Are you enjoying your life? Did you enjoy the last hour? If not, why not?
Article written by Joanne O’Malley, Mindfulness at Work
Mindfulness – How to? explains that the mind’s habit of worrying about what might happen, some future difficulties that might arise or being pre-occupied with a drama that happened yesterday / last week may not be the best way to live and offers an alternative…
Were you criticising yourself… for feeling the way you do, being the way you are? not getting something right / or as good as you should? Are you constantly telling yourself: “Do this, Get that done, Make plans, Fix things, Figure out…” Over-burdened with the stresses of everyday living, the job that requires endless effort, fear of insecurity, how to pay the bills and deal with all your responsibilities. When did life become such a trudge?
Mindfulness – What?
Defined by Jon Kabat Zinn as:
…Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
Mindfulness is simply the capacity to be fully conscious and aware which we all have. But, we tend to stay ‘present’ only briefly and spend most of our time engrossed in habitual daydreams and personal stories. Training cultivates a different way of being than the endless striving, forcing, ‘making it happen’ mentality that is so pervasive in our culture and so exhausting and hard on us as human beings. Mindfulness is a simple way of relating to experience that teaches us to BE with ourselves and what is happening as it unfolds, moment by moment, with open curiosity and acceptance. Rather than getting into the story and worrying about what has happened or might happen we learn to respond skilfully to what is happening, whatever it is. With practice, this feels more like ‘riding the waves’ of your life rather than ‘swimming against the tide’.
Throughout history, human beings have searched to discover why we suffer in our minds as we do and how to relieve it. The practice of Mindfulness is two and a half thousand years old and originated in Buddhism as a pragmatic way to deal with and alleviate self induced suffering caused by the dysfunctional ways people are predisposed to routinely act in response to their experience.
In the late 1970s, Jon Kabat Zinn adapted this practice and developed the Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction (MBSR) programme for a secular context. It is a totally practical programme that requires no allegiance to any religion or belief system and its impact on participants has been scientifically tested from the start.
Why would I learn Mindfulness?
Hundreds of thousands of people have undertaken the training across all walks of life and three decades of published research attests to the value people derive from the training in terms of physical and mental health, well-being and happiness.
More recently, neuroscience and brain imaging technology clearly shows that Mindfulness practice alters the structure and function of the brain profoundly and consistently to enhance positive thinking / emotional states, lessen anxiety / rumination and increase compassion.
Mindfulness – How to?
Mindfulness is practical rather than theoretical so the learning happens through direct experience rather than talk. During a course, you are trained to pay attention to your experience as it happens:
- Direct your attention intentionally
- Notice what is there (sense rather than thought).
Each week focuses on a particular topic and different guided meditations. You may be asked to focus on the movement of the breath into and out of the body, or notice physical sensations, mental activity or deconstruct and directly sense really ordinary activities like eating, moving, walking.
At first, most people are shocked to discover how much time is spent in ‘auto-pilot’; for example they notice that when they are driving they are mostly oblivious to themselves and their surroundings because they are lost in thought – planning, rumination, a story in their heads.
This realisation is the first step to ‘waking up’ to each moment … actually being there for it, knowing what your breath feels like in your body and how this changes with your moods … and time spent in meditation (both in class and at home) is the formal training. Much like going to the gym to build muscle and strength in the body; formal meditation practice builds inner calm, level headedness, increased self awareness, emotional regulation and resilience.
Mindfulness – How to? What’s so different?
The quality of attention Mindfulness requires and cultivates is: patient, accepting, trusting, non judgemental, non striving, curious and playful. This changes everything.
We begin to see and accept reality as it is, no more, no less. So, rather than insisting on how it should be, resisting and suffering when our expectations are not met, we suspend reactivity. These attitudes also allow us to accept ourselves also with gentleness, warmth and kindness (which may be very unfamiliar). We recognise that the ‘perfect me’ is really just an idea and not really who we are meant to be at all.
Mindfulness – How to Is that it?
Of course, so much more happens over the 8 weeks… stepping back from reactivity enables us gain insight into what is really happening and the bigger picture. Then, we have options about how to respond, often discovering that nothing needs to be fixed at all. The training enables participants to undo mental / emotional and physical knots and tensions, increase confidence, inner flexibility / strength and so much more… as comments from participants show:
“Life Changing! I’ve learned new skills and discovered resources within me that I’d never imagined were there …. This has made me a nicer, happier, more aware person….”
“Powerful experience! helped me to feel alive again, increased awareness of self, feeling more comfortable with intense feelings … Eye Opening! Feel a lot more relaxed and less burdened, happier and I laugh more! … Liberating! I have woken up from a coma! … Huge Positive Difference! … Every area of my life has changed dramatically for the better.”
Mindfulness – How to? There is lots more…
Joanne gives Mindfulness Training – customised programmes to organisations and individuals.
“It is such a privilege, to be able to pass on this gift that has transformed me and my life. I passionately believe that we reconnect with ourselves, our inner joy through stillness, being present, embracing all of life with an open heart and a calm mind. Feedback from participants confirms that most people find the training transformational and it motivates them to live their lives more fully.”