As a client recently reached the end of his programme with me recently, he said: “…it’s what you said at the beginning, this stuff isn’t for the faint hearted.” This really stayed with me. It’s something I try and say to every person I teach. But its also one of the reasons I love mindfulness so much. It doesn’t sugar coat things. It’s not fluffy. It’s not just chilling out. It’s about noticing what is happening for us in the moment as it really is and sometimes that demands courage.
Don’t get me wrong, I almost normally feel more relaxed and often recharged after a mindfulness practice, but the image that some people may have of mindfulness just being for some well meaning folk, to float off, presumably whilst wearing a Kaftan, is just not my experience.
Mindfulness can also be fantastically practical. As well as what might be described as ‘formal practice’ where we meditate for a period of time, I encourage people to bring mindfulness right into the heart of the daily life, particularly their work life.
When I have been in meetings, particularly when I’m called to speak and even more, when the creeping death of contributions has gone round the whole board table and is about to land at my door; feeling of nervousness stress and anxiety can start to build. Bringing my attention to my breath can steady my nerves, calm my body and mind and enable me to perform at my best. This isn’t soft and fluffy, this is a ninja workplace skill! There’s a reason the American military called their mindfulness programme JEDI.
It is also wonderfully portable. I take my breath with me, and indeed my body for that matter. Which means I can ‘do’ a short breathing practice or even a body scan at my desk or home office, without anyone having a clue. I used to do this all the time when I worked in a large office in central London, (back in the days when people used to commute!!!) After the joys of the journey on the London underground, I would get to a desk, switch on my laptop and just quietly lower my gaze, bringing my attention to the breath for a few moments. If anyone noticed me at all, they thought I was reading my emails. But I was recalibrating, shaking off the pushing, stressed out commute and setting myself up for my work-day ahead. The effects were transformational for me and the people that worked with me.
If you have and want to hold onto the idea that mindfulness is soft, esoteric and requires a four month stint in Tibet, that’s entirely up to you. But my experience is that it is Real, Practical, Portable and definitely not for the fainthearted.