Dear reader: In this excerpt from Painless Poker, I am lecturing at the Painless Poker Clinic. This is fiction.
I interrupted. “If you hate your life because you hate your job, and you take a shot at professional poker, then that’s a freeroll, emotionally speaking, because if you hate the poker too, you’re right where you started.”
“I know that was thin, Alfonzo. My point is that mindfulness is a freeroll because there is no downside. And the literalists among us might like to know that it’s actually free. Mindfulness requires no money, and no time.”
I was nervous. I saw my hands moving so I held them still at my waist, my piano hands, that’s what they always said I had, and I smiled.
“Suppose you wanted to take some of the minutes that you spend doing repetitive, boring, difficult tasks—things you dread—like mowing your mom’s lawn, or filing your tax returns—and convert them from bad minutes to neutral minutes. Mindfulness does that, and sometimes more, because sometimes you will bypass neutral and go straight from bad to happy, right there on your mom’s lawn.”
“I can do that with one hit off my pipe,” said Sonny.
I set the chalk down, slowly, in the nearest trough.
“Point taken, Sonny,” I said. “I do seem to have described all pain relief. One difference, more like a convenience, is that mindfulness lessens pain without the need for chemistry, or devices, or other people. Though it does take some work to get good at it. A thousand days or so. About the same as going to college. Why do people do that? Why go to college? Why commit all those years and dollars?”
“To make many dollars for many years,” Alf said.
“What about the expected happiness value of college? What would that calculation look like?”
“Students predict that their investment of time and money will pay off, and that in the long run, they will be happier if they go to college than if they don’t.”
I nodded to Alf and addressed all. “What if the same amount of effort was applied directly toward learning how to not get upset? And then you graduated with that skill? How would that rate to affect your day-to-day and long-range happiness in the decades ahead? Would the investment be worth it?”
“First you said that mindfulness takes up no time,” Victor said. “And now you say it takes four years to learn it. Which is it?” His wispy hair seemed to catch more than its fair share of light.
“It takes many days of training to get to where you can do it,” I said. “But it takes no time to actually do it.”
Victor tossed his BS chip in the air and snatched it back at the apex. “Was that supposed to mean something?”
“Okay,” I said. “Let me try again. See, mindfulness is not like a self-improvement program, where you set aside time for it. The next opportunity for mindfulness is always right now, because all it really means is paying attention.”
Victor’s eyebrows went up. “That’s it?”
“That’s half of it. The second component of mindfulness is to not judge or rate or compare. And we’ll get to that. For now though—”
“Can you score it?” Charlie said. “Can I compare results?”
“You can. Mindfulness is measurable, and quantifiable. And now, you can keep score, using this thing I just made up, called mindfulness points.”
“Outstanding!” said Charlie.
“Be still my heart,” said Babs.
“That’s the idea, Babs.” I sat down. “We’ll get into mindfulness later, about how to do it, and why it works. And we’ll look at the more common methods of pain relief such as drugs and sports.”
“Sports?” Victor blurted. “Do you mean playing or watching?”
“Both. And we are going to discuss betting strategy, aimed at painlessness. For now though, let’s go back to pain collecting.”