I love meditation in all its forms. I particularly love mindfulness practice as it gives a very down-to-heart approach to meditation without too much fuzz on the special effects that one might experience. It’s all just about perceiving the present moment as it is, without too much interference from the filters that our minds bring to the way we see the reality around us.
This was exactly the picture of mindfulness which was giving by the guys at Hacking Happiness. Their aim simple: bring mindfulness into everyday life. Especially on the job place. I couldn’t agree more. So many people are at the moment dissatisfied with what they do. I guess that a good chunk of this dissatisfaction comes from the mindset we carry with us everyday and from the stuff we absorb from the environment in which we live or work in. Bringing some awareness to all of this cannot hurt, right?
The program for the evening was very simple. It all started with an introduction of what mindfulness is all about (in short being aware of our sensations in the present moment). After a very quick poll of the mindfulness habits of the people in the room (“how many of you practice mindfulness daily?”), the trainers introduced a simple but affective exercise: sharing our best and worst bits of the day with the stranger sitting next to us. Again, very simple but very effective in getting to the point and setting the scene.
The evening continued with a proper mindfulness practice. Focusing on the breath. Feeling the body. Seeing the mind wondering in thoughts. Coming back to the breath again. Once more very simple. Once more very effective. The body started to relax. The mind began to settle a bit. I was ready to know more.
The trainers presented some of the benefits of mindfulness. Together with realising that mindfulness reduces your stress level and increasing the size of the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain connected with conscious choice), scientists apparently came up with an incredible result: mind-set matters. As an example, if you do an activity believing it will benefit your physical conditions you might end-up becoming more fit.
After such a detailed description it was time for a zen story, which went approximately like this:
“One day one man arrived in a village wondering whether he would be happy living there. He immediately went to the local Zen Master to pose him the question of whether he might like the people there or not. “How were the people in the village you just left?”, asked the Zen Master, “they were horrible people, always cheating, stealing and back-stabbing!”, replied the wanderer. “Well you will find exactly the same kind of people here”, replied the Master. Few days later another wanderer went to the same Zen Master with exactly the same question: “Will I like the people here?”, “How were the people you in the village you just left?”, replied again the Master. “They were lovely people, always kind, compassionate and warm-hearted. I actually miss them” said the man. “Well you will find exactly the same kind of people here”, said the Master”.
Again mind-set matters.
The night terminated with another in-depth session of mindfulness. Of course this second one was deeper. Everybody got more accustomed to the practice and even the most skeptical ones were willing to give in, to close their eyes and relax. In this second round insights were freer to flow. The initial shyness was now only a memory. It was time to experiment some more before the evening came to an end with a series of questions from the public.
So, some final thoughts about the night.
- It is great that there are people out there who are willing to teach mindfulness without giving it a mystical perception. Nothing against that, of course, yet it is good that people are encouraged to experience awareness as it is. Without the tinsels of our mental projections.
- I believe mindfulness might be a useful tool for a cultural change which might bring humans back to the centre of attention. Teaching in it in the job place is definitely a good idea. The next step will be to teach it in schools.
- As the trainers said, mindfulness is not a one-off experience. To go deep into it one has to practice. And practice. And practice. It took so long to develop our bad habits. It might take a while to create some good ones.
- Mindfulness is always available. Whether we like it or not, at every moment we have a choice: to be mindful or not. The next step is up to us.
If you really strive to know some more about mindfulness and happiness have a look at the video below. This guy is just great!