In this episode of the Optimalist Podcast, we speak with Erica Marcus, the Mindfulness Director for a district in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. She is also the author of, Attention Hijacked: Using Mindfulness to Reclaim Your Brain from Tech, a book written to help guide students towards a better relationship with technology and better engagement in their lives.
Erica emphasizes the importance of approaching teenagers with curiosity and genuine interest, rather than trying to impose our own beliefs on them. She does this by leading them to notice the positive aspects of technology in their lives, and encourages open dialogue and thoughtful reflection on both the benefits and challenges.
During our conversation, Erica discusses her personal experience with technology not aligning with her values despite practicing mindfulness and intentional living. This realization sparked curiosity about how paying attention could be helpful and enable her to live closer to her values. Additionally, working with teenagers fueled Erica's interest in their experiences, leading her to explore what they found helpful, struggled with, and were open to receiving support around. These two threads, her personal experience and working with teenagers, ultimately brought her to where she is now, and are reflected in her book.
(0:01:20) Learning to approach young people with curiosity and understanding
(0:06:23) The journey that led to the creation of the book
(0:07:46) Personal Relationship with Technology and Mindfulness
(0:09:28) Discovering what resonates with young people and providing support
(0:12:32) Commitment to paying attention and making mindful choices
(0:15:04) Recognizing the importance of parental modeling and influence
(0:18:00) Empowering students with individual responsibility and mindfulness
(0:21:10) Reflecting on the experience of stillness and mindfulness
(0:27:39) Versatile Approaches to Teaching Mindfulness
(0:31:28) Reflecting on phone use and expanding to other tech use
(0:34:46) Challenging the traditional structure and exploring freedom in education
(0:38:22) Promoting Screen-Free Week at School
(0:41:30) Revenge Scrolling and Choosing Phone Time as Personal Time
(0:45:09) Acknowledging the Need for Grace in a Changing World
(0:54:32) Practicing Mindfulness for Better Attention
Reading: Enrique’s Journey
Watching: The Bear on Hulu
Find Erica on the web: Wise Minds Big Hearts
Erica’s Attention Method - Take actual breaks and don’t consider time spent in front of a screen as a break. Practice intentional noticing of the present moment and acceptance without judgment, which plays a crucial role in mindfulness.
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Music: “Goodnight, Shapeshifter” by MusicForNothing, used under Creative Commons BY-ND 3.0.
Audio Editing & Production: Tim Belmont (@tbelmontedu)