In recent years mindfulness has been taken up in mainstream culture as a beneficial practice to combat overwhelm, negativity and stress. Once very much associated with Eastern spirituality, mindfulness is increasingly finding its way into secular contexts. For example the BBC Culture Correspondent David Sillito tried a mindfulness course, found it transformative and spoke about it for several minutes on BBC breakfast TV.
Mindfulness is based on the premise that our minds tend to be busy minds. And many people go through life on ‘auto pilot’, without paying attention to what is going on in and around them. If they do happen to attend to themselves and their environment, they often do so in the context of a priori expectations, judgments, and habits.
Though mindfulness meditation is derived from ancient Buddhist practices, you don’t have to be a Buddhist, or indeed religious at all, to practice it. The most common Mindfulness Meditation approach used in health care settings is based on the secular Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) approach developed by John Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts in the late 1970s. He was the first to apply Mindfulness Meditation in a behavioral medicine setting for populations with a wide range of chronic pain and stress-related disorders.
Something we discover when we sit to meditate and work at bringing quiet to our mind, is just how full it is. We see that our everyday mind is full of all sorts of stuff. How full of thoughts and associations it is. How full of fears and concepts it is. How full of likes and dislikes it is. How it’s full of preconceived ideas, partial views and opinions. We see how thoughts are being generated all of the time. And these thoughts are almost always about the past or the future. Rarely are they about the present. Unwittingly we layer unnecessary anguish onto situations and create unnecessary distress. However as we engage in mindfulness practice we train ourselves to not be so entangled with the thinking-mind and therefore create the possibility of change, choice, and calm.
Visionary corporation are also availing of mindfulness. In fact, an increasing number of high-level organisations and corporation as looking to mindfulness as a core strategy for improving resilience, focus and performance for foster the kind of qualities that make good leaders.
Cleverly titled ‘Search Inside Yourself’,Google provides employees with a course that is designed to teach emotional intelligence through meditation. More than 1,000 Google employees have taken the class, and there’s usually a waiting list of 30 when it’s offered, four times a year.
Mindfulness and education is another developing niche. Academics at Oxford and Cambridge teach it to their students to help them cope with exam stress.