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.
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.