Mindfulness is a blend of the ancient wisdom of Buddhism and the modern science of psychology.
In my study and practice of mindfulness, one of the best books I’ve read on the subject is Mindful Compassion written by Prof Paul Gilbert OBE, and Buddhist expert Choden. As a life coach, I offer here my key learnings from this valuable book in the hope that it may inspire you on your journey towards your best self.
Mindfulness says that your own mind is the source of your happiness or suffering. How we relate to our minds, what arises in them and how we react to it, determines happiness. It says that our thinking is our reality and it frames how we show up in the world and how we view the world. It can be changed.
The way in which our minds have evolved can cause us to have difficult emotions and we need to respond wisely and compassionately to them; to see things as they actually are, not how we would like them to be. This provides more emotional balance to cope with the stresses of our everyday lives and achieve our vision to a more fulfilled life.
The basis for mindfulness is the capacity for the awareness of what is going on inside ourselves, the mental capacity that enables us to stand back and observe moment by moment processes and dramas of the mind, experiencing what it’s like to be an impartial observer of self. It is a life skill, one which allows us to be awake to our experiences.
Mindfulness is not something you acquire; it is an internal resource you had within you all along. It initiates an important shift within, and awakens a new level of self-awareness.
Awakening is the key to change – shifting us from operating on auto pilot where so much of our daily life is governed by mental processes that occur outside our conscious awareness, to self-awareness of processes and behaviours at a subconscious level.
Mindfulness allows us to intentionally disengage from our emotions, to just observe in a non-judgemental way, with compassion. This allows us to focus and face the parts of ourselves we struggle with (anxiety, anger, fear, etc.) but without judgement and without reacting – allowing us to accept ourselves as we truly are – both positive and negative aspects.
The benefits of this practice
Mindfulness is a counter balance to our always-on, fast paced, task oriented, competitive world and provides more perspective to our lives. It offers a more settled mind, reduces emotional reactivity (so that we can act rather than react), refocuses our attention, develops a more positive mindset, and puts us in control.
This gives us an overall higher state of awareness and, specifically, connectedness – a sense of well-being with a new perspective. It offers us a different reality.
Mindfulness is a choice that allows us the option to change.
It is the deliberate intention to observe the activity of the mind in a non-judgemental way, to step back and notice whatever arises in the mind without reacting to it.
The starting point
The starting point for mindfulness, for this shift in awareness, is just noticing what’s going on in the mind, being present in the moment.
The challenge is to get the mind to settle – to stop roving from one thought to another, independently in the grip of one emotion or another and not in our control. If our thoughts were all positive this wouldn’t matter, but our minds have a tendency towards negativity and most of us have a catalogue of negative themes filed away in our minds which results in a lot of self-criticism.
Negativity attaches like velcro.
The fact is that our unconscious minds follow their own direction. When we are not focusing on a specific task these negative thoughts come to the fore, causing us to feel unhappy, sad, depressed, angry, etc.
This is why we get stuck on painful issues. Influenced by limiting beliefs, we relive difficult situations and events over and over and fantasize about how things should be and what we want.
The choice to change – to take control of our emotions – is ours.
It is well known that where our attention goes, our energy flows, because what we focus on is what we give energy to – we cultivate our thoughts, so affecting our emotions.
Attention is like a zoom lens, and if we give it to a negative thought it can easily get out of proportion and become a big issue as we give it power over ourselves.
However, when we just observe and don’t react to or engage with the emotion, it dissipates quickly and its power is lost.
How does mindfulness work?
Once we realise it is our emotions that capture our attention, we can start to train our minds to focus on the positive things that are helpful and serve us well. It takes practice to change an old well-established habit and learn a new one.
It’s important to note that mindfulness is not about avoiding difficult emotions or stopping our thoughts. It is about acknowledging them and practicing how to manage them. It’s a process of observation of thoughts as they come and go in your mind, without engaging with them. It doesn’t mean we like or condone our negative states of mind, nor are we resigned to them – rather we see them.
This is only the first step to effecting change in ourselves because we are facing what’s going on in our minds, not supressing our feelings or projecting them, but accepting them for what they are and how them impact on us.
Mindfulness offers you simple steps towards an inward journey so you can connect to who you truly are and live an energised life that is in harmony with who you desire to become.
NOTE: If you feel that your emotions are particularly concerning or difficult to manage, you may need to seek support or counselling. Mindfulness should be taught by a professional practitioner to guide and direct you through the process.
by Rose Murdock, Confidence Coach