It is my pleasure to join you all again after what has been an active and busy week for myself. Continuing on from where we left off I believe I invited you all to try to familiarise yourself with the topic of mindfulness. If you are joining me now or simply haven’t found the time then do not worry as I will share links to various articles during the end. During this week when travelling to work from manchester to leeds I had some time to reflect on this topic. Contrary to popular belief of what mindfulness may seem to be at a surface level, I believe it isn’t reserved for people of a certain personality, faith or status.
Let me show you why that is… Earlier I told you that I had a busy week. This was because I had various projects to complete during the week, which I was assessed on. Simply put, I was under a bit of pressure to keep up a good impression at work. On the way to work the train journey was an hour which gave me a lot of time to either worry, let my mind wander or to prepare myself for what was to come. Which of these would you propose as the most appropriate coping strategy? The answer seems obvious that you must do what you can in order to prepare and then leave your mind open for when you arrive at the work place. In theory this seems easy, but when you haven’t been taught the tools to successfully be present in the moment whilst tolerating heavy thoughts it is actually a lot harder in practice. The tools in order to successfully live and embrace challenges without needing to keep your guard up and detach from these experiences come from learning mindfulness. Before I go on to explain what this skill means, I need to point out that it isn’t a quick fix but a slow process towards building resilience and tolerance.
So what is mindfulness? As you have probably figured out it is a means towards becoming grounded in the present moment and being able to choose where you focus. It is not about fixing, it is about allowing and accepting. It is not about controlling either, since your mind cannot be contained and shouldn’t be contained. By Jon Kabat Zinn’s definition he states that mindfulness is:“The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” This may seem to be a sophisticated topic but in truth it is easy to achieve. Once mastered you will be able to endure jobs you hate temporarily until circumstances change, or endure stress or come into terms with anything you find difficult to face. It can build your resilience towards a difficult present circumstance and help to then see the bigger picture.
What I am bringing to your attention is the idea that we can always choose our reality, if we experience conflict, do not try to escape from it, accept it, as pain or conflict is bound to happen in your life. Ideally, pursuing your passion is important but we must also build our tolerance towards times when life doesn’t hand us the things we want in the way we expect. We must learn to tolerate the discomfort within reason and with a sense of awareness and clarity. Suffering however, is not a natural part of life, so when you do find you cannot tolerate being in a job you hate and you have exhausted all other possible links to other opportunities. Do not despair, breathe, listen, find the joy in what you do. Your life changes when you choose to live, you start to notice more things around you, you can then find more ways to be productive and also keep up with the flow whilst enjoying the chaos.
In my case, when I went through all methods to prepare myself I made sure to not exhaust myself. I even allowed myself to enjoy the view, to observe the countryside from the window to think of the things I can do well that will help me excel at the exam or projects. I was able to allow myself these thoughts, because I took a deep breath, I stopped comparing myself and started paying attention to the moment. I chose an anchor, which was the nice view and focused on that in order to remind myself of the pleasantries around me. Then memories came flooding back to me about how I hated being unemployed and then all of this changed my perception of the situation I was facing. My passion came back.
I want all of you to first practice using anchors before we get into other ways of bringing mindful awareness into your life. This is because I want you all to build your foundations first in order to progress through your mindful journey. An anchor is anything that can grab your attention around you right in this very moment. The key is to connect your mind and body through your senses. Your body will always be rooted in the present moment and is therefore something you can count on to help ease you into reality. You can choose any aspect of your senses it doesn’t have to be visual like my previous example suggests. Remember you cannot get this practice wrong, don’t resist your temptation for your mind to drift away. Allow yourself to drift and willingly choose to let your mind wander. What may happen is, your need to escape into your mind will lessen and you will choose to then return to the present moment.
Embrace, live, enjoy, love and prosper my friends. I hope you enjoy choosing your anchors and then I will explain more about the next elements of mindfulness in the following blog posts. Have a joyful and mindful week folks!
Here are the links to some articles about mindfulness that I promised: