The Mindfulness Effect

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I’ve meditated on and off for years (more off than on I’m afraid to say). I’ve always liked the idea of meditating and knew it was a good thing to do but often struggled to find the time to sit still; unable to quiet my mind long enough to seemingly get anything out of it.

The trouble was that I had this image of having to be all ‘monk-like’ – creating the perfect conditions (time, lighting, quiet) in order to get it right. I’d manage this for a time but simply couldn’t sustain this type of structure in my everyday life and would eventually give up.

Our company is taking part in Mindful in May, an online meditation program aimed at clearing minds whilst raising money to provide clean drinking water for underdeveloped countries. I loved the idea of taking on something good for myself and contributing to others at the same time. This double incentive was just the thing to get me back on the mindfulness wagon.

I’m half way through the program but I’m already making progress and having some light bulb moments. I hope by sharing what I’ve learned with you it makes being mindful more accessible to you.

What’s mindfulness?

As the Dalai Lama might put it: Mindfulness is practising paying attention to what’s happening inside your body and around you with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance. It’s about being present to each moment as it happens. In practical terms, mindfulness is about focusing on now; not yesterday or tomorrow.

Meditation is one way of achieving it, however it can also be practised in many other ways. I’ve discovered mindful eating – taking time to eat and paying attention to the tastes and textures of food; mindful conversation – taking time to really listen to the other person and thoughtfully respond; and mindful activity – focusing on a single task at home or work with nothing else in mind.

Meditation really is possible

Mindfulness meditation is actually the art of focusing attention, rather than a form of relaxation. The idea is not to shut off the mind but rather develop the part of the brain that senses and experiences things. I now understand that I can observe my thoughts pop up without engaging with them. I can choose my focus and therefore resist the temptation to jump on any old train of thought; meaning less worry and anxiety which is great for a deep thinker like myself.

Being more present (and connecting with the world around me)

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like), whilst helping us stay connected with others, has a tendency to avert me from what is going on in my own life. When I am being mindful, I notice that I check my news feed less often and become absorbed in what’s happening in my own world. I catch the moments I would otherwise miss if my eyes were glued to my phone.

Getting to know myself better

Getting mindful is helping me understand myself better. I’m more observant of how things affect me, becoming less reactive and more able to respond calmly in all kinds of situations. There’s not as much cursing and a lot more laughing at myself; I’m a lot more fun to be around – which my family will attest to.

Being kind to myself (and others)

Being mindful brings gentleness to my approach to life and to myself. When I fall off the mindfulness wagon (which is quite often), I’m learning not to give myself such a hard time about it. And, the more compassionate I am with myself, the more compassionate I am with others. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Practising mindfulness has been a great leveller for me – an opportunity to take a few deep breaths (particularly at a time in my life when everything seems to be moving so fast). It’s a great reminder not to rush through life; rather, take a few moments to really savour it.

It’s still a work in progress for me but the great thing about it is that it doesn’t have to be a big deal. I’ve learned that I can start small. And so can you. Taking a few minutes here and there to breathe and notice what’s happening in your body and around you can make a big difference. It may develop into a meditation practice or it might not. The important thing is finding a way that works for you.

Paula x

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