A warm welcome to the first in a regular series of short reflections, contemplations, anecdotes, news, features and tips on mindfulness and related issues.
Today, I thought it might be helpful to newcomers to mindfulness, to say a little about what mindfulness is, but first a little about what mindfulness isn’t! There are so many myths flying around about how ‘it’ can make us feel calm, peaceful, happy, content etc. Well yes, it does have that capacity but mindfulness per se, is not an overnight fix.
Beginners often approach mindfulness sessions filled with expectations: ‘Show me how to relax… I need to switch off from my problems… How can I get rid of all these negative thoughts and emotions?… I need to chill out for a couple of hours a week. How do I do that?”
These expectations are understandable and perfectly normal too. ‘Doing mindfulness’ for a ‘quick fix’ may seem very tempting and easy to buy into, especially if one is feeling vulnerable, stressed or overwhelmed by life’s challenges in some way. Of course mindfulness can help to alleviate the above, but in the same way as we may train our bodies and our minds to run a marathon, complete a cycle race, or become a talented musician, it takes time plus a certain level of commitment to acquire the understanding, tools, techniques, the methods and the attitude necessary to effect positive inner change with lasting effect.
The good news however, is that everyone can do it!
We all have the inner capacity to become mindful – if we choose – and strange as it may sometimes seem, we always have a choice when it comes to how we respond to what arises for us at any time. The freedom to choose comes in time, with mindful understanding and awareness.
A favourite quote of mine comes from an online lecture on Mindfulness that I listened to recently by renowned mindfulness master, Professor Jon Kabat Zinn. He opened his lecture by addressing his large audience with the following:
“Hello everyone. I would like to ask you all why are you here? Take a few minutes to reflect…. Why are you really, really here? Ok now, why are you really, really, really here?” Loud laughter all round – but…. you’ll get it I know.
Very often people come to mindfulness with a feeling that “something needs to change”, yet without being able to pinpoint exactly what that ‘something’ is. That’s ok. On your mindful journey, there is a good chance that if you don’t already know, you will find out. For that reason alone, it can take a lot of courage to begin mindfulness training. Your own gently supported journey however, may prove to be the wisest you have ever taken in your life.
Scientifically and clinically proven evidence aside, my own experience tells me that there is no doubt whatsoever that practicing mindfulness, with kindness and compassion, for oneself and others, can greatly enrich our lives in many, often surprising ways – when we dare to look.