MBAT–Mindfulness Based Attention Training, is a University of Miami study funded by the Department of Defense to determine if mindfulness training can impact firefighter stress and resiliency in a positive way. Â My department, Miami Dade Fire Rescue, is the guinea pig. Â I first wrote about it in my blogÂ Jedi Mind Training, but my crew and I had yet to participate. Â Now that we have taken the first step, which was a computerized test to measure our baseline concentration level, here’s what happened:
Part OneÂ of our MBAT experience was visiting UM one evening and waiting in a conference room with over a dozen firefighters all staring at their phones in perfect unison. Â Occasionally we chatted and asked each other about the study, but no one knew much. Â We were a diverse bunch: Â women, blacks, Latins, gringos, and firefighters up to chief. Â Eventually two college interns appeared and ushered us into separate rooms lined with computers and chairs.
We were each assigned a number that corresponded to a computer and were told not to place our feet over the red tape on the floor. Â I wasn’t sure what that was about, but I complied. Â I was hoping to hear more about the study, but it didn’t come. Â It was a little frustrating. Â Where was the communication? Â Was this intentional? Â Were they trying to keep us in the dark, unsettle us, to create a baseline? Â I couldn’t help feeling like I was in a Â CIA experiment. Â Our very polite intern described the upcoming test and asked that we remain silent. Â Then the games began.
I don’t think I should go into the test here. Â I don’t want to sabotage any future classes by throwing off their baseline. Â Needless to say, all you really need to know is that the test is boring. Â Deeply boring. Â And incredibly, immensely, unbelievably, astoundingly repetitive. Â Seriously. Â I had no idea how I was even going to write about it.
For the first five minutes it was novel and interesting, but then it quickly became tedious, which I think is the point. Â It’s one thing to focus when you’re watching Game of Thrones. Â There’s dragons! Â Women! Â Sword fighting! Â It’s another thing to maintain lazer-like focus when all you’re doing is clicking on colors, numbers, and letters for almost two hours with no apparent reward. Â That’s how long it took me to finish after clicking on number after number after number, over and over and over and over—are you getting bored yet? Â I definitely am.
At one point, I almost laughed out loud thinking of my three crew mates I’d hi-jacked into this. Â All Engine guys in love with technology. Â Oh god, I thought, they probably hate me right now. Â Damn! Â I’m drifting. Â I need to FOCUS! Â I’m being MEASURED! Â By the DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE! Â My paranoidÂ left-wing/right-wing friends would be questioning my sanity about now. Â Slide far enough to the outer end of a spectrum and you end up running into your opposite. Â Sh*t, I’m drifting again. Â Every second is being measured. Â Every. Â Second. Â Counts.
The room felt smaller as the night wore on. Â It actually became a bit claustrophobic. Â No windows. Â Narrow. Â Ugly fluorescent lighting. Â WhyÂ can’t human beingsÂ come up with better lighting? Â I was beginning to fidget. Â I thought I was fast, what a total ego maniac, but the test dragged on and on and on. Â By the time we stumbled out into the night, bleary eyed and dazed, at 2100, we’d all had enough. Â I felt like I’d run a mental marathon. Â My driver, Candy Crush aficionado, walked down the steps and let out a relieved “wheeew”, before shakingÂ it off.
My next adventure will be visiting the Mindfulness Lab and Dr. Amishi Jha at UM . Â I’m expecting a little more excitement than sitting in front of a computer screen, and I’m hoping that when I leave, I’ll be a tad more in the light. Â And then it will be on to the mindfulness training itself.
I will keep you posted! Â Until then . . .
Be Here Now!
For an introduction onÂ MDFR & the MBAT study read Jedi Mind Training here.