December 20, 2012

I wish for you…

“…The Power of Concentration.” (and, the littlest bit of sparkle).

December, another month of bad news and darkness all around us. It feels like the song of the season.  Darkness is not just about light, it’s also about weight. And these are heavy days.

As I look back on a fraught year, I see that, more often than not, I’ve sided with the poet who wrote “How bright a light there must be to cast so dark a shadow.” Little domestic moments are my sun; I revolve around friends who see through me (“blogging is just your hobby, your job is being annoying”) and yet, in their tough love way, cherish me. I see the compromises so many people must make to hang on; I’ve been lucky enough to have quiet days and doing challenging, satisfying work. And, far from least, there are our blogs.  I loathe message boards they attract trolls and troublemakers but I love the exchanges I have with some of you. You encourage me, prod me, correct me and, when I'm most pressed, write posts for me. Thank you all. My cup runneth over.

So here, then, is my short, short, short reading list for the end of the year:

It starts with Sherlock Holmes smoking his pipe. “When a new case is presented, Holmes does nothing more than sit back in his leather chair, close his eyes and put together his long-fingered hands in an attitude that begs silence. He may be the most inactive active detective out there. His approach to thought captures the very thing that cognitive psychologists mean when they say mindfulness.” Defined thus: Mindfulness is less about spirituality and more about concentration: the ability to quiet your mind, focus your attention on the present, and dismiss any distractions that come your way.

The implications are tantalizing. Mindfulness may have a prophylactic effect: it can strengthen the areas that are most susceptible to cognitive decline. When we learn to unitask, to think more in line with Holmes’s detached approach, we may be doing more than increasing our observational prowess. We may be investing in a sounder mental future — no matter how old we are.  The benefits-mental, physical, vocational - are huge. You want them.

Take good care. 

“Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes”, will be published by Viking in January 2013.

I am reading...

  • scribble, scribble, scribble, Simon Schama
  • Julia's Cats, Patricia Barey and Therese Burson
  • London, Edward Rutherfurd
  • I'll Drink to That, Betty Halbreich