on November 16, 2003
This is a book rich in provoking thought. While I have read it more than once through cover to cover, I still keep it handy to read sections of again. It approaches mindfulness from a Western thought perspective and avoids the comparisons with Eastern thought. This is not a detriment. It helps to focus the material. It is also the source of much of the ongoing playing with ideas that I still find with this book. By now, you may have realized that Ellen has not presented us with a silver bullet. But she does provide much insight in the relationship between the physical and the mental. The third party view or that of an outsider coming into a group, are both inherently examples of mindfulness. Without pre-set notions, anything is possible. Read and enjoy!
on August 5, 2003
Ellen Langer's mind first reached my ears at an international conference on thinking at MIT, 1995. One year later (inspired by her talk and my reading of her breakthrough book), I created the developing mindful leaerners model: an ecological approach for the 21st century. This became a paper for the World Future Society conference in Washington D.C. For the last seven years, my work has been to connect mindfulness, vision, framework, and content into a whole for 21st century schools. Recently, the topic of Langer's mindfulness has become a centerfold for my dissertation in educational psychology. In brief, the question is to what degree are teachers mindful of their teaching? This question creates a problem: what instrument measures mindfulness? In the case of Langer's two books, she mostly infers mindfulness from her studies rather than spell out the specific instrument she used. That does not keep her book from offering timeless insights: mindful people welcome new ideas, create new categories, hold multiple perspectives, see life as a process, reframe situations to see the positive. Such qualities tell us what we want to become as human beings creating a more mindful world.
on November 4, 2003
Langer is a good writer and her research on the subjectis very volumnous. However, the book suffers from a number of irrelavant and misplaced examples that sometimes do not at all support her points. What Lange failed to do, in my opinion, is integrate the concept of mindfulness into the larger trends in Social Psychology. The most glaring ommision is the fact that mindlessness, as Langer calls it, is derived from the naturally limited human attention abilities, has many benefits that outweight the limitations. Langer's mindlessness is better known as automaticity, and while using automatic patterns of behavior and judgment has its pitfalls, it is also responsible for making our lives run smoothly. In great majority of situations, you would much rather act automatically according to preset patterns instead of having to actively consider every option every single time.
What langer succeeds in accomplishing is making her readers aware of the way our mind works (which is always intuitive) so that they can be mindfull of our natural limitations in the instances when it could help them avert negative effects on their quality of life.
Note: This review is of the 25th Anniversary Edition.
No doubt because this is a second edition, of a book published 25 years ago, some may incorrectly assume that much (if not most) of its insights and counsel are dated, hence obsolete. No so. In fact, in my opinion, the material is more relevant now than ever before as Ellen Langer shares her thoughts about how ever-alert mindfulness can help to facilitate, indeed expedite personal growth and professional development.
As she observes, "A vast literature about mindfulness has filled scholarly and popular journals since I began this work. Much of the recent research [as of autumn 2014 when she wrote the Preface from which this passage is excerpted] is actually on various forms of meditation, and the focus is on preventing stress and negative emotions. Meditation is a [begin italics] tool [end italics] to achieve post meditative mindfulness. regardless of how we get there, either through meditation or more directly by paying attention to novelty and questioning assumptions, to be mindful is to be in the present, noticing all the wonders that we didn't realize were right in font of us."
These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Langer's coverage:
o Trapped by [Self-Limiting] Categories (Pages 12-14)
o Acting from a Single Perspective (18-19)
o The Mindless "Expert" (22-24)
o Entropy and Linear Time as Limiting Mindsets (32-35)
o The Power of Context (37-43)
o A Narrow Self-Image (46-50)
o Learned Helplessness (55-56)
o Creating New Categories (65-68)
o Control over Context: The Birdman of Alcatraz (74-76)
o Mindfulness East and West (79-80)
o Outgrowing Mindsets (89-92)
o Growth in Age (94-99)
o Mindfulness and Intuition (114-117)
o Creativity and Conditional Learning (117-127)
o Innovation (136-140)
o The Power of Uncertainty for Managers (140-146)
o Mindfully Different (158-162)
o Disabling Mindsets (162-164)
o Dualism: A Dangerous Mindset (171-174)
o Addiction in Context (180-185)
Long ago, I realized that most limits are self-imposed. (That was perhaps when Pogo the Possum announced, "We have met the enemy and he is us!") Naively, I concluded, if I set the limits, then I could change them. And I did. I set specific goals that, at that time and in those circumstances, must have seemed audacious.
While I read this book when it was first published and then again recently when I re-read it, I had the feeling that it was written specifically for me, that Langer was doing all she could to help me understand what mindfulness is...and isn't. Also, helping me to be much more aware on each situation in which I find myself and, especially, to be much more attentive to others.
Now can the information, insights, and counsel that Ellen Langer shares be of greatest value? That will vary from one reader to the next. However, my own experience may be of interest. I have found mindfulness most helpful in situations that involve (a) answering an especially important question, (b) solving an especially serious problem, and (c) resisting the appeal of what James O'Toole so aptly characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."
One final point that I think is critically important: Mindfulness is not a technique or even a state of mind; rather, it is a way of life. Nourishing it is - or at least should be -- a never-ending process. Here's an appropriate metaphor: mindfulness is a personal journey of discovery that is sustained by curiosity, humility, awareness, and (yes) appreciation.
on September 13, 1999
I purchased this wonderful book back in the 80's! I had quite a few bad habits, and really wanted to change not only my life but my attitude.Mindfulness not only enabled me to quit smoking without suffering any withdrawals, but woke me up from the sleep ofcomplacency. I began to look at the world differently. I learned to let go of destructive ideas.I learned how to slow down, and to be grateful for the moment.Over the years I have given this book to anyone seeking advice. Miss Langer writes in an easy to understand style as if she is your best friend who has just discovered some amazing insights that she is going to share with just you.I have not re-read this little gem in years, but can still remember certain paragraphs and sentences that were so true then as they are now. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking to put the zest & joy of living back in their life.Even those that are truly happy will find this book riveting & a fun read.
on January 10, 2000
This book is still selling well after ten years because Langer is a first-rate researcher who can write. And not only that, the subject she chose to study is extremely valuable and important.
The book is basically about mindLESSness: What causes it, what we can do about it, and what difference it makes. If you would like to be more creative in your work, if you would like to be more alive and awake, if you would like to stay mentally young for your entire life, read this book. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I'm an expert on what is effective and what is not. Ellen Langer's work is effective and extremely important, both for you personally and for society at large. I highly recommend this book.