Home' Scoop : Scoop 69 Spring 2014 Contents RUNNING header
s mindfulness better than chocolate?
Is anything better than chocolate? As it
happens, this idea is based on a fascinating
recent study by Harvard University,
which revealed three facts. First, we aren’t
thinking about what we are doing 47 per cent
of the time. Second, we are unhappier when
our minds are wandering than when they are
not. Third, what we think is a better predictor
of our happiness than what we do.
Mindfulness (paying attention to the present
moment, deliberately and non-judgmentally)
holds the key to happiness. The Harvard study
showed that “the nature of people’s activities
had only a modest impact on whether their
minds wandered”. It would seem that whether
we’re washing the dishes or eating the most
mouth-wateringly delicious Belgian praline,
we’re just as likely to have a wandering mind.
Eating chocolate is no guarantee that we’re
thinking about what we’re doing.
But I have been a little mischievous in
creating a false dichotomy between mindfulness
and chocolate. There’s no reason to choose
between the two. Few things can beat chocolate
providing it is eaten mindfully!
Some months ago, I was asked by someone
who had just come back from Thailand: “Why
do Buddhist monks meditate? After all, they
don’t have any stress.”
mindfulness is better
A new book by WA author and meditation coach David Michie draws
on ancient Buddhist teachings and contemporary science to create
a beginner’s guide to self-discovery through mindfulness. words David Michie
For me, this summed up the tragically
diminished idea many have of what mindfulness
and meditation are about. They’re great for
managing stress, but that isn’t the main reason
for practising them. They may be what start
us on our journey – they were for me. But the
treasure of mindfulness is that it provides us with
tools to see the true nature of our own minds.
The growing volume of scientific studies
shows how we can all benefit from mindfulness
in basic but profound ways. Stress management?
Certainly. Boosting our immune systems and
pushing back our biological clocks? That, too!
The physical and psychological benefits of
mindfulness alone are well worth getting out of
bed 10 minutes earlier for every morning.
But mindfulness also offers the possibility to
change the content of our ongoing conversation
with ourselves. Chatter, chatter, chatter: we’re
all up to it. But are there recurring themes in this
constant stream of self-talk that don’t serve you
well? For example, are you a worrier, constantly
anticipating all the things that could possibly go
wrong, convincing yourself the worst outcome
is almost certain? Are you a victim, or someone
who feels blighted by an event in the past? The
combination of mindfulness with cognitive
behaviour training is one of the most powerful
transformation modalities. Creating space amid
all the mental agitation, discovering that we
can become observers of our thoughts rather
than their slaves – this is another extraordinary
consequence of mindfulness.
But, most of all, mindfulness enables us to
discover for ourselves that our mind is infinite.
It has no beginning and no end. Far from being
an existential void, it is imbued with profound
happiness-giving qualities. We experience the
paradox that even though we set out to explore
our mind, the result is as much a feeling as it is
a perception. An experience beyond concept,
for which words are inadequate, but that may
be hinted at by ter ms like ‘oceanic tranquillity’
and ‘radiant love’.
This isn’t a religious experience or ecstatic
emotional high. It’s described by meditators
both secular and religious. Even the briefest
experience of it is life-changing: freed from the
agitation or dullness that pervades our minds
to our own true nature, if only momentarily,
we can never go back to seeing ourselves as
a bag of bones. We have
experienced a dimension
of being that transcends all
our usual ideas of self. We
have come home. S
Read the first chapter
of Why Mindfulness is
Better than Chocolate at
A QUICK GUIDE
• Use the enjoyable things you do
regularly – like drinking barista coffee
as ways to practise mindfulness. Get
maximum bang for your buck by fully
savouring every mouthful!
random times on your smartphone.
Use it as a trigger to take a nice, deep
mindful breath. As you exhale, relax!
• Next time you find yourself waiting,
try mindful breathing, not irritation.
• Put coloured stickers on places like
your computer, watch strap, fridge
door, kettle or dashboard. Use them
as reminders to come back to this
moment, or take a mindful breath.
• Without changing what you do,
change the way you do routine things
like having a shower, brushing your
teeth or driving to work. Instead of
slipping into ‘narrative mode,’ getting
caught up in your thoughts, use them
as practice to stay in ‘direct mode’.
• When you’re alone with your partner
or family, pay close attention to them.
YOUR GUIDE TO INNER PEACE,
ENHANCED FOCUS and
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