Have you ever felt that your mind is over full, cluttered with so many thoughts and worries that you almost feel your head is about to explode?
Moreover,have you developed techniques to deal with this?
This need has been recognised since the beginning of time and I feel as soon as we become aware of the world outside ourselves as a child we instinctively know how to do this. Unfortunately, children are not encouraged or nurtured to preserve this skill and many modern toys are brightly coloured and noisy and the opportunity to just ‘be’ and enjoy stillness and silence and the simple life around them is missed.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I had my first child was ‘if the baby cries remember she may just want to be put down’ and it often worked.
Several years ago I talked to a group of 5-6 year olds about being quiet and still and I was surprised when most of them revealed how this was something in their own way they found a way of practising. They then proceeded to tell me how they found space to do this. “I always go under my sisters bed,” said one child. “I go in the garden behind the shed” said another.” I sit under the stairs” said another.
I then sat with them and focused on a candle, which I allowed one of them to carry to the table. The child who was the noisiest and most active carried it with great care and placed it on the table. I spoke with these children on several occasions and on each occasion a child carried the candle a short distance to the table and we all sat in silence. Week by week the length of time they remained silent and still grew until they were able to sit quietly for up to 5 minutes. Following this they came out of the silence quieter and played together in a much calmer, friendlier manner.
Similarly, talking to children in a a quiet monotone causes absolute relaxation and puts them in a state of selfhypnosis. This technique I have used on many occasions to administer injections and take blood from children. On one occasion when I was a junior paediatrician and a child was admitted with an asthma attack. The nursing staff were lining up to hold him down to put up a intravenous infusion. The child was distressed and frightened. I asked the staff to leave the room and quietly spoke to him with full eye contact and gradually the child quiet ended and he cooperated fully to allow me to put up the infusion much to the surprise of the nursing staff.
On another occasion more recently I was working as a locum in a practise and a mother came to the surgery with 3yr old active twins. She was distraught as her husband had terminal cancer and she had no-one to look after the children and wanted to talk about her own problems. When I looked at the computer notes there were four entries from previous doctors recording that they were unable to have the consultation with the mother and she should return on her own. I started to talk to the twins and then gently massaged the centre of their scalp (a calming acupuncture point) and both children stood still for long enough for the mother to pour out her concerns. The children were then led calmly away by their much calmer mother.
As an adult to achieve this level of relaxation we need to focus on a sound, a picture or simply your own breath sounds and may need help from another person.
Using techniques like this, meditation, breathing and yoga can help us pay attention to the present moment. It helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we’re better able to manage them.
This awareness of the present moment or Mindfulness as a psychological concept is based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation. It has been popularised in the West by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Despite its roots in Buddhism, mindfulness is often taught independently of religion.
Mindfulness teaches individuals to be present in the moment rather than being distracted about the past or projectingd into the future. It doesn’t stop you feeling emotions per se, but it does allow you to deal with them more dispassionately.
Practising mindfulness can give people more insight into their emotions, boost their attention and concentration and improve relationships. It’s proven to help with stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours, and can even have a positive effect on physical problems like hypertension, heart disease and chronic pain.
Mindfulness practice, is increasingly being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions.
I think that mindfulness is something many of us have done – have you ever sat looking out to sea and found yourself listening to the rhythmic sound of waves or watching the trees/ grass swaying in a breeze or listening to your favourite music and suddenly realised that time has passed and for a short time you were only aware of that present moment and following this you feel more at ease. Have you swum lengths in a swimming pool with gentle rhythmic arm and leg movements and your mind taking up by feeling of movement in the water and finished the swim feeling that problems have seemed less or gone. Jogging at a gentle rhythmic pace around the park in a similar vein can give the same effect. This is not overexerting the body but calming the mind in a similar way to yoga. However, the benefit is only appreciated by being aware of the present moment and your thoughts and emotions at the time.
This can be a start to achieving full awareness or mindfulness by zoning in on the feeling of relieving the mind of excessive, overwhelming clutter so that eventually you can reach mindfulness with perfect stillness of body and mind.
Although the practise of meditation is in no way a religion it may be it is part of your religious practise and you need to be aware of how it can be helpful physically and mentally; you may want to call it prayerfulness.
I have been surprised as to how many people from all walks of life benefit from regular meditation although it is now it can be referred to as mindfulness.
Mindfulness. If you’re not yet au fait with the concept, it might be a good idea to familiarise yourself with it now, because you’ll be hearing a lot about it in 2013; from business leaders, academics, politicians and educationalists they are all making it part of their lives.
It is also being introduced into some schools as part of the curriculum.
I read an account of a school that played music and instructed the schoolchildren that when played they were to stay still and think about themselves. After a while the head teacher only had to start the music and the whole school became quiet.
Mindfulness is being increasingly recognised as an incredibly effective way to cope with stress and also recognised by NICE and the NHS as the most effective way to prevent relapse into depression and anxiety states. It has been found to help with pain management and weight loss.
It has been discussed in Parliament as a therapy in relation to both unemployment and depression. But it isn’t about zoning out. If anything, it’s about zooming in; paying attention to the present and decluttering the brain to make room for creativity – and in business that means boosting the bottom line.
To that end, mindfulness training has been embraced by organisations as diverse as Google, Transport for London, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Home Office, by way of an antidote to the relentless pressure and information overload common in many workplaces.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE A START IN THE PRACTISE OF MINDFULNESS
1) Make it a formal practice. You will only get to the next level in meditation by setting aside specific time (preferably two times a day) to be still. At first it maybe for only 3-4 minutes.
2) Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice.
3) Stretch first. Stretching loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably. Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.
4) Meditate with Purpose. Beginners must understand that meditation is an ACTIVE process. The art of focusing your attention to a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged!
5) Notice frustration creep up on you. This is very common for beginners as we think “hey, what am I doing here” or “why can’t I just quiet my mind already”. When this happens, really focus in on your breath and let the frustrated feelings go.
6) Experiment. Although many of us think of effective meditation as a Yogi sitting cross-legged beneath a Bonzi tree, beginners should be more experimental and try different types of meditation. Try sitting, lying, eyes open, eyes closed, etc.
7) Feel your body parts. A great practice for beginning meditators is to take notice of the body when a meditative state starts to take hold. Once the mind quiets, put all your attention to the feet and then slowly move your way up the body (include your internal organs). This is very healthy and an indicator that you are on the right path.
8) Pick a specific room in your home to meditate. Make sure it is not the same room where you do work, exercise, or sleep. I may help to use a candle and gentle music or sounds to help you o feel relaxed.
9) Read a book (or two) on meditation. Preferably an instructional guide AND one that describes the benefits of deep meditative states. This will get you motivated. John Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You terrific very good for beginners.
10) Commit for the long haul. Meditation is a life-long practice, and you will benefit most by NOT examining the results of your daily practice. Just do the best you can every day, and then let it go!
11) Listen to instructional tapes and CDs.
12) Generate moments of awareness during the day. Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation habits.
13) Make sure you will not be disturbed. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not insuring peaceful practice conditions. If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your children might wake, or an alarm is about to go off then you will not be able to attain a state of deep relaxation.
14) Notice small adjustments. For beginning meditators, the slightest physical movements can transform a meditative practice from one of frustration to one of renewal. These adjustments may be barely noticeable to an observer, but they can mean everything for your practice.
15) Use a candle. Meditating with eyes closed can be challenging for a beginner. Lighting a candle and using it as your point of focus allows you to strengthen your attention with a visual cue. This can be very powerful.
16) Do NOT Stress. This may be the most important tip for beginners, and the hardest to implement. No matter what happens during your meditation practice, do not stress about it. This includes being nervous before meditating and angry afterwards. Meditation is what it is, and just do the best you can at the time.
17) Do it together. Meditating with a partner or loved one can have many wonderful benefits, and can improve your practice. However, it is necessary to make sure that you set agreed-upon ground rules before you begin!
18) Meditate early in the morning. Without a doubt, early morning is an ideal time to practice: it is quieter, your mind is not filled with the usual clutter, and there is less chance you will be disturbed. Make it a habit to get up half an hour earlier to meditate.
19) Be Grateful at the end. Once your mediation is finished spend 2-3 minutes feeling appreciative of the opportunity to practice and your mind’s ability to focus.
20) Notice when your interest in meditation begins to wane. Meditation is hard work, and you will inevitably come to a point where it seemingly does not fit into the picture anymore. THIS is when you need your practice the most and I recommend you go back to the book(s) or the CD’s you listened to and become re-invigorated with the practice. Chances are that losing the ability to focus on meditation is parallel with your inability to focus in other areas of your life!