Mindless Learning and Learning to Teach Mindfulness

The more I practice mindfulness not only in the form of meditation but also in other forms such as praying, running, swimming, and yoga, the more I notice the mindless learning of many students in the classroom. Instead of being judgmental about them, I've been thinking of the detrimental effect of mindlessness to their learning and how to teach them mindfulness so that they may be able to apply it to learning in the classroom (and probably other daily activities).

I don't know which comes first, mindlessness or academic weakness/indifference. That is, are students mindless because they are academically weak and/or uninterested in the subject, or are they academically weak and/or uninterested in the subject because they are mindless? Anyway, there must be some significant correlation between the two.

The three strongest temptations for their mindlessness in the classroom are cellphones, which I call electronic pacifiers, tablets, and laptop computers, which they use more for checking email and social networks than for any other purpose - a kind of digital addiction, and a very serious, if not incurable, one at that.

So I've decided not only to continue learning and improving my mindfulness, hoping to make my teaching itself more mindful, but also to learn how to teach mindfulness, if not in the direct manner.

Of all the guidebooks to mindfulness I've read so far I like best and recommend Mindfulness for Dummies by Shamash Alidina. While surfing the net looking for some online course for learning to teach mindfulness, I've stumbled upon a three-month course by this author - Teaching Mindfulness Online. I wish I could start it right now, especially because my three-month summer vacation started today. But I'll have to wait another year or so as I've been planning to start taking now a series of self-directed courses called Conscious Transformation, which will last for about one year and can definitely be a good foundation for learning to teach mindfulness.

I feel I've undergone some significant conscious transformation, as it were, since I was diagnosed with OCPD about three months ago. In my constant search for possible ways for alleviating this mental disorder, I've found many and even started practicing a few of them. Mindfulness is definitely the most important of them all. That's why I feel a strong urge to share this skill by teaching it to my students, again indirectly, and hopefully to other people as well by learning how to teach it first.


Strictness vs. Compassion

Having been practicing daily mindfulness meditation for about two months and trying to be an observer of my mind, I'm gradually realizing how strict I have been with both myself and others, whether I know them personally or not. Though I'm still very strict with myself about punctuality (i.e., never to be late for any appointment) and suppression of egocentrism in public (especially about noise and dirt, I've become less strict and even more compassionate for others especially because these two positive values are exceptions rather than rules in Israeli society.

But I still can't be compassionate at all for and remain even very strict with self-pampering behaviors, especially of those I'm supposed to be responsible for. By self-pampering behaviors I mean those behaviors that reveal total lack of strictness with oneself and childish expectations from others. I've constantly been surprised to encounter far more self-pampering people in Israel than in Japan.

At least in one specific context I have to teach them that such self-pampering behaviors are totally unacceptable. Fierce resistance is the typical reaction I get from self-pampering people when I try to make them become aware of their problem (and I can't help countering their fierce resistance with even more fierce resistance to give in to them).

This week I had a pleasant surprise. Someone whose self-pampering behavior I tried to make become aware of apologized to me sincerely. Then suddenly I felt such deep compassion for him and found some compromise that was also beneficial for him. His (positive) response was totally beyond my imagination. Then I understood that compassion could be more effective than strictness in order to have my message received.

But unfortunately, I still can't help being strict with those who resist such attempts of mine fiercely even without the slightest hint of gratitude and apologies. This must sound very judgmental, but at the present stage of my spiritual development I still can't be compassionate for those who don't seem to have developed the minimal degree of interpersonal manners. In the meanwhile I continue to colide with these people, hoping that one day they will realize that self-pampering is not self-compassion (and I myself will also be able to have compasson for them unconditionally).


Possible Danger of Walking as the Only Regular Physical Practice

I often tell my friends and colleagues outside Israel half-seriously that the most popular national sport in Israel is eating. But to be serious, I doubt if the percentage of people doing any regular physical practice in Israel is high enough. I have, however, met enough people who walk as a special physical practice in the early morning.

This may seem better than doing nothing special except for eating, but it has a possible danger. Many regular walkers I've spoken to seem to think that walking alone is enough for maintaining or even developing their muscle strength. All the medical books I've read so far on physical well-being show that this isn't the case. Walking is barely enough even for cardiovascular endurance and definitely insufficient for muscle strength.

We lose our muscles by 1% every year if we don't do any regular muscle strength training after we reach our 30s. So by the time we reach our 70s, we lose 40% of our muscles if we do nothing special for maintaining our muscle strength. I wonder if those whose only regular physical practice is walking are aware of this possible danger.

In the park where my wife and I run every weekday morning we see quite a few walkers, mainly those in their 60s and 70s. I haven't spoken to any of them personally, but from the way they look like in terms of their (lack of) muscles, I seriously doubt if they also train their muscles.

Actually, I myself was one of such people until about ten years ago with running, which is only efficient for cardiovascular endurance, as my only regular physical practice. Since I read not only the importance of muscle strength as one of the most important factors contributing to our physical well-being, especially at an old age, but also the fact that we can start developing it at any age.

I've been trying to preach these gospels to as many family, friends and colleagues as possible, stressing that regular muscle strength training is a wise long-term physical investment. But most people I've spoken to seem to be too lazy to start after the age of 30 or so some new regular physical practice they have never done before and continue to lose their muscles by 1% steadily but surely.

My wife is the only exception so far I know personally who has been convinced by me and started muscle strength training. She still keeps doing it as well as running, swimming, resistance stretching, yoga (and mindfulness meditation, which is for our mental muscles, so to speak) regularly with me.

The kind of muscle strength training I find the most convenient is the so-called bodyweight strength training, and the best guides to bodyweight strength training I've found so far are Your Body Is Your Gym (for men) and Body by You (for women) both by Mark Lauren.


"Destiny" of Bread in Israel

Though I have been living in Israel for about 18 years, it was only a few years ago that I became fully aware of the "destiny" of bread here from the moment it leaves the oven until it reaches the table. It's displayed on shelves by sellers, often examined and returned to shelves by potential customers, chosen and taken to the cashiers by customers with bare hands, checked by cashiers, and handed to the customers. In all these five stages the bread remains unpacked and touched by bare hands that don't always look very clean. In short it's treated more like an unwashed vegetable than like cake.

When I first encountered this "horror scene", I doubted my eyes. But as I've watched in my full awareness more and more of the same or similar "horror scenes", I've understood that this is a norm rather than an exception. And this will remain as one of the last things I would never be able to get used to in Israel. When I saw quite a few construction workers with really dirty hands examine bread without buying it in different occasions in different places, I stopped buying and eating unpacked bread here except for challah or another kind of bread for Sabbath, which isn't always packed.

Even this has become difficult for me after I saw a couple of weeks ago the most incredible "horror scene" since I became aware of the "destiny" of bread in Israel. One seller from whom we used to buy for Sabbath arranged various types of unpacked bread on shelves with his bare hands that had become really dirty after touching and arranging schnitzels and other unpacked deep fried foods on other shelves.

My wife has been telling me that I should get used to bread touched by many bare hands partly to develop my immune system as there may be many other, hidden, unhygienic foods here. In the meanwhile I've developed my new hobby of watching people who touch and examine bread with their bare hands without buying it, checking the way they are dressed, and trying to find a possible correlation between "actors" of this "horror scene" and their sociocultural background. I even saw, though very rarely, people picking unpacked bread with an empty nylon bag as I always used to do before stopping to buy it. Then I felt like approaching them and interviewing them about the "destiny" of bread in Israel and their strategies of coping with it by disguising myself as a cultural anthropologist investigating the awareness of food-related hygiene in Israeli society.


Planning Another (Research-cum-)Honeymoon Trip

We've just finished making all the necessary reservations for our trip to Japan in the first half of this coming October, including flights between Israel and Japan as well as hotels and flights inside Japan. I see this as another (research-cum-)honeymoon trip of ours though we already had one to Moscow (and Tbilisi) last summer right after we got married here in Jerusalem.

The main purpose of (the first half of) our first trip was my getting acquainted with who and what have made my wife in her native Moscow what she is now both privately and professionally. In this second trip of ours I want her to get acquainted in turn with who and what have influenced me in my native Japan in both areas of life.

In the research part of this trip we'll work at one of the libraries of an alma mater of mine in Japan, which has one of the biggest collections of books on languages and linguistics. In the (belated) honeymoon part of the trip I want to introduce her to my parents and close relatives, private friends, and professional colleagues as well as the places I lived in and/or I like in Japan and the Jewish community in Kobe, my Jewish "alma mater" in Japan.

Unfortunateky, we'll be forced to visit only a small number of places in what little free time we have, including Yurihonjo, Nyuto, Kobe, Kyoto, Tokyo and Hakone, and leave for other trips of ours in Japan so many places I like to visit again or for the first time with my wife, including Beppu, Yufuin, Kurokawa and Kusatsu.

Planning this short trip of ours in Japan, I'm amazed anew to find how rich the country is in its culture and nature. I also reexamine it and its possible attractions from the viewpoint of my wife, who has never been to Japan, this time. In the meanwhile she has started to learn Japanese quite intensively as a (or often the) means of communication with those people she is going to meet there.

As I plan this trip of ours in Japan and also reexamine it and its possible attractions from the viewpoint of my wife, who has never been to Japan, I feel as if I were rediscovering Japan and its natural and cultural richness. I'm especially interested to hear her impressions of the country, including its nature, culture, and people after and even during another (research-cum-)honeymoon trip of ours, as Japan is fundamentally different in many ways from both Russia and Israel.