Thinking about it later, I think I could sum up the central change for me in reading “mindfulness” in my understanding of the world as something like this —
I had always, my whole life, thought of the world as something which had an inherent structure, and you came to understand that structure, you could then interact with it competently. Most typically, I would understand it to be structured as a machine whose parts interacted according to the laws of physics and other sciences.
I was always looking for the One True Theory which would help me understand things. Apparently there are other people susceptible to the same bug, because a lot of people are selling One True Theories. For example, check out the book ??How Nature Works?? by Per Bak. He says that everything we see everywhere is a matter of “self-organized criticality,” and history is bunk, because the causality which history traces is all unimportant; the bigger organizing principle is self-organized criticality. Oh, economics is bunk too, and so on and so forth.
In the late 80s, “Chaos Theory” and fractals were the hip One True Theory. (There are points of contact between them and SOC.) I understand that when I was a kid people were raving about Catastrophe Theory.
I joke sometimes about how every few months, when I’m doing art, I will have a breakthrough and discover, finally, once and for all, the *real* trick to doing cool drawings. It will last a week or three and then life will go back to normal.
I think that where good stuff comes out of discovering a One True Theory of Everything, it is not so much because we’ve finally got the real answer, as because we’re suddenly looking at things differently — we’re open to new possibilities; in short, we’re mindful.
Is Mindfulness a One True Theory? Well… if it is, there’s not much to it. It doesn’t tell you how the world works, it just asks you to think about the world in a variety of ways. I guess if it makes a theoretical claim about the world, it is that the world is not actually amenable to summing up in theoretical claims.
Anyway, the change in my thinking upon reading ??The Power of Mindful Learning?? was mainly that I started taking seriously the old saw about “The Map is Not The Territory.”
Michael Hall “comments”:http://mph.puddingbowl.org/archives/2005/12/lies_trotsky_to.php on the whole “now I FINALLY understand it all” phenomenon, invoking the Matrix and shopping malls. Go read.