Arianna Huffington explains to Maria Konnikova how mindfulness seeks to recreate “the Garden of Eden, but with consciousness.” Mindful people seek to erase resentment, bitterness, anger, and judgment, seeking instead to experience the world in the present without the shadows of the past.
This is the third video in an exclusive video series of today’s brightest minds exploring the theory of genius. Exclusive videos will be posted daily on youtube.com/bigthink throughout 92nd Street Y’s second annual 7 Days of Genius Festival: Venture into the Extraordinary, running March 1 to March 8, 2015.
Maria Konnikova: Let’s talk about your four pillars for a second. When I was reading that description, to me what came immediately to mind was a young child — that kind of the epitome of mindfulness, you know, someone who has wisdom of a sort, who has wonder for sure, who’s very giving because we now have a lot of research that shows that children are naturally very altruistic. It seems like a child is kind of the most mindful person you can have and you even quote the child is father to the man — you quote that poem in your book. So I was wondering if you agree with that — if you think that we should be looking more to kind of prolong our childhood in a certain sense.
Arianna Huffington: I love the idea of prolonging our childhood while making it conscious. You see that’s the difference is the fact that it’s like returning to the Garden of Eden, but with consciousness. It’s the T.S. Eliot poem about, you know, returning home, but seeing it for the first time. So one of the things that I often use as a sort of example of how I want to react to life that has to do with children is the way children get angry, upset, they cry, they throw a temper tantrum and then two minutes later it’s gone. And it’s like a different human being and I think if we can be like that it would be just an amazing way to experience life instead of holding onto resentments and angers and judgments for years and affecting our whole experience of life.
Maria Konnikova: Do you think we need to go to kind of to that extreme in order to be able to appreciate mindfulness and incorporate it? Do we need to kind of experience the, not necessarily burnout as severe as you did, but all of the negative things first? Or is it possible to just sail on through?
Arianna Huffington: Oh I think absolutely we can incorporate mindfulness from a very early age. And now increasingly we see people, I mean young children being taught to meditate in order to have — it’s like a tool that they can use at any point in their lives. My two daughters meditate and they encourage each other. They text each other when one is about to meditate to encourage the other to remember to do her meditation. So they’re using it as a tool because even the most blessed life is going to include problems, challenges, tragedies often. So if we have a tool that allows us to return to that centered place we all have. Every religion mentions it. Every philosopher, you know, Archimedes called it, "Give me a place to stand and I can move the world." So that place on which we can stand and deal with whatever life brings us to me is just an incredible adventure to learn to go back to that place and return to it again and again until we can have easier access to it.