What is Mindfulness?

Fiona Gilkes, Co-Founder of White and Lime, shares her views on what mindfulness is and how it can help in the work place.

Live in the moment

Focus – Slow Down – De-stress

Mindfulness is all about living in the moment. It’s the capacity to be aware of what is there in this moment and to focus on this one thing at a time.

“Mindfulness is a very simple form of meditation that was little known in the West until recently.  A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind, and little by little, to let go of struggling with them.” PROFESSOR MARK WILLIAMS

“If you try to calm the mind, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm and when it does there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more.  Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline, you have to practice it.” STEVE JOBS

Many mindfulness exercises are rooted in Buddhist teaching, although the practices are taught for secular (mixed) audiences and it is not necessary to have an understanding of Budhism to practice mindfulness.  The Western world, led by hippies in the 60s, have grabbed it and over the last few decades mindfulness has become mainstream.  Mindfulness is being introduced into our nurseries and schools (see dot.be and paws.b), our workplaces (google, AXA, ebay, gsk, Sony) and even in Westminster.  There are plans to ensure that every teacher and Doctor will have mindfulness practices included somewhere in their training.

There are endless advantages to bringing a more mindful way of being into mainstream western living. Here are my top five.

  1. Mindfulness improves your attention – By developing your moment to moment awareness and paying attention to the here and now, your mind does not ruminate but allows you to focus on the task in hand.
  2. Mindfulness makes us more positive human beings – As you increase your practice of mindfulness you will find that you gradually stop labelling events and thoughts under emotional headings such as “negative” “irritating” and “boring”. You will develop a way of observing them and moving on.  This can be a huge advantage when someone is pushing your buttons. Mindfulness is essentially helping you to control your automatic nervous system.
  3. Mindfulness helps you relax – If you slow your breathing right down, you will automatically relax. This is especially helpful when you need to focus, to do a presentation, attend an interview or simply just calm down.
  4. Mindfulness improves our communication with others – If you concentrate on listening and engaging rather than letting your mind wander or thinking ahead to what you are going to say next. Stay in the moment. You’ll be amazed by how much better the communication will be.
  5. Mindfulness gives us confidence – It’s hard to live in the moment if we worry about what others might be thinking of us. Self-consciousness sets up a dual thinking process, so instead of listening to the other person or concentrating on what we want or need to say, we are also wondering how we are coming across.  By practising mindfulness to be ourselves and to be present, we will not only overcome any self-conscious fears or worries about the opinions others may have of us, but we will become more relaxed and engaged.

 

I can honestly say that I LOVE mindfulness. My top five benefits can be proved (there is a huge body of scientific evidence, but that’s another article), the best way to silence the critic in you is to try it. Mindfulness doesn’t work if you just read about it, you can’t just window shop.  You need to get in the shop and try on the clothes! As Steve Jobs said at the beginning of this article, “it’s a discipline and you have to practice it.”  Take a look at our next inspiration post “Mindfulness – Where to Start” to get some ideas on how to start.