Mindfulness for Sceptics
My mindfulness journey:
1970-2016: Mindfulness is a waste of time
2018: I’m curious, how come all these really successful people have a mindfulness practice?
2020: Mindfulness totally rocks
For the first 45 years of my life mindfulness was never really on my agenda. Perhaps it’s my analytical ‘engineery’ brain that couldn’t engage with it. Or perhaps it’s a cultural thing. Or perhaps it was lack of exposure to it. Or perhaps I had no idea why I might want to do it and what I might get from it. Or, most likely all of these. Whatever the reasons, I wasn’t doing it and I was sceptical.
Funny thing though, in turns out that our Buddhist friends (and others over in the East) have really been on to something over the last couple of thousand years. Who knew eh?!
With my ‘sciency’ outlook I didn’t come to mindfulness in a flash of inspiration and conversion. I started getting curious about the neuroscience, through books such as Mindsight by Dan Siegel and Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. My coach training also pointed me in this direction. I started hearing about the magical powers of certain forms of meditation, specifically those involving focussed attention on bodily sensations - that is the 5 senses (as we understand them in the West) and more. In particular ‘interoception’, our ability to sense our internal sensations such as our heart beat, internal movements due to breathing, and all manner of other forms of tension, spaciousness, temperature and movement. Positive changes show up in the brain in fMRI scans after only 6 weeks of daily practice.
Some of the proven benefits (off the top of my head, there are many more) include:
Stress reduction, including being less reactive
Better self-control and reduction in addictive behaviours
Improved mood including reductions in anxiety and depression
Improvements in immune function
Reduction in cardiovascular risk factors
My practice has changed over time as I’ve learnt more about what is effective. I was using the Headspace app for a long time - a great “go to” if you are new to meditation and mindfulness. I have also used Dan Siegel’s “Wheel of Awareness” guided mindfulness recordings (Google it!).
I now use the Positive Intelligence (‘PQ’) approach - this presents the work in terms of “Mental Fitness”. It is a combination of practices to build 3 mental ‘muscles’:
“Saboteur Interceptor” muscle: Our ability to recognise negative emotions and voices of self-sabotage and label them.
“Self-Command” muscle: Our ability to shift from negative to positive emotions. This muscle is built by mindfulness-like practices (actually a generalisation of mindfulness call “PQ Reps”)
“Sage” muscle: Our ability to engage with our wisdom and core essence, for instance, to allow us to find the gift in a ‘failure’
If you are interested in learning more, message me or post your question below!
This article is part of 100 Days of Creation, my challenge to myself to write 100 articles in 140 days, each taking no longer than 30 minutes to write and publish.