In an earlier post I had briefly pondered the applications of internet tools, such as Twitter, within the health and fitness industry. A few months later, a resourceful post was written on the “Spare Change” blog outlining the current extensions of Twitter for health. But today I wanted to ask a deeper question: Can Twitter be used to teach the art of mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a scholar in field of mindfulness, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” Most people shorten that down and say ‘living in the here-and-now.” For many, this concept seems abstract. It was for me at first. You see, I thought I was already ‘living in the moment’ and believed I had been paying attention.
In grad school, I took a class on the study of mindfulness. My professor, Dr. Ann Sebren, had suggested we first increase our cognitive awareness by paying attention to our thoughts more frequently. So, I did what was asked and for the next week tried focusing on my thoughts. But in doing so, I quickly became aware that I was focusing on the fact that I was focusing on my thoughts. Once I realized I was ruminating, I tried to stop. And when that didn’t work, I started questioning why I couldn’t stop this meta-thinking and soon lost my focus!
Through practice, I got better at experiencing my thoughts, being aware that I had them, and then letting them go. And now it’s an ongoing process that is still part of my conscious daily effort. But I had always wished there was a way I was introduced to mindfulness without it being such a transcendental process.
Here is where I think Twitter can come into play. If you’re introducing mindfulness to someone who has yet to fully experience it, how can you tell if what you’re teaching is helping them understand the concept? Or better yet, how do you know if they are even applying its principles? You don’t. Which is why I think using Twitter can be a metaphor for demonstrating both an understanding and the application of mindfulness.
Twitter is a platform that allows the user to selectively update their thoughts (aka “tweets”) as they are having them. It stores these ‘tweets’ on a linear timeline on the web. Each tweet is only allowed 140 characters and can be updated from the web or a cellphone, via text or voice (if you couple Twitter with Jott). Your activity (or data) can be quantified and examined using the mashup TweetStats. (Researchers should love this!)
As you can see below, I’ve included the most recent statistics for ‘Befitt’
The graphs can tell you when, to whom, and from where you’ve ‘tweeted’. For more information on what you’ve tweeted, you can simply go to your main Twitter page: http://www.Twitter.com/befitt.
Couldn’t this be the first step to quantifying mindfulness? Or perhaps make it easier to understand the mindfulness process? Can’t you define streaming consciousness via Twitter? So often I witness educators, trainers, wellness coaches suggest writing in journals or posting blog entries as a way to introduce and analyze abstract concepts to students or clients. But in my mind (no pun intended) these exercises are often outdated and pretentious.
Could there be an art of Tweetfulness. I’ll let you think about that one…