“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” ― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
As this year races towards its conclusion, I am taking some well earned time away from the normal work world to spend time with my family and friends. At the same time, I am reflecting on what a year it has been and how much my practice of Mindfulness has made a difference. If you practice Mindfulness, are interested in its impact, or curious as to some of the benefits its practice might bring to you, your world and your friends and family; I’d urge you to read on
I have been practicing Mindfulness on a regular basis now for more than a year. My formal meditation practice is regular, at least five times a week. It follows a routine I have developed first thing in the morning before I get ready to go to work. However, I also experience the “in the moment” elements of Mindfulness during the day. The short pauses to focus on the breath; the quiet reflections when I am stationary in traffic; even the being in the moment when I am in a meeting or discussion with people. It comes to me when I am relaxed, as well as when I am stressed by work and life in general.It has become a way of being for me. I am not perfect at it. Far from it. Many experts and people that have been practicing Mindfulness for years say you are always on a journey and I can agree to that.
So what are some of the results and changes I have noticed? What have others noticed around me? They include:-
- Stress: My levels of stress are much lower than ever before. Even major changes in the work environment have not made me so stressed as once they might have done.
- Calm and centered:. Whether at work or at home, I am much more calm and centered. There have been very few – I can count them on one hand – moments where I have become angry and frustrated. Even when I have gone “off the deep end” it has been more of a shallow dive than a “full twist, half tuck, and belly flop” moment.
- Accepting and forgiving: My levels of tolerance and forgiveness have improved dramatically. I am much more likely to listen, accept and move on. I love the following prayer and have a copy of it printed out at my desk at work:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. Reinhold Niebuhr
- Being present: I find that I have moments of quiet reflection and am just happy being. It is a strange feeling but very rewarding. Even when someone has cut me up in a traffic jam, I just sit and accept.
- Open and engaged: I feel that I am more open to the differences that exist in all of us. More engaged in conversations and much more likely to feel part of the flow.
- Ruminating: I love this word. I imagine a cow sitting and chewing the cud for hours on end. That is what most of us do with our thoughts. With 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts going round in our heads every day, there is no wonder that we can get caught up in a rumination. I have found mine are a lot less. Yes, I still have them and can find myself getting caught up in thoughts and feelings, but it is a lot less than i used to do and the impacts are lower.
- Finally, Meat: This is a strange one. I went to a talk given by Matthieu Ricard earlier in the year. I wrote a blog post about the experience and the impact it had on me. It was titled: An evening with Matthieu Ricard”. There is YouTube video of it as well. You can even see me standing up before the event started [around the 10 second mark into the video]. It is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6SrjbRDP-Q
I bought his book “Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World” at the event and even though it is a massive 800 pages long, read it over the following two weeks. The two chapters on the way we farm meat and the impact on nature really touched something in me. I remember as a small boy going through the cattle market in Newton Abbot with my grandmother and aunt and seeing one of the marketeers punching a hole in a cow’s ear to insert a tag. It had a profound effect on me then and even now. So I decided I would continue to eat fish, but all other forms of meat I would give up. It has been hard. I love meat. I always have done. But for me, this is something where I wanted to make that small change in my world. I have tried for it not to affect the family too much. We still have tray bakes and roast dinners etc. I just do not eat the meat.
That has been the impact of a year of Mindfulness practice and its impact on me.
I would encourage to have a go at Mindfulness – either via an app for your smart phone; via a face-2-face class or one-on-one sessions; or even to read a book, such as “Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Professor Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman”. Please do let me know how you get on. Oh and if you want any help, do get in touch.
Likewise, if you practice Mindfulness, it would be great to hear from you as to its impact and benefits you have seen.
I leave you with the following quote:
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” ― Neil Gaiman