Chance Encounters, Mindfulness, and Hippies


Today’s post came from a chance encounter I had walking home from work last week. Chipotle and dry cleaning in hand, I was crossing the street in front of my place when I ran into a gentleman searching for a bookstore. As I gently broke the news to him that there were no bookstores within walking distance (and wondered how on Earth I was still living in this intellectually-barren wasteland), we fell into a conversation about schools and careers and goals. Because Washington.

“Lost sidewalk man” was actually Kenneth Wesson, noted brain researcher and education consultant. Kenneth being a neuroscientist and me being in the veteran space, we organically hit on the topic of traumatic brain injury (TBI). I told him about Chris Clemens, a veteran I had worked with at the training center.

While deployed to Afghanistan in 2004, Chris sustained a traumatic brain injury when an RPG exploded in his camp. Still, that summer I watched Chris sprint, long jump, and train his way to the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Kenneth told me that adaptive sports are so effective at treating TBI because they non-surgically re-wire the brain.

That stuck with me. Non-surgically rewiring the brain.

Back in March, Rebecca Hiscott over at Mashable listed eight ways technology had started to re-wire the human brain. In the 1950s, people dreamed in black and white. Our memory and attention spans are worse. Our visual skills and creativity are better. And “phantom vibration syndrome” is a thing. A very annoying thing.

The point that we can train the brain the same way we train the body. Often times what separates a gold and silver medalist is…mindfulness. (Knew that religion major would come in handy someday!) And I think it’s a lot like that in life. Mindfulness before that interview or date or hard conversation.

During Sochi, Mike Wise at the Washington Post profiled snowboarder & gold medalist Jamie Anderson:

Asked what helped her cope with the pressure before the night of the event, music, candles or meditation, Anderson said, “All of the above. . . . Put on some meditation music, burn some sage. Got the candles going. Just trying to do a little bit of yoga.”


After she was through centering a group of stressed-out reporters on Internet deadlines, it wasn’t clear whether she had just swept the slopestyle snowboarding events for the U.S. or was set to open a restorative wellness center with a noon Ashtanga class.

Either way: Tell your children to breathe. Be present. Don’t worry about sending them to institutions of higher learning; take a walk in the woods. Chill-ax, it’ll all work out.

Freaking hippie might just be on to something.



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