Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Mindfulness Game

Since various nervous habits have been edging up throughout the school
year I vowed to play what I’ve come to think of as “The Mindfulness
Game” again this summer. As I wrote about in ”Making A Game of
), this had been the most effective technique I’d ever tried,
successfully eliminating them by the end of the summer. Just as Jane
McGonigal wrote in “Reality is Broken, How Games    “ playing my daily
life as a game made me pay closer attention to everything I did. When
I spilled some cranberry juice while pouring it in a glass, I lost
three points for a minor careless mistake. But it’s amusing to look at
it this way with pleasure we always get when we pay attention.
Conscious attention develops my prefrontal cortex and strengthens my
capacity to direct attention. The pleasure is the dopamine, the reward
demonstrating what evolution encourages. It’s a way of increasing
involvement in life, and as happiness experts say, involvement is
central to joy in being.
In my own game I’ve revised my point list, adjusting all the behaviors
I want to encourage and breaking them into more specific actions.
Every time I smile at someone I get a point. A friendly exchange with
someone in person is three. I lose a point for every instance of any
of my nervous behaviors. The same for each bit of excess. Anger,
irritation and impatience lose points according to how long and how

Mindfulness makes life exciting. Once you notice what you’re doing,
you direct attention and focus on actual experience. When you’re fully
in life, it’s natural to do everything the very best you can, to feel
the edges of capability being stretched. Whether it’s paying attention
to someone’s story in a waiting room, or pursuing personally chosen
work, full involvement gives back in new knowledge and good brain
chemistry. The brain grows with all lived experience. If we’re not
paying attention, it just slides by unnoticed. Most of the advice in
the I Ching revolves around cultivating character, that the quality of
a person grows from the parts that get attention. “The Mindfulness
Game” is a way to use the mindfulness natural to games to gain more
control over attention in daily life. Even better, it’s a way to
define what you care about, what you want to encourage and what should
be penalized. Making a point list is a revelation. When a friend
wondered why I didn’t give points for doing email, I didn’t realize at
the time that email itself was the arena for many ways to earn points
or lose them, a small or large nice act is often by email. The
business communications I tend to avoid have high point values.
This summer I’ve been graphing my daily scores to see if there are any
patterns I could learn from and to see how I’m doing over all. Though
it offers a smile’s worth of pleasure when I do well, the enjoyment is
in the playing and giving the ordinary a dose of game consciousness.

1 comment:

B. said...

Susan, thank you for reminding me why/how mindfulness can feel so good!