Meditation and mindfulness
My interest in mindfulness started many years ago. My parents meditated everyday, and invited us to take mindful moments before we started meals, car journeys and at other times too.
I was initiated into meditation and mindfulness from a young age by my parents who practiced every day.
The practice of dropping into stillness in our family was as normal as listening to music, singing and dancing. For a while my younger brother and I attended a Saturday school at the School of Philosophy. We practiced conscious breathing, meditation, as well as the appreciation of art and nature.
We also attended the adult philosophy classes with my Mum, which didn’t really seem the “right” place for us to be, as we were the only children in a group of about 20 adults, but after the death of my Dad, I guess this supported my mum and us going meant we didn’t need child care.
In this group, meditation was central to coming together to study consciousness. The tutor spoke and showed diagrams about higher consciousness whist my Brother and I tuned-out and drew pictures, only tuning back in when the meditations began. I remember feeling blissful and imagined that I could fly!
Did this early introduction to mindful practice support us in our lives?
It’s difficult to say if the early introduction supported me in my life. Maybe it set me on a seekers path – a journey into being curious about consciousness.
I’d like to say that it supported me in developing equanimity (from what I’ve read this happens when there is a strong neural connection from the amygdala, through the hippocampus to the frontal lobe) but I’m not sure it did!
Life was emotionally turbulent during my mid-childhood and teens, which was difficult for my mum (and for me!) as my behaviour could be extreme at times. She tried to calm me with words of comfort, reminding me to breathe and sometimes she suggested that “I was not the emotion” which was a challenging concept for a me to understand, and it didn’t help me to feel better either! Meditation did sometimes help me to escape my reality. It helped me to transcend and connect to a higher presence – at times, not to be present with my current life and this gave me comfort, as did a belief in the existence of a loving God.
I learnt how to move trapped emotion and integrate memories.
It wasn’t until much later, through much personal development and embodied practices, including Biodanza and NVC, that I was able to be with fear, anxiety, sadness and more. I learnt how to move trapped emotion and integrate memories in a way that I could be present with myself in the fullness of my power with stories to share.
After a long journey and much practice, I became mindful.
What is mindfulness?
It could be described as:
- A way to find peace within ourselves amidst the chaos that surrounds us.
- Being consciously aware of the present moment – what is happening within ourselves, thoughts, feelings, sensations etc., and around us.
- Unconditional acceptance, simply being present with what is now.
- A connection with the power of heart
One young person told me recently
It’s cool to be mindful
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School says
Mindfulness is presence of heart.
The roots of mindfulness come from ancient teachings for personal transformation, liberation and enlightenment.
Jon has been instrumental in introducing mindfulness into the mainstream through his tried and tested programmes.
Corporations have seen it as a way to increase productivity — through customer relations, care, and collaboration in team work. I recently worked with a multi-national corporation to roll-out ‘Empathy Factor’ training where mindfulness was part of a programme that will impact millions of people.
In therapeutic settings, the purpose of mindfulness is to alleviate symptoms of stress and in educational settings it is used to help improve concentration and to impact the wellbeing of children.
Mindfulness is now available through the mainstream and alongside much research about its’ positive outcomes there is concern around its simplification and commercialisation.
Here are a few articles highlighting matters for consideration:
Mindfulness has got people talking about “being awake” regulating stress, supporting mental health and wellbeing.
My hope is that the underpinning principles of the Buddhist eight fold path of right speech, right action and right livelihood, with awareness of ethical actions of the well-being of all through nonviolent communication, are also widely considered alongside introducing the current programmes of mindful practice. My hope is that we prepare our children well for living and contributing to this complex world.
I love the comprehensive work of Daniel J. Siegel, on whole brain integration from clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute.
And the work of actresses Goldie Hawn and Ruby Wax, OBE both advocates for mindfulness with brain science and neurobiology.
Goldie Hawn says: “When I started The Hawn Foundation I was driven to bring a solution to our children who were suffering from high levels of stress and who were completely lacking the skills to navigate in a complex world. I was moved by the statistics about the increases in school violence and bullying, youth depression and suicide, and I was concerned about the persistent failure of the education system to help children cope and flourish “
Nelson Mandala said, “I believe that education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world.” Mindfulness in our schools, may be sowing seeds that help to make the difference.
I believe that ‘peace education’ could be even more effective if our system in the UK reviewed its pragmatism towards nonviolence and bio-development.
This might include:
- Teaching children about the way their brains work and how their body regulates;
- Raising levels of dopamine through everyday dancing and singing and rebalancing adrenaline with activities of relaxation and rest to release acetyl-choline;
- Replacing punitive approaches to non-compliance with empathic dialogue and restorative practice;
- Fostering mindsets and practices for collaboration instead of competition.
- Instead of threatening exclusion – commit to inclusion.
I’d love to hear your thoughts are about this.