows as we go, pinpointing to a cone. Instinctively, because it’s what we know — that hammer — we seek solutions from within that narrowing zone.

Our solutions start looking a lot alike, and we trend more toward modifying past or existing solutions to fit a need rather than generating something entirely different.

Almost nothing in life benefits from staying in or drawing from a single slice of a range.

For health, we “eat the rainbow” to make sure we’re getting all the vitamins and minerals we need. When we set up security, we arrange it to cover all 360-degrees. Cross training gets used by everyone who depends on their bodies, from runway models to Olympic athletes to Radio Recon Marines.

There are direct links between mindfulness and the range of unique, novel solutions we produce, whether we’re designing or fixing, planning or reacting.

The positive effects of stepping away from the usual and truly innovating is so powerful, the ways we can increase the potential of those creative ideas has been increasingly studied, even in incredibly linear fields like engineering — including mindfulness. (Here’s a recent one: https://hbr.org/2019/01/how-mindfulness-can-help-engineers-solve-problems.)

Like any other muscle, the brain needs to be exercised.

In this case, our “cross training” is making an effort to be open-minded and accepting. It’s not about the lovey-dovey type of acceptance (although…). It’s about preventing automatic rejection of ideas, whether they’re self-generated or provided by others.

Instead, we acknowledge them.

Simply by allowing for the existence of ideas we would normally shield away or discard before they even firmly germinate, we become open to less-conventional methods and potentials. We also start generating them ourselves, working from a full range rather than our habitual zone.

One of the easiest ways to pull it off for preppers is to play along with the “what if” disaster/survival scenarios we’re presented.

We’re not going to act on them. “Playing along” is not intended to change our minds.

All it is, is an exercise. No different than running in the surf or snow to prepare ankles for slippery rocks and loose garden soils, building cardo with rowers or stair climbers, and kitchen-chair workouts that keep us ready to hoist hay bales.

(We’re going to weigh feasibility and practicality. We might even leave constructive criticism/feedback. But only after we’ve exercised our brain muscle by controlling immediate reactive judgements and used our imagination.)

We work through the “what if” scenario as it’s presented, as opposed to immediately rejecting the idea and poking holes in that idea because we don’t believe a particular scenario would ever occur.

Forcing our brains down different paths than they usually take helps break them out of their ruts.
As we go along, our minds become more and more comfortable accepting novelty, and they’ll start generating fresh concepts of their own when we have a goal to accomplish.

That capacity for designing original and novel solutions has particular benefits for preppers:
If we face a disruption in resources or something unexpected occurs, the ability to adapt can very well save our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

Training our minds to become flexible and creative so we can develop fresh ways to accomplish any task, without “usual” limitations, is no different than the time we spend honing aim. It just doesn’t get talked about as much.