Our worlds are busy, we face many challenges every day. It may start with simply getting out the door to work, battling through traffic, or facing into the mountain of work on your desk. Demands, both internal and external, face us every day. How we are, is how we deal with them. How we are, affects those around us. As individuals, educators, professionals or managers, ‘how you are’ affects the people you interact with whether they are children, colleagues, employees or clients. As humans, one of our unique conditions is that we are constantly thinking about either the past or the future. Unfortunately, we are rarely in the present moment. It is in the present moment that everything happens. The only thing we have control of is ourselves in this present moment, nothing else. Coming into the present is important as it is here in the present that you can look after yourself.
“The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose in the present moment without making judgement (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). The key piece here is without judgement. All too often we are judging ourselves, other people, our actions, other people’s actions, our values and other people’s values. Mindfulness is being present without judgement. Accepting that what is, is. Accepting reality as it is. Accepting yourself as you are. Accepting other people as they are and not trying to change them. The only real change comes from within, trying to force other people to change for your happiness is madness, and really, why should they?
Mindfulness is about seeing the wonder in what is. All too often we are not happy with what is and we want to change what is. We want to change other people, but saying ‘I will be happy when that person changes and stops being so angry’ or ‘I will be happy when I achieve this thing’. 'I will be happy when...' is a fool's game as no sooner have you scored than the goal post changes. The question is, 'why not be happy now?' Why would you deny yourself happiness at this moment for something that may or may not happen? Why not decide to be happy in this moment and every moment?! The only thing we have control of is ourselves. Why would we make a condition over our happiness someone else’s behaviour? It doesn’t sound very intelligent, does it? Sadly, we do this all the time.
So now I offer you an opportunity to bring mindfulness into your life. It is not easy, but it is really quite simple.
Bring your attention to your hands, when you are working watch your hands.
Bring your attention to your food, when you are eating think about what you are eating, where it came from and what it tastes like.
Bring your attention to your breath, when you are inhaling observe your inhalation and observe your exhalation. What do you notice?
Bring your attention to your hearing, when you are hearing listen, really listen and hear the sounds near and far.
Bring your attention to your sight; see what is in front of you, trees, rivers, lakes, birds and people. Really see.
Learn to observe yourself, your feelings, your thoughts and be non-judgemental. Learn to anchor yourself by developing self-control and discipline with your mind and your ability to be in the present.
Mindfulness is for people who want to be more fully aware, to improve their overall quality of life and live life to the full. The practice of intentional, non-judgmental awareness of moment-to-moment experience can assist in cultivating well-being in an individual’s life. Empirical research has also begun to demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness both at a personal level and a professional level.
At a personal level:
Research by Davis & Hayes (2012) reviews the impact of various empirical studies and outlines that mindfulness can lead to emotional regulation, stress reduction, boosts working memory, reduces rumination, leads to less emotional reactivity, greater cognitive flexibility and enhanced relationship satisfaction.
At a professional level:
A study on the impact of mindfulness for teachers indicates that mindfulness for educators boosts aspects of teachers’ mindfulness and self-compassion, reduces psychological symptoms and burnout, increases effective teaching behaviour, and reduces attentional biases (Flook et al., 2013).
Come into the present moment, there is really no reason not to, for it is here that you will find contentment and happiness.
Davis, D.M. & Hayes, J.A. (2012) What are the benefits of mindfulness, Monitor on Psychology, vol 43, no 7, p. 64
Flook, L., Golderg, S.B., Pinger, L., Bonus, K., Davidson, R.J., (2013) Mindfulness for Teachers: A Pilot Study to Assess Effects on Stress, Burnout, and Teaching Efficacy, Mind, Brain and Education, 7, 3, 182-195.