October 11, 2019

Beyond Mindfulness

Welcome to the first Sum, Ergo blog post. The mobile app, Sum, Ergo is designed to provide users a reflective, contemplative, and meditative experience that takes them beyond mindfulness. This is a lofty goal: mindfulness has helped millions relax and reduce stress. Through the course of this blog post, we will explain what it means to go beyond mindfulness and why it is in fact possible to do so with a simple and uncomplicated change in how we approach and think about our own experience.

What is being mindful?

Mindfulness calls upon individuals to pay attention to the present moment. It implies being present and aware of the sensations and perceptions. Sense perception is a means of gathering information about events that occur both internal and external to the body.

Mindfulness has recently been defined with regards to a non-judgmental quality towards these perceptions, thoughts, and emotions is a critical component. The suspension of certain kinds of judgmental is a critical part of the learning experience. This learning experience entailsm over time, being able to identify patterns in our observations and reactions to them. It also allows us to slowly weakens strong emotional reactions arising from particular kinds of observations. And eventually, we may find that this process has positively changed and shaped how we act and behave in the world.

What does it mean to go beyond mindfulness?

What mindfulness does not connote is the active conception of any sense of agency or meaning-making. What does this mean? Let's explore with the simple example of going for a walk. Being mindful would implore you to concentrate intensely on particular sensations during the performance of this action. You could concentrate on your breath, the wind blowing against your body, rays of sunlight warming up your skin, or the movements of your leg muscles. Once you start walking, you may feel that you don't need to direct yourself to continue this action of walking: your body directs itself while you concentrate on various sense perceptions.

What mindfulness misses in this example is the root of the action. Why are you performing this action? How does one stand in relation to that which is being observed? What are the assumptions you made about your identity, nature, and behavior that led you to this action? What is the signification and implication of the action, for oneself, for others, and for the world? And how do these answers depend on the context in which they are asked and answered?

The goal isn't to answer all of these questions. Its fine that these questions are asked without providing an answer. Concrete and logical answers are not the goal. Instead, one can recognize the ways in which these questions are open-ended. Such a process of recognition broadens our perspective, and affirms the existence of choice. When you ask questions with the same non-judgmental attitude cultivated in typical mindfulness, it helps to expand the mind and one's vision of what is possible.

Reflection distils experience into knowledge

The questions about the contextual roots of an action, are asked during the experience of an action, and in that way, experience folds onto itself. We never see the an object itself or an action itself: rather, we see an image of an action or object that is constructed in our brains. This image can be thought of as an imperfect reflection of the thing itself. That is why this process is called reflection. In a mirror, one sees a reflection of an object, and infers the nature of the object without directly seeing it. This question, about how one understands the self and the world by seeing reflections of objects, is not meant to be some deep philosophical endeavor. The process of reflection is a meta-cognitive witnessing of how we construct mental images of objects and processes, of how we interpret and signify experience. Reflection is a more complete, more full, mindful experience meant to help one discover one's meaning in life and develop a resilient world view. It is an exciting and active process, and one of the great journeys of life.

Being mindful focuses on non-judgmental awareness of perception. Going beyond mindfulness means to close the loop between perception and conceptual representation, and understanding how the abstraction of the loop results in what we perceive as our agency. Over time, being mindful teaches the nature of thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Over time, going beyond mindfulness teaches us how to identify the assumptions and value judgments that we base conceptual representation, the interpretation of perceptions, and decisions to act upon.

There is a context and value system present in the brain, and this value system emerges as a bias in the what, how, and why of one's thinking. From mindfulness, one realizes that there is something to be aware and mindful of. From reflection, one begins to see the spark of agency between our perception and our actions; one sees the landscape of possibilities in how we pay attention to aspects of our experience and how our choices influence the details of experience.

So reflection enhances our understanding of how our values and choices. It allows us to affirm our own value system with a calm and clear mind.

How does reflection work in our mobile app?

Sum, Ergo is designed to facilitate the journey of reflection as described above. A single reflection session is a two minute audio session that encourages contemplation on an aspect of human experience. The brevity of the sessions makes them The app has six carefully curated categories that guide users through the process of asking meaningful questions about their experiences. Within each category are roughly 30 guided reflection sessions that are only about two minutes long each, and are preceded by an optional six minute mindful meditation. This mindful meditation helps to focus the