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Mindfulness for the mindless

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 11:05 a.m. CDT

Who’d have thunk it?

Your ability to turn off your brain the minute you arrive at work has become a skill that people everywhere are struggling to emulate. These are famous, successful people, too. They’re glittery overachievers who pay large sums of money to learn what you do instinctually — spend the workday as a zombie.

Really! Forget the last 10 years of negative performance reports. As an employee who faces tight deadlines with zero consciousness, you are a workplace superstar. There is even a special name for your gift of being brain dead from 9 to 5; it’s called “mindfulness.”

Or so I learned recently in The New York Times, where David Hochman reported on the phenomena in an article titled “Mindfulness: Getting its Share of Attention.”

Apparently, in the face of all the wonderful distractions we have to help us escape from real life, like computer games, sexting and, of course, the awesome new season of “Scandal,” some people want to focus on what they are actually doing and who they are actually doing it with.

Consider an event called “Disconnect to Connect,” an exclusive meet-up where the young and the technical got introduced to a nifty app called Get Some Headspace. “It’s a way to have a meditation practice without feeling weird about it,” the speaker told attendees. “You don’t have to sit in a lotus position. You just press ‘play’ and chill out.”

As someone who has enough “headspace” to house a mid-sized American city, you probably don’t understand why anyone requires a computer program to fill their head with nothing. And I’m sure you have achieved your advanced state of cerebral emptiness without having to resort to the lotus position. (What these geeks should be learning is how to achieve your yoga position — the decaying mushroom.)

Meanwhile, at Internet goliath Google, Chade-Meng Tan, a veteran engineer, teaches an in-house course called “Search Inside Yourself,” which teaches a variety of techniques to achieve mindfulness, “a loose term that covers an array of attention-training practices.”

The goal of shutting out the world and embracing the void “may mean spending 10 minutes with eyes closed on a gold-threaded pillow every morning,” the Googler teaches. That may come as a surprise to everyone at work who raises their eyebrows when you take out your pillow, prop it up on your keyboard, and doze away the morning. Your colleagues think you are a slacker, when really what you are is a guru.

It’s not only high-tech strivers who are trying to take up residence in the void in which you live. Famous people like Candice Bergan, George Stephanopoulos, 50 Cent and Lena Dunham are “talking up” their meditation routines. Of course, these celebrities can afford to pay for a swami-type to provide them with a magic mantra. You didn’t pay a dime for your mantra: “Is it time for lunch yet? Is it time to go home? Is it time for lunch yet? Is it time to go home? Is it time for lunch yet? Is it time to go home?”

Ah! Inner peace!

In addition to big stars, big corporations are also doing something to promote nothing. As reporter Hochman reports, “Nike, General Mills, Target and Aetna encourage employees to sit and do nothing, and with classes that show them how.” I say — get out your resume. These are not classes you should attend, but classes you should teach.

Google’s Tan, whose official title is Jolly Good Fellow, has even been invited to Goldman Sachs to teach employees “techniques like pausing before sending important emails and silently wishing happiness upon difficult co-workers.” Again, these are skills you have already mastered. Before sending important emails, you’ve paused for months, and when, at company parties, you secretly record the sex antics of the difficult co-workers with whom you compete, you do silently wish them happiness before you send the videos off to HR. It’s why you have been given the official title of Jolly Annoying Fellow.

My final thought on the mindfulness matter is that before you return to normal zombie state, consider monetizing your amazing ability to put up a permanent “No Vacancy” sign on your brain. When compared to the expense incurred by sportswear manufacturer Lululemon, to start a website “that encourages visitors to turn off the brain for 60 seconds by visualizing a dot,” a $25,000-a-day seminar from you would be a bargain. And you don’t need any darn dot.

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