Naturally Becoming Mindful or Trying to be Mindful—Which Makes You Better Able to Focus Your Attention?
Patricia Glispin had the experience of naturally becoming more mindful as a result of her practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. She is the head women’s basketball coach at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and is one of the few coaches in the history of Division III women’s basketball to win over 500 games. Coach Glispin was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. However, the pressures of coaching for almost 35 years had taken its toll. In her interview, she said:
Until a year or so ago I was very stressed out, and worried about every little thing, like buses being late for games. I couldn’t even sit down during a game. I was up the entire game, pacing the sidelines. And as a result of the stress, I was really tired all the time.
Coach Glispin had tried different meditations, but she says they were difficult to do and didn’t change her stressed out condition. Finally, at the urging of a body worker she used, but very skeptical about getting results, she tried the Transcendental Meditation technique. For her the TM results were gradual, but highly effective. Coach was interviewed in May 2018, which was thirteen months after learning to meditate. She says:
I’m much, much calmer now. TM, once you get the hang of it, is just so gentle and relaxing. The other meditations were not easy. With TM, I’ve had huge benefits across the board—happier, healthier, much less stressed out, and I think gentler with people. Also, I’m much better able to focus on things. During the day I can stay on task much better and get a lot more done.
It’s interesting because I have also gone to some of these mindfulness clinics they have here. And trying to be mindful of what is going on or what you are doing is hard work. With TM it’s completely different. You really become focused on the task at hand and become naturally mindful of what’s important just as a consequence of being more relaxed. It’s a monumental difference.
The TM technique is said to make us naturally mindful. That means being mindful without losing spontaneity.
Patty Lee, MD, Professor of Medicine at the Duke University Medical Center, had a similar experience of becoming more focused or mindful as a result of her TM practice. She says:
After having practiced other types of meditation for years, TM has been transformative in my life as a critical care physician, researcher, mother/wife/daughter. I experienced unparalleled levels of focus, energy, and internal balance—regardless of the chaos around me. As I now lead an entire division of physicians through this CoV19 crisis, TM has been my anchor, and I am petitioning our entire health system to train all our healthcare providers in TM.
Does Mindfulness Make You More Mindful?
We may think trying to be mindful is the key to becoming more mindful, more in the moment, but another factor, being relaxed and more satisfied from within is the real key. It is easy to keep our attention on things that are satisfying. We may watch a good movie or listen to music for several hours without any effort and without the mind wandering. That is because we are more relaxed and the entertainment is satisfying. On the other hand, we would normally have difficulty paying attention to an algebra or accounting lecture because the subject matter is not so satisfying. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the TM organizations, pointed out that the mind wanders in search of satisfaction. But if the mind is settled our baseline level of inner satisfaction is high, then we can focus better, be more mindful, regardless of the subject matter, as Coach Glispin experienced.
Does practicing mindfulness increase our ability to focus our attention? An October 2017 article on mindfulness in Scientific American (available at https://www.scientificamerican.com) titled, Where’s the Proof that Mindfulness Meditation Works?, summarizes the mindfulness research. The article states that a 2014 review of 47 studies involving 3,500 participants “found essentially no evidence [from mindfulness] for benefits related to enhancing attention, curtailing substance abuse, aiding sleep, or controlling weight.”