I have heard some negative comments in reference to mindfulness such as it’s ‘self-indulgent nonsense’ or ‘woo woo’, in other words unconventional with little or no scientific basis. I wanted to see for myself and explore the world of mindfulness at an even deeper level. I wrote in my book last year that I often cheated with mindfulness practise, cramming it in and calling it ‘gushy mindfulness’. I still stand by my opinion that even the busiest, most highly strung of people can still fit it into their lifestyle. I give lots of practical examples in my book of how you can do this and I have had some great feedback. But I want to make something clear – this year has already been life changing in terms of my understanding of the benefits that more regular mindfulness practise can bring to our life.
Many of you will be aware that I recently completed an 8 week mindfulness course with Gary Young and Craig Ali via The Mindful Enterprise. We covered a great deal on the course with the ultimate objective being to develop an in-depth personal experience of mindfulness and to build the foundations of a sustained personal practice, with a view to applying this in our life and also in our professional work. We were encouraged to adopt an attitude of curiosity (a lot of you will know this is right up my street) to our experience of the present moment, suspending judgement. Not an easy task. I was curious to know why other people on the course were there. I got a mix of reasons from personal development, healing and self-care and general curiosity. Personally, I was there with an open mind, ready to learn. Was it easy? Not always. It can be challenging to change our habits and to practice a new skill. Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate and switch off. Sometimes I felt guilty about leaving the kids for two hours on a Monday night. Those thoughts also crept in during the away day to finalise the course. Sometimes I felt restless. I wanted to embrace the practise because we can spend too much time not being fully present and therefore missing most of the moments in which we live. When we get in touch with qualities of mindfulness, we start to feel a deeper sense of purpose and coming back home to ourselves in a more meaningful way.
Science shows us that regular mindfulness practise has many benefits such as clarity of purpose, creativity and inner peace. It is said that mindfulness practitioners develop a more optimistic stance in their lives, and a courage which enables them to work with rather than avoid life’s challenges. Each week something new came up. An interesting part for me was changing the relationship we have towards our suffering. Self-compassion is a huge aspect of mindfulness and is linked to various traits, such as warmth and kindness. The Dalai Lama speaks of compassion as sensitivity to the suffering of self and others, with a deep commitment to try to relieve it.
I would say the most powerful part of the course for me was sending love to my younger self. It is very easy to be compassionate towards an innocent child. But adults need love too. I’m still that person and so are you. That child capable of being free and spontaneous. A child who likes to play and dance. A child than needs love. A child capable of doing amazing things. Because we are all amazing. Why it is easier to see that when we are younger? Why is it easier to love and laugh and bounce out of bed with infectious energy? Why is it effortless to play and to speak the truth? I’m proud of that child and I sent a whole lot of love her way. I’m still that child. She’s still in there. Dig out an old picture and give your inner child some love.
I found as the weeks went on, that I was able to settle into the practise at a faster rate. A 30-minute practise would fly by to the point that by the end of the course, on the away day, it felt natural meditating for close to 5 hours with the odd short break, some of the breaks in silence. I felt lighter. The course has been finished for a few weeks now, but this week I met up with some of the team who did it and we meditated together and had some chat about the impact that mindfulness has had on our lives and why we want to keep up the practise. Some of the reasons were –
I have a whole chapter in my book about our ego. I find that I can now clearly call any egoistic behaviours out because the more ego, the more suffering. I don’t want to suffer. I want to forgive people and as I say on my podcast each week: I want to judge less and live more. That’s what mojo means to me. Imagine all the world leaders took time to practise mindfulness? It would change the planet. I like having a laugh when I notice the ego in myself, it’s great for our mental health to not take ourselves too seriously. That’s why comedy is such a gift.
It helps us to make better choices – there are always two paths. We can snap at a friend and family member or react with compassion. We can eat mindfully or shovel the food in as fast as we can. We can treat ourselves to an early night, or sit up scrolling through our phones. We can get up a bit earlier, to practise some much-needed self-care, or skip that time and dive right into life. We can spend our lives judging others (#exhausting) or we can pick acceptance and freedom from suffering. The list goes on. Life is all about choices and mindfulness helps us to make better ones. It gives us space to connect with ourselves on a deeper level.
Our ability to bounce back is so much stronger. To me, that is key to a much happier and healthier life.
Again, science backs this up. To perform at our best, our brains need to switch off. The issue is, we are not doing enough of this. It’s a problem. I wrote over the weekend about the danger of thinking too much, but it goes deeper than that. As Matt Haig writes in his brilliant book, Notes on a Nervous Planet,
‘We are living in a life overload and certainly a technology overload. How can we live in a mad world without ourselves going mad?’
What a brilliant question.
My thoughts – get mindful. The greatest gift you can give yourself is time. Goals are exciting, goals are addictive. I get it. I’m a self-confessed goal digger and I always will be. But in between goals, there is this thing called life. Life that is there to be enjoyed. You may adore your work, I do too. But what else do you adore? Where do you feel most like yourself? When do you feel happiest? I love writing. I love being on stage. But for me to perform at my peak, I need to unwind. I need to get mindful. I need to do other things I love. Like spend time with my family in the water, taking adventures, singing and dancing or eating a tasty meal. So do you. I need time for self-care – to move my body, to get a massage, to read and enjoy a hot bath. To be still without the pressure to talk. To just be. So do you. I could write about this all day, but I have a podcast and before that I need some time out. Take the time. You’re worth it.
Note. The Mindful Enterprise continue to witness great transformation in their 8 week course participants and believe passionately in the power of mindfulness to help us navigate life’s challenges and realise our full potential. You can tune into a super inspirational podcast with Gary Young, the founder and I here.
Monday Evening Course – Starts 6th May
Wednesday Day Time Course – Starts 15th May
The team continue to deliver free and subsidised mindfulness training to schools and disadvantaged communities to improve the lives of children, young people and adults and I am honoured to have worked with them. Let’s change the world, one step at a time.