Mindfulness

A few months ago I had coffee with a friend and told her that I had started a blog. ‘What is it about?’ she asked? ‘Travel, life, journeys’ I told her. ‘OK she said as long as its not about that rubbish mindfulness, I’ll have a read’. I laughed out loud and admitted there probably would be some discussion of the subject.

Mindfulness is increasing in popularity among those interested in self and personal development. Organisations too are using it as part of their work to support employees. The benefits of increasing awareness of the present moment and its benefits on wellbeing are being written and talked about. Healthily, there are those who challenge the benefits of practice and wonderfully there are some very humorous takes on its meaning and impact, most notably the Ladybird Book On Mindfulness.

mindfulness

Ultimately though all the views and evidence have to sit alongside experience to understand how mindfulness might benefit us.

My experience of mindfulness started almost 20 years ago when I read my first Buddhist text and attended a Buddhist centre to learn meditation. Anyone expecting a ‘quick fix’ or indeed a ‘fix’ through meditation and mindfulness is probably in for some disappointment.  In the early days of sitting and being aware of the breath I felt like i would go crazy as the random thoughts entered my head…..last years holiday…agenda for next weeks meeting……why am I thinking of cheese and onion crisps now? .

But there is a reason why its called ‘practice’ and over time meditating daily started to bear fruit. The pace of my thoughts slowed, I felt less inclined  to ‘engage’ with them, to ruminate and act upon them. When I did act on my thoughts it was more ‘conscious’ and less harmful.

There was a spread of benefit from the periods of practice to life more generally.  The way I have described it to friends is that I became more meditative generally, my practice of meditation had evolved into a more expansive mindful practice. The ‘skill’ developed too, I was more generally ‘aware’ of my thoughts, and some very habitual thought patterns decreased significantly, I let them go.

With the ‘noise’ of my mind increasingly quietened I found my awareness and acceptance of the present moment increased. It is a misconception that mindful thinking means never thinking about the past or the future, but it does mean that being in the present is the most important thing of all. It is what is in front of us at this very moment that is truly the only ‘time’ we have.

Over the past few months I have realised even more the deep quality of that present moment, it is beyond the joy of the good times and the sadness of the bad it is the value of the equanimity  of our experience. It is the realisation of the opportunity we have in front of us in every second to live fully in whatever way we choose to do that.

 

 

The things we need?

Business as usual

In the foreground,  in the months after not getting promotion I  got  on with my job.My new boss arrived in  the organisation and I supported her to get to know the business and its objectives. It was back to business as usual…almost.

The things we need

In the background I was starting to think about what I would do next . I had a great mentor who had coached me for the job and I continued to see him on a monthly basis. Our conversation, and my thoughts, turned to something more fundamental than just a job –how did I want to live going forward ? what were the things that I needed to live that way? 

Similar to a lot of people my age my life had become a collection of things that I had chased, that I loved, that had become passions, things I definitely needed like a roof over my head and things that I probably didn’t. I loved travel, the arts, food, my buddhist beliefs and I also had my fair share of bad habits. And they kind of hung together like some beautiful tapestry. But now was the opportunity to take a step back and to ask what was really important to me going forward. Some things emerged early on and some things are still an ongoing exploration but a few things became very clear

  • Relationships- My family and friends are so important- I am fortunate to have two fantastic brothers, 2 wonderful sisters, 2 nephews and 5 nieces. and more family on the way.After the loss of both my parents to cancer they are my world. They have seen me through so many challenges and for that I am so grateful. I also have the most fantastic eclectic network of friends, they too are incredibly precious to me
  •  I love where I live!20160914_141655018_iosI’m very lucky to have a beautiful  apartment that I have lived in now for over 10 years. I live in a town in the northwest close to Manchester and importantly for me my network of friends. I am inspired by the notions of small spaces, tiny living etc and whilst years ago having the latest of everything would have been important to me, it is less so now.
  • I need less ‘things’ Years ago i was a shopper, id get my paycheck and go. Now i realise I don’t need these things as much- yes I still buy nice things but on the basis that I need them rather than just for the sake of having them. For the first time in my life I’m out of contract on my contract and still on my Iphone5- I’m in no rush to get the new one
  • I love to experience great things I like to travel, to eat good food, to drink great wine (and the occasional beer,cocktail and gin) to enjoy the arts and to explore ideas and concepts. I am fortunate that I have travelled extensively through Australia, Asia, Europe and other parts of the world. I love to take photos like the one below of Kuta Bali and I like to bore everyone with my travel tales.

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  • My spiritual beliefs are very important to me-I was raised a Catholic and despite me ‘lapsing’ in my teens I still had a sense of the idea of ‘something’ bigger than just myself. In my late teens I discovered Buddhism and read books by Geshe Kelsang Gytaso, the Dalai LLama, Thich Naht Hanh and Pema Chodron to name a few. I have always said that in Buddhism I felt that I was reacquainting with something I already knew. I am not as robust a Buddhist as perhaps some would expect, not at this stage following a particular school or lineage but I also remember that the Buddha remarked that the essence of Buddhism had the one taste and that’s the priniciple I cling to. I am also drawn to Taoism and I meditate regularly. Increasingly I’m interested in the concept of living mindfully

These things I discovered were my foundations- the things that really mattered. Work in a sense took a back burner in this exploration but soon I was to come to a very significant decision regarding my current work.