Mindfulness: Muse, be Alert, Aware and amazed

Ellen Langer Photograph by Jim Harrison.

Ellen Langer is a professor in psychology at Harvard university. She is also known as the mother of Mindfulness. In her famous book ‘Mindfulness‘ she describes several experiments she has done.


She gave people in a nursing home simple choices, for example whether to see a film on Thursday or on Friday. Such a simple thing made the people in the nursing homes feel more capable and happy.

If we are honest, most of our time is spent not being mindful. But what is time anyway? Ellen Langer decided to write a book about it called ‘CounterClockwise‘.

Counter clockwise

One of the experiments she talks about in this book is the healthy effect it had on a group of people who acted like they were 20 years younger. Every time you become aware of a choice, you are becoming mindful.

It is mindful to talk about yourself in healthy, positive terms. It is mindful to become aware of the choices you make, even if you think there are no choices.
If I turn back the clock 20 years like Ellen de Lange suggests I am reminded of a book I read back then that changed my life. ‘Les yeux sont fait’ by Jean Paul Sartre. In this book he tells the story of Pierre, who gets betrayed by his friends and Ève who gets murdered by her husband. At the gates of heaven they meet and fall madly in love. They go to plead for a second chance: this love is so strong: it has to be given a chance on earth.
They are given a second chance but they have to fulfill just one condition. They have to be together and in love. When back in the land of the living they go their separate ways. Ève wants to rescue her sister from the man who murdered her and Pierre wants to alert his friends about the betrayer in their circle of friends.
They got lost in the lives they lived. From that moment on I realised that not making a choice was a choice. A Choice I had to live by.

Another fun experiment described in Counter clockwise is turning the letters you see at the optometrist upside down. Instead of expecting the letters to be harder to read, you expect the letters to be easier to read.

Eye chart

And indeed, if the chart is turned upside down, people score better. They are able to read more tiny letters because their expectation has been adjusted.

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