It’s a busy old world isn’t it?
Not only are we still navigating our way through a global pandemic and all the challenges that presents, but we are also trying our best to hold down jobs that are evolving around us, educate our children in ways that have never been tried before, build and maintain relationships without even the basics of human contact, re-evaluate our relationships with travel, and perhaps the most difficult and time draining of all, trying desperately to educate our ageing parents on the benefits of ‘digital communication’. Well some things I guess will always remain beyond us!
It’s no surprise then that life can sometimes feel a little overwhelming :
As our screens, our news feeds and therefore our minds are filled with seemingly endless streams of argument, finger pointing, blame, defence, justification and chatter - our views on the world and it’s people, can also easily become tainted, distorted and disrupted.
In the face of such explicit division and polarisation as has quickly become ‘the norm’ we can easily feel we are being swept along on the differing tides of opinion, and consequently, our abilities to pause, to reflect and to simply be present are being hampered if not diminished.
The Mindfulness Motorway :
It’s feels a little like we’re stuck on a fast moving motorway, swept along at breakneck speed, nose to tail, with no sign of a service station for a rest, or even one of those laughably small ‘smart motorway’ lay-bys to pull over in the event of an emergency. For the sake of this article, we’ll call this metaphor The Mindfulness Motorway.
Yet, this is not a new phenomenon.
We are not unique though. We’ve been here before, and we will be again. Even a short, cursory glance through recent history, will reveal numerous, similar, challenges to ‘the norm’, similarly congested motorways, where our understanding has been questioned, where long held beliefs have been challenged, where lives have been stressed and our existence threatened.
So what to do about it?
Well the first thing to accept is that this will continue.
For the foreseeable future, the world will continue to turn, good and bad things will still happen and those things will still be reported. News will still get looped 24/7, opinion will continue to be fuelled and divided and arguments will continue to be made, and, let’s not be too naive here, if the last few years are anything to go by, those future arguments will be made in bigger, louder, more impactful ways than ever before.
So, in light of the above, you have a choice. Where do you sit on the Mindfulness Motorway?
You can choose to :
(a) Allow yourself to get swept along at breakneck speed, with all the noise, the stress and the clamour, with the pace and direction of travel decided for you
(b) Allow yourself a break, to pause, to sit beside the carriageway, to observe, to pay attention to the present and to be curious and compassionate about others and their journeys.
I get the Motorway concept, but Mindfulness ?
Put in simple terms, Mindfulness cultivates our ability to pause, to be aware, and to choose our response.
Instead of being swept along and feeling out of control, Mindfulness is the practice of purposely pausing, focusing your attention on the present moment, and accepting that moment without judgment, whilst also retaining a sense of curiosity and compassion.
And whilst all that sounds complicated, the process itself isn’t. It just takes practice.
If practiced regularly and consistently, mindfulness can lead to greater wellbeing, to improved mental clarity and an increased ability and desire to care, for both yourself and others. Something that will undoubtedly will become increasing important over time, as those future influences and influencers, will become increasingly intelligent, more targeted and relentless in their pursuit of us.
It’s for these reasons that mindfulness is now widely accepted, proven and practised regularly by millions of people, across different cultures, across the world.
Are you still on the Motorway, and do you feel like getting off?
If so, there are many ways to get started. A quick search for mindfulness on Google, Spotify, or even YouTube will reveal some basic mindfulness scripts. Allow yourself 10 minutes to give one a go.
However, before you do that, as a gentle introduction, I spoke about the topic and the motorway metaphor with Lou Stones on BBC Radio Stoke this week. You can give it a listen on the clip below.
If after listening, you are interested in giving it a go, I have a large number of accredited scripts from approved Mindfulness Practitioners. If you would like to access any of these, please contact me.
And finally, if you are interested in some further research. I can highly recommend this TED Talk by Andy Puddicome from Headspace. A very popular Mindfulness App.