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Mindful : October 2016
By Ed Halliwell Illustrations by Jessica Rae Gordon Ed Halliwell is a UK-based mindfulness teacher and journalist. His latest book, Into The Heart of Mindfulness: Finding A Way of Well-Being, is out now. When your mind spins and your body itches to do something, anything, what’s really going on? Meditation is a great way to find out. Søren Kierkegaard called it the root of all evil. Arthur Schopenhauer said it was one of the two enemies of human happiness. And Jean Baudrillard described it as the world’s second worst crime (the first: being the cause of it). But it doesn’t take a philosopher to know that humans hate being bored. Indeed, a study by University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson showed just how far people would go to avoid a state of boredom. In 2014, together with colleagues from Harvard, Wilson ran a series of experiments inviting participants to sit on their own for six to 15 minutes, with nothing but their own thoughts as entertainment. Most of the participants rated the experience as unpleasant—their minds wandered and they struggled to concentrate. Of those asked to carry out the task at home, with- out super vision, one-third admitted to cheat- ing—they couldn’t manage a quarter of an hour of stillness without getting up, turning on their phones or seeking some other distraction. The researchers then went further. A new group of subjects was given a mild electric shock to the ankle before the experiment started, and each subject was given the option of self-ad- ministering that same shock during their time of quiet. Despite having all agreed they would pay to avoid repeating the jolt, two-thirds of the men and one-quarter of the women took up the option of shocking themselves. One man zapped himself 190 times. → October 2016 mindful 53 well-being