Updated: Feb 27
Some love it, others see it as mumbo jumbo with plinky plonk music and scented candles etc.
Firstly, it isn't for everyone. There are some who find it too much for many different reasons and that's OK. It isn't something that should ever be forced on anyone. I find, as an autistic with ADHD, that I struggle with.
If I'm completely honest I used to be one of those people who thought it was a load of nonsense and it's not like I hadn't tried.
On a course I attended, we opened a few of the classes with a 20 minute mindfulness body scan played on a laptop through ropey speakers, with plinky plonk music and an annoying woman telling me when to breathe in and out and and what area of my body to focus on. Have you ever had someone telling you to breath in and out a rate that doesn't work for you? It's definitely not relaxing, if anything all I could think of was "if I actually pass out due to lack of oxygen will they stop or just carry on for another 10 minutes?"
There were others on the course who didn't just practice mindfulness, they meditated!! I honestly couldn't get my head around that one.
I then attended a 2 day Mindfulness course through my work. I had no idea at the time that I would be learning about Mindfulness from the Zen Chaplin of Northern Ireland. It was through those 2 days I got to learn and experience mindfulness in a form as close as possible to its original state. This course was a lot of the zen chaplin talking, explaining his lessons and journey through mindfulness. He was very amusing, very informative and given his professional background, very knowlegeable in how we tick as individuals.
Obviously there is the act of mindfulness meditation. Practising mindfulness meditation can be done every day and, if it floats your boat or you feel you want to try it, you could set aside 20 minutes for body scans on a regular basis. You can find these online or do your own. Personally if I was ever to to a full body scan again (and I honestly can't see it happening for me) I would choose Frank's. You can find it here.
The realisation that I could also be mindful in other ways was what appealed to me.
Examples given included simply pausing for 10 seconds to breathe, 2 minutes to close your eyes, clear your mind and listen to the world around you, or stare out a window, clear the thoughts and appreciate the world around you. Watch the wind blowing the trees, the hands on a clock, the people around you. The act of eating or drinking your favourite food item and savouring the taste, thinking of nothing else only the flavour, the textures, how it smells, how hot or cold.
The interesting thing was that before we were taught about the body scan and the mindfully eaten raisin, he talked about our behaviours as people.
Mindfulness is about being in the present, not looking at last week or the years previous or going forward and imagining an event, conversation, the words others might say. Its about acknowledging feelings, thoughts and sensations as they occur; using all of our senses. As someone living in today's society it can be very hard to do. Kinda sounds like more mumbo jumbo right?
In simple english ...... Mindfulness is owning your own shite.
Pure and simple.
He actually used these exact words. The following examples are also classed as mindfulness. I was as surprised to hear this as you may be when you read it. What I do know is that not every example is something that people can do on their own and that's ok. As I said these are simply examples.
When people talk to us using words, it isnt the people's words that create emotions, it is our mind and body's responses to these words that create emotions. Mindfulness is recognising this.
Acknowledging that it's ok to feel emotions. We all have them. There is nothing wrong with feeling the unpleasant emotions such as anger, guilt shame, it's how we respond to them that counts.
Respond instead of react. It is very easy to react quickly but sometimes this does not reflect our true needs as an individual. Taking a breath and pausing allows the brain to catch up and respond in a way that is more beneficial. In my coaching practice I call this the Stop technique. My clients have found this very beneficial in many ways.
If you do react due to having a bad day, mood or instant, forgive yourself, its ok. Apologise if you can, want to or need to.
Acknowledging that while anger may be the initial first emotion, it may not necessarily be your true feelings and learning to separate the anger and acknowledge the feelings that follow can help you understand your response and raise self awareness. These emotions may include disappointment, sadness, guilt, shame etc
Acknowledging that the only person in control of your feelings is you. A good example is when someone states "he is making me feel guilty/sad/ashamed". Truth be told he isn't doing anything, as he cannot physically climb inside your head and turn on the emotions switch. If you feel guilty/sad/ashamed its because you have something to feel guilt/sad/ashamed for. True mindfulness is accepting that you have done something that makes you feel one of the more uncomfortable emotions, asking yourself what and and choosing whether or not you want to deal with it
Be mindful of the things we tell ourselves about our own image, performance or abilities. If someone were to come up to you on the street and repeat to you the things you think to yourself, you would run away, scream and shout, ring the police or maybe thump them! You wouldn't accept it from them so why do it to yourself e.g. I’m useless, fat, boring, stupid etc. Show some compassion and kindness to yourself, you deserve it too.
Be mindful of others. It costs nothing to treat others the way we wish to be treated and it's true when we say little kindness goes a long way. Different people have different levels of self awareness and we have no way of knowing how people will react or respond to us. We can only learn from their responses.
Knowing that not everything we tell ourselves is true and we have to separate the fact from the thoughts and fiction we create. The best way to explain this is through a paragraph like the one below.
My neighbour's sister has recently got a new job in tescos and she’s going to work in the same department as me. Her aunt works for Asda. I feel it is a bad idea to employ my neighbour's sister, she prefers Asda because her aunt works there. She might do the job better than me and I don't want her in the same department as me as it will make me look bad. Then again she might not be able to learn anything and mess up the shelves, give out the wrong change and I might get the blame.
While these thoughts may be real, they reflect the thoughts of the individual. The only truth in this statement is in the bold lettering. Everthing else is the thoughts in this persons mind but it doesn't mean it's true. True mindfulness is having the ability to recognise and seperate fact from fiction. All of the above, while not meditation are what is called mindful behaviour. They are effective in keeping the stress levels lower. Some people can manage to separate fact from fiction and some can't due to their own life experiences and where they are at on their own wellbeing journey.
So while the plinky plonk music and scented candles or even the body scans aren't for everyone, there is a lot more to mindfulness than I originally thought.
I took a lot away from the 2 days training. But it definitely wasn't body scans or meditation.
For me personally, my mindfulness is spending time on my own. Sometimes it's in my room writing personal blogs about whatever's in my head, other times going places with no people and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Sometimes I even take my camera.
I hope that by sharing this in a blog, you can take something away too. You don't have to do meditations or body scans, you do what works for you!