Mindfulness & meditation

Mindfulness helps us to become familiar with, be present with, interested in and curious about the mind – a constant, sustained investigation. Knowing what’s happening, when it’s happening, without changing or judging it. Mindfulness highlights our habits and patterns of behaviour, so that we can approach our relationships more skilfully, rather than react impulsively. We step away from the inner critic and life on autopilot to develop a deeper connection and intimacy with ourselves and others, and develop a trust our own inherent goodness.

 

Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist tradition as one element of the noble eightfold path that the Buddha described as a means to move towards liberation from suffering. It’s a training of the mind to see the true nature of body, feelings, perceptions and thoughts. Together with concentration and effort it constitutes meditation practice, which aims to lead to increased focus and insight. The basis for Buddhist philosophy is the acknowledgement that life is inherently stressful and things shift all the time. We don’t need to take this personally – these are simply characteristics of life.

There’s nothing innately religious about this philosophy and it forms the basis for widespread secular practices East and West.

Why practice?

Harvard scientists have found that on average we spend 47% of our time thinking about something other than what we’re doing. They found that this makes us unhappier, while engaging with the present supports happiness – this is what we do when we practice meditation: We develop a direct experience of our felt presence – truly engaging and being with how we feel whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant.

This will shed light on our behaviour patterns, habits and actions. We can then move away from reacting thoughtlessly and out of impulse, from our addiction to experience like entertainment, expectations towards others (friends, family, colleagues), expectations around our life (career, a sense of entitlement), and being trapped in consumerism. Through self-reflective awareness we develop insight or wisdom, even if it’s on the smallest scale and only one moment at a time. Over time the impact on our life will accumulate. Meditation practice is self-empowering. It’s teaching us how to deal with what’s coming up, so that our experiences become our teachers.

The benefits of meditation

Regular meditation of 20 mins 5 times a week has been shown scientifically to

strengthen the immune system
help handle pain (physical / emotional)
develop empathy and emotional intelligence
reduce stress and anxiety
increase grey matter in the brain
decrease brain activity in the amygdala (the part involved in triggering fear)