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Presents of mind

December 8, 2010


Editor: Guest post by Jan Goss, mindfulness meditation practitioner and coach.  I bumped into Jan by pure chance.  One day, my head full of ideas about researching the issues of stress and well-being in small business, I walked out of my office and stared straight at a small poster seeking participants for a study into mindfulness, and its application in work.  Since that day, Jan and I have worked together with entrepreneurs, and she has introduced them – and me – to mindfulness as an approach to life. 

‘…yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift.  That is why they call it the present.’  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

You can have anything you want. It all starts with your mind…Indeed! 

Al Kavadlo’s entry on the blog really resonated with me. Yes, I believe it is possible to have anything that we want. I have read this philosophy consistently over the past 15 years, in the ‘Cosmic Ordering’ of Babel Mohr, the ‘Heal Your Body’ philosophy of Louise Hay and more recently, and somewhat ‘explosively’, in ‘The Secret’ of Rhonda Byrne. The underlying message from all of these best-selling authors is where focus goes, energy flows. Our thoughts are constantly creating our experience. Everything begins with a thought and the amount of attention and ‘air-time’ that we give a thought is fundamental to its potency. 

Have you ever heard the expression ‘be careful what you wish for’? Much of the time we are making unconscious ‘wishes’ in the form of thought. Thoughts are creative. They are a necessary step in the process of evolution. Indeed, everything begins with a thought. It therefore makes sense that we become aware of what we are thinking and where our attention is focused. 

With heightened awareness it becomes possible to see the effects that our thoughts are having on our life experience, on our emotional state and on other people. It also becomes possible to see the effects that other people and their thoughts are having on us and with this vital awareness we are able to discern whether those ‘thoughts’ are contributing positively or negatively to life. 

The good news is we can train the mind with a simple and effective tool known as mindfulness practice, a tried and tested method. Research into the effects of mindfulness repeatedly shows that we are able, not only to reduce stress (and who doesn’t need some of that) but also alter our basic brain chemistry. The prefrontal cortex of the brain has been shown to be ‘plastic’, it can continue to change and develop at any age. Research involving MRI technology has proved that with regular mindfulness practice the brain actually alters shape, a term known as ‘neuroplasticity’. 

Harvard-trained doctor and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Daniel Siegel states ‘Mindfulness is a form of mental activity that trains the mind to become aware of awareness itself and to pay attention to one’s own intention’. It is a method of concentration and focus on one’s self, from a kind and curious perspective. It allows us to become aware of our habitual and ‘unconscious’ thoughts and behaviours. It is an enlightening practice that incorporates myriad benefits. 

Mindfulness practice can be done whilst sitting, walking, eating, listening, speaking, studying or working. The list is endless. The skill of concentrating awareness is highly transferable and of paramount importance if we are to succeed at any task. Its cultivation is especially needed in these times of ‘sensory overload’. 

So, in response to Al’s blog entry, yes physical health starts with a thought, but so too does the whole of our life experience…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2010 14:24

    Went to a conference on Monday, all about ‘whole education’ and preparing learners for a future of uncertainty: jobs and technologies that haven’t been invented yet. Beyond academic results we need to educate young people to become resilient, imaginative innovators. Businesses across all sectors demand people who can ‘think on their feet’ and collaborate to invent new products and services that respond to the customers and clients of our digital age.

    One question emerged that struck me as the most important: ‘How do we manage the tension between this face-paced, social networking, information-overloaded, downloading, gaming society, engaged in its virtual realities, and our mental health and wellbeing?’

    Yes, new technologies present us with infinite opportunities. We also need the skills to reflect, think independently, care for each other and our planet and nurture opportunities for happiness. Unless we inspire learners to think for themselves and learn from failure and rejection, our highest-ever ‘NEETs’ statistics (Not in Education, Employment or Training) will only continue to grow. Not to mention how people who are ‘NEET’ sustain themselves. This is where I think a ‘whole education’ must include learning about our relationship with nature, physical fitness, excercise and expression, arts and culture, people around us and ourselves.

    At the conference I thought of the silence I occupied during Jan’s session at Forrest Hills on 3 December. One of the facilitators at the conference actually asked us to sit for 2 minutes in silence and be ‘mindful’ of where we were right now. Throughout the day I continued to occupy the present and even back in the office I’m reminding myself of where I am, right here, right now, and learning to harness opportunities for positive thinking and action within this present.

    • December 8, 2010 16:04

      Thank you Alice. I am finding mindfulness cropping up in a range of contexts these days – such as in US Marines training and on numerous occasions during a workshop I attended on Sunday that was given by Erwan Le Corre. It has certainly given me a very interesting perspective on things, and I realise that, as Jan herself mentions, mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. For me, it overlaps a lot with ‘flow’ experiences. Be well!

  2. December 8, 2010 23:28

    And see this article from Scientific American:

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