I sat down a moment ago to write my blog about the latest book I’ve read – The Mindful Approach to Working Life by Carroll Macey & Catherine Midgley. Everywhere I turn it seems someone is talking about this concept – so I was pleased to get the opportunity to spend some time on it. Now, normally when I write my blog posts I do it quite quickly and the content flows easily from the book through my brain and on to the digital paper. Tonight however it’s not, it’s nothing to do with the book, it’s great and the content is engaging and interesting. I’m just trying to really get across the benefits of practicing mindfulness. But it’s just hit me… Tomorrow I’m going to do it. I’m going to hangout with Carroll and Catherine all day and document what happens when I get my mindfulness on….
The alarm goes off and my arm goes out to kill the awful noise. My first thought, shamefully, is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… But thankfully my brain (however foggy) kicks in and I remember today is ‘Mindfulness Wednesday’ (yes I know its not particularity catchy). So instead of trawling through pictures of people’s lives pretending to be better than they are, I lay still. I focus on my breath and notice how I’m feeling, my mind wanders and some anxiety creeps in ahead of a busy day. I just recognise I’m feeling anxious and then refocus on my breath, returning to the now and not thinking about anything else but breathing. I do this for two minutes.
I actually get out of bed. This never happens, I normally faff about on my phone for at least 30 minutes. So already a win for mindfulness, I’ve gained 28 minutes.
I’m at the station and I have a nice hour commute to look forward to. I think about how in the book the authors reference how we can often be doing something physically, walking for example, but our thinking is somewhere else completely. While this is totally natural, it does come with some risks, you can over think things, mull over problems and work yourself up with no real benefit. I do this all the time and in fact end up running through multiple def con one scenarios; which are never likely to happen, but I’m a worst case thinker. I realise that my minds wandering and I’m getting bogged down with what’s going to happen today, so I return to focusing on the breath and focusing on the now and just notice how the sun feels on my face – warm – and I relax.
I’ve been at work a little over three hours by now and I’m feeling it, and to top it off I have just received and email which has really pissed me off. I’m fuming, and begin to type a response, which isn’t clever or appropriate (it is witty though), but I don’t care I’m just reacting. In the corner of my eye I can see the green cover of Carroll & Catherine’s book sitting on my desk and I stop typing, pick it up and frantically turn to the chapter – How to regulate your emotions… I think I need a quick refresher… Firstly I am reminded that in order to have control over our emotions we need to distance ourselves from the in the moment reaction. First you need to breath, so I take three deep breaths, just focusing on the breath. Then I need to label the emotions I’m feeling without judgment, OK I’m pissed off and feel under threat. Now trying to switch to the more rational side of the brain, I need to ask myself a couple of questions. Do I want these feelings / this reaction? and critically is this helping the situation?. In the book it does say this is really hard to do in the moment and I can totally agree with that right now. I’m still really annoyed but I have to say the answer to both of those questions is, no, and I start to calm down, deleting the email and now feeling relieved that I hadn’t pressed send. I’m going to write another email of course, but I’m going to do it later when I’m calm and I can do it productively.
At the end of this chapter I have noticed a rather nice paragraph, which seems appropriate given the situation: Thoughts are not reality, they are mental events and are more often about ruminating on past events or thinking about future ones. A mindful approach invites you to identify unhelpful thoughts and invites you not to get caught up in them. Challenging your thinking and using the questions above (the ones I used earlier) allows you to take control and find more constructive ways of responding. Amen to that.
I’ve just been to the gym, I didn’t consciously do any mindfulness, but I did sweat a lot. (Just thought I’d share)
My afternoon has a couple of meetings scheduled, the objectives of each of the meetings are relevant to my role – these are not meetings for meetings sake – so I need to make sure I get the most out of them. So I turn to page 54 and quickly refresh myself on the mindful approach to meetings.
I’ve got 15 minutes until my meeting so its time to armor up mindfulness style. First thing is I take 10 breaths, I focus on my breathing and forget about everything that’s happened that day and just focus on the now. When I’ve finished I turn my focus to the meeting and make sure I’m crystal clear on why I’m going and what the output should be. I create a picture in my mind of how I want to feel and act in the meeting. I write down what I’m looking to achieve and two points I’d like to make in the meeting.
Firstly it’s rare that I’m this prepared for a meeting. Secondly I feel great, in total control and confident that its going to be a productive use of my time. While people are filing into the room, I take this time to take a further three breaths and make sure I’m totally focused on the here and now, giving my colleagues my full attention and make sure my mind is in the room and not outside thinking about the next meeting or what I’ve got to pick up on the way home. Despite my new found powers of mindfulness my mind still wanders throughout the meeting and when it does I just make sure I take another three breaths and refocus.
To be fair it was a great meeting.
I’m on the train home giving me time to reflect on my day, the book and what, if any benefits I’ve actually taken. I’ve even got a seat on the tube, I can’t attribute that to mindfulness but it has been a good day.
Firstly the book; I really enjoyed reading it, it is written well and its guidance is clear, you can almost hear the authors talking to you in a calm, yoga style voice which is soothing in itself. Because of the way it’s sectioned into helpful chapters it’s easy to pick up and flick to the section you need. If you want to learn not just more about mindfulness as a practice but an actually practical guide on how to use it this is the book for you.
Secondly Mindfulness. While I am certainly no master at it and I really only practiced some of the principles for one day, I can see a lot of benefits. When a stressful situation presented itself, I was able to deal with it more rationally and importantly more productively. Which can only really help. I was calmer and in general got more done, I was focused and less susceptible to distraction. All in all it was a great experience, which i’ll be continuing on in my day to day life.
So in conclusion, hanging out with Carroll and Catherine today was fun, productive and quite the learning experience. I suggest you hang out with them too.