You don't have to be a hippy to practice mindfulness says executive coach Amanda, just a sense of being and the patience to stick with it
With our busy lives, living 'in the moment' doesn't always seem possible. Yet mindfulness can help you at work and at home, helping you harness your energy, strengthen your output and enhance your everyday interactions. It's a way of paying attention...on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.
Meditation and cognitive behaviour therapy might seem a bit too weird for most people... but mindfulness (a combination of the two) is cool.
That's my take on the current climate of acceptance. We need some help to stay sane but must frame it in a way that's new and innovative rather than drawing on ways of being that have been around for millennia.
I read an article today quoting Ruby Wax, who's been very vocal on this subject, having studied mindfulness to Masters level and attributing her cure of depression to it. She says:
"47% of the time our mind is wandering. And you know what's sad about that? Tests show we aren't having lovely daydreams... we are ruminating and worrying".
OK so at least I know I am normal.
She also refers to the fact that modern day life keeps our brains on constant high alert. Our amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotion, needs calming down. So yes we do need some help with this.
Mindfulness is the art of being in the present, or as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn the mindfulness guru:
"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally".
Two years ago I attended an 8 week programme called (MBSR) and found it far more transformational than I could ever have hoped. My children say I am a hippy anyway but I like to think of myself as reasonably normal and for the most part sane. I have however had the occasional bout of anxiety and even panic in response to triggering that good ol' stress response just once too often for my body to be happy with.
On the course we practiced a variety of techniques, the key being repeatedly practicing bringing the mind back to the moment. According to research, we can shift our neuropathways and after a period of time (8 weeks funnily enough) there is an increase in feelings of well-being and calmness.
And I can attest it's true!
For me it was (and still is) simply about noticing. Noticing when my mind wanders and kindly bringing it back to whatever it is trying to focus on. Noticing when I am ruminating and kindly bringing my attention back to reality. Noticing when I am actually having a full conversation in my head with all of the emotions that go along with it and kindly telling myself that it is fantasy. An extraordinarily simple way of being that is always, and I mean always, a work in progress.
My favourite mindfulness exercise, learned on the MBSR course, can be done anytime and anywhere, particularly at moments of stress as it only takes a few minutes.
Bring yourself onto the present moment by deliberately adopting a dignified posture. Then ask: "What is going on with me at the moment?"
Notice and acknowledge your experience, instead of turning away. As best you can, accept all of your experiences in the body, emotions and thoughts, and stay with them for a few moments, allowing any negative feelings or experiences to be present.
Gently focus your full attention on your breathing.
Experience fully each inhale and each exhale as they follow one after the other. The breaths can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and to help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness. Try following the breath for a short while.
Expand your awareness around the breathing to the whole body, and the space it takes up, as if your whole body is breathing. Have a sense of the space around you too. Hold everything in awareness.
Amanda Sasada, Executive Coach, My Family Care