Australian General Semantics Society Inc.




Seminar Summary - Saturday 28th May 2018


Can we apply time-binding principles to build on ancient traditions,
or is this just a New-Age craze with little new to offer?
Presented by Robert James.

Our seminar
at "Cifftop View" Bonnet Bay in Sydney was hosted as usual by Pauline and Gavan - Thank you both!


Sharing of triumphs and tragedies and miscellaneous yarns.

GS Diary

In the spirit of "applying general semantics principles" to our lives, as opposed to dwelling in theory, we considered members' accounts of observations and applications relating to the principles and formulations of our discipline.


By way of preparation for the seminar, we were invited to undertake a little exercise. The challenge was as follows:

Consider five things in your day that may go unappreciated. These things can be objects or people; it’s up to you. Use a notepad to check off five by the end of the day.

The point of this exercise is to simply give thanks and appreciate the seemingly insignificant things in life, the things that support our existence but rarely get a second thought amidst our desire for bigger and better things.

For example: electricity powers your kettle, the postman delivers your mail, your clothes provide you warmth, your nose lets you smell the flowers in the park, your ears let you hear the birds in the tree by the bus stop, but…
  * Do you know how these things/processes came to exist, or how they really work?
  * Have you ever properly acknowledged how these things benefit your life and the lives of others?
  * Have you ever thought about what life might be like without these things?
  * Have you ever stopped to notice their finer, more intricate details?
  * Have you ever sat down and thought about the relationships between these things
    and how together they play an interconnected role in the functioning of the earth?

Once you have identified your five things, make it your duty to find out everything you can about their creation and purpose to truly appreciate the way in which they support your life.

Not all of us made a satisfactory effort to complete this assignment, but there was some thoughtful response.  Feedback on this will continue in the interim and into next month seminar.  Thank you indeed, for those who responded :-)



We have seen a huge volume of literature, multi-media resources, group-based activities and training programmes around "mindfulness" over the last few years.

But practices of meditation etc are, of course, very ancient, and highly structured in traditions such as Buddhism (and many others).  Contemporary studies of mindfulness etc have been intensively documented over the last few decades.

There is an embarrassment of excellent riches available on YouTube, which provided us with a framework for the seminar day's activities.  Some of these are listed below.

We considered the nature of mindfulness, various practices that lead to this desirable state, and some of the benefits attributed to its use.

Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate to our experiences with more accuracy and clarity.   Mindfulness involves being acutely aware of our thoughts, emotions, and actions.  It means being present in each moment and paying close attention to what is happening in the present,
instead of focusing on past events or future predictions. 

We observed with interest, how some "mindfulness" materials were closely aligned with general semantics principles, without having adopted the g-s label!  Ellen Langer's writings certainly reflect this.

As the scholar selected to give the 46th Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture, Ellen J. Langer, Harvard Professor of Psychology and author, espouses the notion of mindfulness.  Her findings, derived from thirty years of research and study parallel much of what Korzybski proposed almost 70 years ago as the benefits of what he termed a general semantics, or extensional, orientation.  In her 1997 book, "The Power of Mindful Learning", Ms. Langer summarizes the distinctions she makes between mindful and mindless:

A mindful approach to any activity has three characteristics:
  * the continuous creation of new categories;
  * openness to new information;
  * and an implicit awareness of more than one perspective.

Mindlessness, in contrast, is characterized by an entrapment in old categories; by automatic behaviour that precludes attending to new signals; and by action that operates from a single perspective.

Sample Exercises:

From the enormous number of mindfulness activities discovered, we considered a few that take very little effort and can be done pretty much anywhere at anytime:
  * Mindful breathing
  * Mindful observation
  * Mindful awareness
  * Mindful listening
  * Mindful immersion
  * Mindful appreciation


1. Ellen J. Langer: "The Power of Mindful Learning" (1997)
    An early work on the subject, much referenced in later works.  

 2. "On Mindfulness: A Report on the 46th Annual Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture
     by Ellen J. Langer, October 1999" - a review by Steve Stockdale
     (Published in the Winter 1999-2000 edition of ETC: A Review of General Semantics.)

     Steve Stockdale gives us quite an informative review of Langer's work
     from a general-semantics context.  We could well devote another one-day seminar to her work.

 3. "About “Mindfulness and GS" - Steve Stockdale

 4. "Mindful Learning"
     Dr Craig Hassed & Dr Richard Chambers (2014)

 5. "Mindfulness for Life"
     Dr Stephen Mckenzie and Dr Craig Hassed (2012)

 6. "Introduction to Mindfulness" YouTube video series by Drs Hassed and McKenzie:

    Part 1: "Mental Health and the Legal Profession"
    Part 2: "What is mindfulness?"
    Part 3: "The Stress Response and Health"
    Part 4: "Attention and multitasking"
    Part 5: "Applications of mindfulness"
    Part 6: "Mindfulness and executive functioning" 
    Part 7: "Applying mindfulness for study and life"

 7. "The Power of Mindfulness" magazine
    ("How to reduce stress and be happier every day")

 8. "Wellbeing" magazines
    ("Australia's leading natural health and living magazine")

 9. "Breathe" magazines
     ("Wellbeing, Mindfulness, Creativity, Escaping")

10. Tara Ward: "Discover meditation & Mindfulness"
     ("Create a better life through the power of inner reflection")

11. "Mindfulness Through Colour" compendium
     ("BDM's Mind Series Special")

12. "Project Calm - Mindfulness Through Making"
     ("Create with Nature, make space for wellbeing ... ")

~ 0 ~ 

Business Meeting

We reflected on the year past and planned for the year ahead, in our usual style.

Next Meeting:

Saturday 30 June:
"A Celebration of the Life and Work of "Laurie Cox -
Pioneer of General Semantice in Australia, and Founder of AGS"

Laurie's 100th birthday falls on 4th July.  We will consider aspects of Laurie's life and work up to his death on 12th June 2014, both in Australia and internationally.

We will recall experiences and exchange anecdotes, attempting to exploit some time-binding benefit from his time with us.  We hope to renew links with "old friends and acquaintances" to share memories.

Disclaimer: This "summary" is a collection of notes derived from our discussion by a number of means.  It is by no means a scholarly dissertation on the subject as presented.  It does not purport to be the "policy of AGS".  Comment and criticism (constructive or otherwise) is welcome.  If anyone has been misquoted, copyrights infringed or confidences betrayed, please Contact us.



Updated by RJ 28 May 2018

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