In mastering Mindfulness, we learn to appreciate a view, yet stay within ourselves.
It would be naive to expect to go through life and not experience moments of pain. Mindfulness can help us cope more skilfully with what life throws at us. Accepting that trying too hard to be happy is not always a good thing. This is an important step in getting more from your Mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness meditation can improve memory, raise creativity and give us faster reaction times. There are many compelling reasons to practice Mindfulness. There are also many ‘myths’ surrounding meditation that I would like to explore in this blog.
A few key things to know about Mindfulness and Meditation:
- Mindfulness is not just about Meditation
- Meditation is a practice rather than a good idea – it therefore takes practice to get ‘good’ at it
- Mindfulness and Meditation is not a religion
- Meditation is a method of mental training and is an excellent practice in supporting our long term health
- Meditation can be used for contemplation; however, this is more of a focused analysis exercise as opposed to true meditation
- You do not have to sit cross-legged on the floor to meditate
- You can meditate more or less anywhere however some practices are better suited to when you have control over your environment
- Meditation can liberate us from the perception of pressure on our time
- Mediation does not need to be complicated
- Mindfulness and Meditation are only good for mental health – not true – Mindfulness has been shown to have positive impact on conditions including chronic pain, addiction and heart disease
- Meditation is not about success or failure
- Even when it is difficult – you will have learnt something from your meditation
- It will not deaden your mind
- Meditation can give you mental clarity
- Meditation helps cultivate compassion for self and others
Many of these points are referenced in the book, Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams. This book covers an 8-week Mindfulness programme containing simple habit breaking – formal and informal practices – based on MBCT. Clinical trials showed MBCT halves the risk of depression. It is at least as effective as anti-depressants (with none of the downsides) and is recommended by NICE. MBCT revolves around a form of meditation.
Mindfulness is underpinned by principles known to human kind historically that we have somehow forgotten as the world got busier. Our moods naturally wax and wane, as do the seasons in every year. Certain patterns of thought can turn short-term thinking into longer-term reduction in mental, emotional and physical health. Brief moments of anger or sadness can define the rest of the day, if we do not have the skills to manage the mental loops that we have created in our brain chemistry.
Focusing on your breath allows you to observe thoughts as they arise and being able to develop the capacity to notice these and then let go, rather than struggling with ourselves and our thoughts. Developing our ability to hit pause, helps us accept that thoughts and feelings are transient – they come and go – and we have a choice if we react to these or not.
To step outside of our troubles and life experiences, to liberate ourselves from our reactions, we gain more control of our reactions and mastery of our impulses.
If you choose to visualise outcomes as part of your meditation practice this is absolutely fine. However, meditation and contemplation are different things. Contemplation could be described as focused analysis, e.g. ‘how do I approach this particular life challenge?’ Meditation is the ability to let go of thoughts and enter stillness. It is therefore different from an outcome-focused contemplation. However, we can approach the contemplation of life’s challenges from a mindful place, e.g. by using some mindful breathing before considering an upcoming challenge. This is where Mindfulness and meditation progress our mental fitness and is an excellent strategy for Leaders to embrace.
Practicing Mindfulness helps us observe events without criticism. Mindfulness can allow us to catch negative thought patterns before they tip us on a downward spiral and put us back in control. Overtime it can bring long term changes in mood; increasing happiness and wellbeing and can positively affect our brain chemistry helping us to avoid negative impact on our mental health.
When we feel unhappy, we maybe try to divert our self away from that unhappiness, in order to ‘cheer up’. We look to establish what is causing the issue and find a solution. However, our minds can then wander towards looking back at past regrets and look forward to concerns about the future. The ‘inner critic’ which lives in us all can pop up like a bit of toast, disconnecting with our sense of balance. When this happens, we are then at risk of loosing coherence and personal flow.
Mindfulness encourages us to be more patient and compassionate. It frees us from the powerful pull towards the negative however, we should not feel bad about feeling sad. We should decide when it is time to move on from that feeling; to break the cycle, if it is carrying us downwards, if we can. Emotions cannot be solved when we are in ‘doing mode’. However a commitment to living life Mindfully means we can often choose our behaviours and reactions. Mindfulness helps us cultivate this by being able to notice when the ‘doing mode’ is seeking to take over!
Mindfulness and Meditation will not numb the brain to solve problems, rather Mindfulness gives us the time and space to choose the way of solving them rather than become overactive.
If you want an outcome and do not get it, there may be disappointment. I would encourage you, not to seek the destination of Mindfulness and Meditation mastery, but to explore it as a tool you can add to your wellbeing that will help you approach life with more Resilience. It’s better to experience Mindfulness as a part of life’s journey. Some days your mindful practice will go well and other days you will be distracted. Indeed, some days will be so tough that a silent meditation may not serve you well. However, a mindful contemplation of something that is concerning you, may well support your Resilience on that day, and that is absolutely fine.
This is not to say that I dismiss focused contemplation, as this is the way we stay engaged with life and develop our capacity for Resilience. I am an advocate of using relaxation and problem-solving approaches to improve our mental fitness and ability to address all aspects of life, including the complex challenges of business. I would encourage that you look for helpful practices when reflecting upon a matter that vexes you or proves to be a challenge.
Commit to developing a real understanding of your own mindful practice so that you know the difference between focused contemplation and problem solving versus the ability to just ‘be’ in that mindful place.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, if you would like details of our Mental Fitness Training for Leaders that covers Resilience, Mental Health Awareness, Mindfulness and Growth do get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.