A few years ago I was introduced to Mindfulness Meditation. I had been suffering from constant stomach pains, couldn’t concentrate and was incredibly stressed at work. My doctor wasn’t really interested beyond ruling out a medical problem. So, stressed and unhappy, I was left to my own devices. I sought out help from a wellness centre that recommended Mindfulness Meditation.
I’d tried meditating before, but found it hard not to let my mind wander and I fought to control it. What Mindfulness Meditation does, is that it encourages you to let your thoughts flow. The aim is simple – it’s to pay attention, or to be ‘mindful’. It does have a basis in Buddhist thinking, but you can take it or leave it. It’s not really loaded with religious connotations or spiritual thought, which really appealed to me.
And it’s popularity is growing. The Huffington Post has a whole section devoted to it, Virgin Atlantic has a headspace channel on its in-flight entertainment created by Andy Puddicome founder of Get Some Head Space and there’s even an iphone app (details later).
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
The practice of being mindful focuses your attention on the here and now, using breathing techniques (as an anchor) you become aware of what’s going on and how it’s affecting you. In turn, you become acutely aware of your situation and how you feel. It is not designed to get rid of the stress itself, but I found that by identifying and accepting the thought processes and stress triggers, I was able to put them into context, accept them, deal with them and move on – calmly.
In our fast paced, fast-moving society our minds are constantly switched on – it’s become normal for our minds to race with thoughts, ideas, images, sounds, hopes and fears. And that’s normal. This type of meditation encourages you to follow the thought processes – to observe them, stand back from them and learn to accept the thoughts and how you feel about your situation as a whole.
It’s actually really, really simple. You stop, breathe and follow your thoughts, quietly observing them.
There are tools you can use to help guide your initial attempts at mindfulness. I worked with a meditation guide – who was brilliant and I use his podcasts sometimes too (see the links below to Mind Springs). If I have been really busy and am starting to feel it’s controlling me, I will utilise a guided meditation to help me to take some time out. But for the most part, I simply set aside half an hour during the day, stop, let my mind flow, observe what’s going on and in doing so totally relax. It’s so simple and so, so helpful.
WHAT IT IS
A series of techniques and methods of being still that uses the breath as an anchor.
WHAT IT ISN’T
An instant fix or resolution to your stressful situations – but what it can help with is delivering a sense of calm and help you with the ability to handle your life and everything in it.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
You need to practice every day (ideally) and there is growing body of evidence that shows that meditation can help improve general health and wellbeing from stress reduction to helping you sleep. The University of Utah discovered that mindfulness meditation helps people control moods and emotions as well as encouraging better sleep. A study in the journal of Health Psychology by the University of California has demonstrated the benefits for stress reduction (reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol). And as more research is completed, the list of benefits continues to grow.
I will continue to write about mindfulness and meditation as I truly believe it’s a great way to live a happier life that keeps stress at bay.
Additional information and contacts:
www.getsomeheadspace.com – focusing on taking 10 minutes a day to stop and reflect