An Exercise in Mindfulness

I hesitated to include the lecture Pick a Question because I do not know who contributed it. With the changes from Ezboard to Yuku to Tapatalk, many accounts became orphaned and user names did not remain visible … hence authorship information sometimes has been misplaced. All I know is that the author identified themselves as the Chair of the Sine Nomine (which ends up being rather ironic).

As it may be, I decided that this lecture introduces a useful exercise, one that is similar to those used by consultants aiding people or organizations in creating mission and vision statements.

While the initial question posed may seem trivial (the author asks “What did you have for breakfast?”) a series of “why” questions following can begin to remove the trivial, layer by layer, until the values and principles behind the, seemingly innocuous, everyday decisions and actions of daily life begin to be exposed.

For instance, my answer to the breakfast question today would be: eggs with microgreens and cinnamon swirl bread with margarine.

Why did I choose this breakfast?

At one level, because it is a combination of protein and carbs with some microgreens.

So, why these things? You already can see a hint at my response in how I framed the answer: because I think it offers valuable nutrients: protein, carbs, and phytochemicals.

Why did I go for “valuable nutrients”?

Because I am working at improving my health and think that this combination of nutrients will aid me in developing strength and have enough carbs that I can get through my 9 am personal training session without fainting.

Why am I improving my health?

  1. I am of the “move it or lose it” philosophy and think that if you don’t work at improving, entropy will increase. In this case, I’ll get weaker and possibly injured or ill.
  2. I think that I need to be physically fit* in order to have the necessary energy to teach (my real life job) and also to be of service to the community (my Jedi vocation).

…. Naturally, we could keep going here. These events are usually timed, and you do need to be in the right frame of mind to continue with introspection for very long. And if this is done with someone else, you need to feel a sense of trust … and expect that there are no wrong answers.

BUT, I hope you can see how I already am uncovering my personal values:

  • Physical health
  • Continuous improvement
  • Teaching others
  • Community service

I would like to suggest this sort of question period (do keep it short!!) might be valuable as part of either a student initiation OR as part of Jedi Trials as a way to think about values …. but also how we can enact them every day.

It’s not what you say that’s important to you, it’s what you DO that’s important to you.  

Steven Kamb (

* Which is not to say that I think everyone needs to follow my example in this, but it is important to me to be as physically capable as possible under the circumstances.

Published by

Barbara Z. Johnson

Barbara Z. Johnson is a professor of computer science at an undisclosed small, liberal arts college and also has taught in education and media arts/game development departments at several universities. She is also a sci-fi/fantasy geek who researches the educational uses of video-games, fan-fiction, and online simulations. Currently, she is researching science education in Minecraft.

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