Google_Trends_-_Web_Search_interest__mindfulness_-_Worldwide__2004_-_presentTalk about doing things before they were cool.  Mindfulness is a growing trend that is based on some old Buddhist techniques.  There are many variations in the practice of mindfulness but it generally boils down to being present in the moment, and building awareness of your own perceptions.

This is stuff that I was super keen about way back in the mid 90’s.  Back then I was interested in hypnosis and improving my eyesight.  Researching those areas lead me down a path of learning about perception and how the mind works.  I spent hundreds of hours lying in bed inducing a self-hypnotic state and training my vision to see without processing.

Looking back, I think that that stage of my life, and the practice I did with hypnosis, meditation and perception greatly shaped my adult personality.

One of the things you learn to do when meditating is to shift your perception so that your mind is observing your body.  For instance, when you sit still for long enough you will have an itch. If instead of moving to scratch the itch you focus on what the sensation is – which nerves are tingling? what does it feel like? is it really itchy?  With practice your perception of itchy will be permanently changed.

I did something similar to loose my ability to bet tickled, and to increase my pain tolerance.

As for my vision training, the mind is a fascinating machine and what you see is actually very highly processed. Much of your perception is filled in details and ignorance. When you perceive what you actually see you’ll notice things like: you can ‘see’ the veins behind your retina, how things move with your heartbeat, how out of focus things are not evenly blurred, and what the shape of the blurring implies, how bright sunlight closes your iris and improves myopia symptoms (your eye approaches a pin whole camera).

I spent countless hours trying to trying to see what I was seeing, and to improve my conscious control of the muscles to focus.  Even though I didn’t cure my myopia, I’m still convinced it is possible to do.

The practice of mindfulness mediation is what I credit for developing an amazing ability to focus and visualize that has served me well.  It’s a practice that I kind of wish was more popular here in North America because I believe there are some real benefits to the ritual.  So I’m glad to see it becoming a trend.