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Deeper on Mindfulness

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with an attitude of friendliness, acceptance, or loving-kindness. Thus, mindfulness is a broader concept than meditation, and can include other activities such as observing nature or savoring a meal.

Seeing the Roses is mostly focused on the attitude in mindfulness, but what about attention? The best (but not introductory) text on the science of mindfulness may be UCLA psychiatrist Daniel Siegel's book, The Mindful Brain. Here is Seeing the Roses creator Rick Heller's interview of Daniel Siegel.

Siegel's model of how mindfulness relates to attention is based in part of the ideas of Jeff Hawkins, author of the book, On Intelligence. Hawkins' view of the brain is based on models of how the cerebral cortex works by cognitive scientists such as Stephen Grossberg. Rick interviewed Grossberg for an article on mindfulness published in The Humanist magazine.

In essence, the world around us presents us with a kaleidoscope of information. Our brain filters out much of it. This can be a good thing, but sometimes the brain does this all too well, which can lead to a sense of boredom. Mindfulness lowers our guards and promotes the flow of sensory information from the environment to the brain in a very literal way, amplifying nerve signals coming from the senses.

We now notice things we may have shut out. This produces a sense of freshness, novelty and even wonder. That gets our dopamineDopamine is a key neurotransmitter in the brain that makes us desire to do things. The oxytocin system, which produces feelings of love, stimulates the release of dopamine. system going and makes the world feel especially rewarding.