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Lokvani Talks To Prithvi Banerjee

Ranjani Saigal

Unbox!  A contemporary interpretation of Mindfulness

Prithvi Raj Banerjee is a Boston-based, IIT & MIT educated technologist, entrepreneur and writer.

Prithvi has co-founded two technology startups and  is also a Yoga and mindfulness coach. His book Unbox! The Power of Mindful Thinking is available on Amazon, worldwide and also on Flipkart and Paytm in India. He is co-ounder of the MindGym Initiative, a non-profit focused on creating awareness about mindful thinking amongst the younger generation.

Can you tell us a little about the book UnBox?

In the modern age of fragmented attention that feeds off fifteen-second news cycles, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter alerts, we are all trying our best to focus our attention. However, most of us cannot because we were never taught how to. We have been asked to pay attention all the time, but very few got to learn how to do it. 

'Unbox!' is a practical guide that stays away from philosophical and metaphysical narratives about mindfulness and focuses on how can we deal with distracting thoughts that fragment our attention. It uses 'mind-exercises' to help us improve our attention as we build the skill of Mindful Thinking that leads to more efficient and impactful actions. .

What motivated you to write the book Unbox?

I have spent many years experimenting with thoughts and attention and was lucky enough to be guided by masters from great mindfulness traditions in his effort. I was also guided by a different set of masters at MIT where I specialized in systems thinking - an approach that uses the 'big picture' view to solving complex real-world problems.

So I wanted to share the big picture in this book incorporating learnings from my understanding of the inner-world and the outer-world: drawing inspiration from the spiritual and the scientific, but at the same time having an independent perspective based on my personal experiences.

The source of my motivation, surprisingly, is from thousands of years ago. Much before the modern age of severely restless and fragmented attention. I found out that even those folks living in those ancient ages, surrounded by the unpredictability of life, disease, death and weather, felt that their attention was restless. They discovered the existence of a box that gave them a partial and distorted view of reality. A few of them then figured out the techniques that would help take this box out  - or to Unbox.

But back in those times, people did not have easy access to these techniques. Most had to give up their regular life and live in communities devoted exclusively to finding ways to unbox. Today, information about of these techniques can be made readily available. And core message and methods for which you would have to travel half way around the world and devote decades of your life to get access to, can be now one-click order away on your Amazon Prime account!

Do you think the short attention span because of multiple communication medium can become ingrained as a permanent trait?

They can surely have a limiting influence on our attention. A lot of the things our brains used to do in the past have now been automated – so theoretically we should have expected to have more time at hand to do things we like. But unfortunately, things have not turned out to be so. We now have an ever-decreasing attention span that is being continuously challenged by a plethora of smartphone apps, social media and such.

But with all the perks of instant gratification that modern age has unleashed, instant unboxing remains as elusive as it was thousands of years ago. There is no shortcut for the effort that is required to get out of that box.

Why do you think Mindfulness is important?

Mindfulness is the natural outcome of a mind that is not distracted by the influence of random chatter of thoughts.  When we are mindful, we can use thoughts as a tool and not get used by them.

Unbox! & MindGym intends to help build the skill of 'using thought as a tool' and 'not get used by thoughts' - something that would naturally lead to impactful actions. And the world needs those actions today more than ever.

In the modern materialist world what role does spirituality have?

In my opinion, we need a contemporary translation of spirituality to make it relatable in the modern materialist world.  The first step in that direction is to deal with what we can directly relate to – the chatter in our mind that limits our ability and causes stress and suffering. And once we get to know how to handle that chatter we will be able understand the true role of spirituality in our materialist life.

Anything you would like to share with our readers?

The exercises outlined in the book are contemporary translations of some the most effective mindfulness techniques across ages. The book uses modern metaphors & humorous illustrations that most of us, especially the younger readers, will find appealing.

All proceedings from the book are used to fund the free activities and workshops that we conduct through the non-profit Mind-gym Initiative. The initiative was cofounded by my wife Anisha Mahajan, who is also an IIT alumni, a technologist and a long-term mindfulness practitioner. We have received very good response for the initiative where like-minded parents & professionals across the globe have reached out to learn & support.

In the events and workshops conducted by MindGym, folks can learn about mindfulness in a fun-filled way. The Unbox! mind-exercises are tailored based on individuals thinking profile and we use brainwave biofeedback to help fine-tune skills to engage or disengage with thoughts.

We have been asking our kids to pay attention all the time - It is time we learn that skill ourselves and then teach them how to do it!

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