Comments added by Tony Ayaz, Business Trainer, to a recent LinkedIn article* deserve a post in themselves, not only for the important points he raised, but also as reminder of the mindfulness skill he calls “read-listening.”
Rather than speed-reading, skimming through articles for key phrases and/or surfing in search of attack points, he advocates a thoughtful reading between-the-lines. What does the author, deeper than words, really mean?
On first reading of the original comment, out of all that was written, alas, I focused only a single part, overlooking the rest. Out of context, I answered only the final paragraph. He wrote:
I think we expect too much from our brain, we have a choice, we either slow down our pace or keep going till we drop off and no retirement, except to retire in a grave, I live to work.
I responded: If you live to work, I sincerely hope it’s because you love your work and find enjoyment/ fulfillment in what you do.
But that didn’t do his comment-as-a-whole justice. I’d failed to “read-listen” to his words. He corrected me:
Patricia, I have never worked in my life, it has always been an employment and/or running a business and now teaching at uni . . . I have always found what they call as work as learning, teaching is just imparting what I learnt myself and from others like you too. I just prioritise my listed routines so my brain is kept in check, while I observe what is around me from outside my body (have you tried that, it guides your heart and mind together in sync!).
In rethinking his read-listen attitude, I connected it with lessons learned from ethnology research interviews. Here’s the description of how it works from RS:
Simply put, the researcher goes into the “field” and gets to know the people. Either formally or informally, she gathers information about the system from different insiders’ points of view and puts it together to form an overview. From this, the researcher can draw conclusions and, when appropriate, make recommendations regarding change options.
At that time, I found that all the skills previously acquired along the way served me well as an ethnology researcher. It was a living example of a favorite maxim, “Nothing is ever wasted.”
From youthful musician years, I gained listening and technical keyboard skills. Playing the piano eventually translated into typing at computers. This in turn found other applications. For example, when I paid the rent by working as a legal secretary, plugged into a Dictaphone, I transcribed dictated words faster than a speeding bullet.
All this, in turn, came in useful as a researcher. With permission, before beginning an interview, I set up a tape recorder. That way, rather than scramble to take sketchy notes during an interview, I could give the subject my full attention. I was free to observe body language, maintain direct eye contact, give non-verbal as well as verbal cues and gently keep the conversation on track.
But what a shock, when I later transcribed, word-for-word, what had been spoken! Of all that was said, I remembered only a small part. I thought I was listening carefully. But much went over my head. And of what I did hear, I often remembered it inaccurately. Only re-listening and quoting directly from transcripts allowed me to accurately report the information collected.
From this experience, I learned that, when we’re able to slow down and listen really carefully, we find out how much is missed during the rapid-fire pace of everyday communications, be it conversation or reading.
When Tony read-listens, he’s slowing down the pace, much as I should have done in reading his comments.
Read-listening is a form of practicing mindfulness, which is exactly to the point of the article in question. It compared full-spectrum awareness (repackaged in contemporary language as mindfulness) to the empirical research findings of Nobel prize winner, Daniel Kahneman.
As Tony corrected me, in his own way, he practices what might be called “meditation-in-action.” I observe what is around me from outside my body (have you tried that, it guides your heart and mind together in sync!).
Other of his comments raise thoughtful concerns. I missed their full implications on the first go round, and definitely must slow down to read-listen better in the future: I do believe no one understands the brain, it is like finding the black hole or looking for GOD particle. And, I believe it is not only outside the research it is outside the human capability and will always remain a work in progress or humans will become the creator.
These are exquisitely important questions.
But now, an A-ah! Here’s another relevant Tony-clue: To fast and slow decision making of the mind S1 & 2 could simply be linked to time and stage of life and the environment one lives in.
Historically, changes have been observed to occur in repeating patterns on every scale of magnitude. That is to say, the seasons of one’s personal life are writ large on the pages of human history. Just as, on a personal scale, the applications of listening and keyboarding shifted from music to law firms and then to ethnology research, weaving a pattern of unforeseen but consistent adaptations, so also meditation sciences shift. They remain essentially the same, but at the same time are continuously renewed to suit immediate circumstances.
No matter how often things change, nothing of real value is lost. Not possible.
By repackaging ancient sciences as Mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn has adapted the timeless essence of meditative teachings, making them suitable to the pace and aptitude of today’s fractured and fracturing world.
Earlier I described therapists as agents of positive change. Now I would add, so also are thoughtful business trainers. By adopting the language of empirical research science, which has arguably reconstituted yin and yang in the contemporary terms of S1 and S2, they too are helping the next generation of decision-makers to slow down, become more self-aware and thus – one can only hope – improve the outcomes of the decision-making process.