Why is it that companies like Google, Sony, IBM, L’Oreal, Telstra, Goldman Sachs, the World Bank and hundreds of companies around the world are undertaking mindfulness programs? Well, maybe because reports indicate they lead to a 20 to 35% increase in productivity.
In case you haven’t noticed, there seems to be a Mindfulness buzz going around the world. Perhaps it’s because we have spent the last few decades busying ourselves to stay up-to-date, connected with technology and keeping up with the fast pace of modern life. We seem to have created incredibly busy lifestyles, we are always reachable, with constant time pressure and endless deadlines, and we are surrounded by distractions every minute of the day. We may even spend too much time reacting and dealing with stress and constant distractions, so we are never really present or engaged in what we are doing. Sometimes we forget that we aren’t computers or machines, and that we cannot keep this turbo-charged lifestyle indefinitely. The reality is, we do need to take time for ourselves to rest and restore and we do need to renew our energy constantly.
The question is, since when did old-fashioned colouring books become “Mindfulness Colouring Books”, or “Colour Therapy Books”? Did you know that the top selling books for 2015 were Mindful Colour Books? We seem to come across the term ‘mindfulness’ everywhere these days – in schools, hospitals, sporting clubs, corporate companies… and even in my 5 year old daughter’s classroom, where every morning the little pre-schoolers settle into a 5-10 minute mindful meditation. (I am absolutely wrapped about this, by the way!)
THE MINDFULNESS REVOLUTION
But there has to be good reason for this mindfulness revolution to be sweeping the world. Nowhere in the history of man has mindfulness or meditation practice been so widely researched and accepted by so many people as it is today. In the 60s and 70s there was a big meditation movement, mainly inspired by Eastern gurus and philosophers, but at the time meditation was mostly regarded as a bit ‘hippy-ish’ by mainstream society. We have shifted the focus a little bit on the meditation practice and we call it mindfulness or mindful-living, and suddenly we see it everywhere.
Maybe it is even those same people who said some years ago that mediation was for hippies that are now adopting mindfulness practices in their everyday lives. It may have a different name or title, but essentially, mindfulness is about ‘being in the present moment’, just like many forms of meditation. One of the modern founders of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, uses this definition: “Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non judgmentally”. Similarly, Psychology Today defines it as a ‘mental state achieved by focussing one’s awareness on the present moment, without judging thoughts as bad or good.’ Other people I have worked with describe it as being in the moment, and being more aware of how they are feeling in that particular moment. Athletes have described it as being ‘in the flow’, and my five-year-old daughter describes it as ‘feeling calm, happy and peaceful’.
One of the fundamental aspects of mindfulness practice is that it encompasses both formal and informal practices. Formal mindfulness practice is actually setting aside around 10 mins to actually stop what you are doing and engage in a meditation practice, while informal mindful practice is simply being present and mindful throughout your day during all your normal activities, like when you’re showering, working or eating – this is known as living mindfully.
I believe mindfulness is here to stay, and if it creates a more mindful way of life where people are more present in everyday life, then I think it’s a good thing! Just think of the last time you spoke to someone and they were more distracted and engaged with their smartphone than with your conversation – how does that make you feel?
Mindfulness teaches us to be more connected with ourselves, with others and with the environment around us. When we become more present, we no longer take little things for granted and we can experience things more fully. When we rest our awareness in the present moment, we naturally and spontaneously find joy and happiness, because this is our natural state of our being. I don’t believe mindfulness is just a buzzword or a fad, I think it’s a healthy habit that is becoming a part of modern life, and I invite you to try to it for yourself!