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‘KINDFULNESS’ the new mindfulness?
There’s only so much that can be achieved by sitting in silence on a cushion. Real change will come when more of us are consciously kind to others – and ourselves, writes Catriona Ross EDGARS CLUB APRIL 2018
f you’ve ever tried a mindfulness exercise to reduce your stress levels, or listened to a guided meditation on your phone via an app such as Headspace, you’re part of a major worldwide trend. An ancient practice, mindfulness has gone mainstream, with Apple and Google now including meditation in their employee wellness programmes, and some British National Health Service care centres offering and
recommending mindfulness practices in place of conventional therapy. But there’s the risk that in focusing on this inner practice we forget the value of our everyday acts in the outside world. A TREND FOR OUR TIMES
‘Mindfulness’ has become a buzzword of our generation because we’ve needed an antidote to the pace of modern life – from work pressure in a tough economy, congested roads and rising
we encounter along the way hold up a mirror and show us what our practice is. If you have a very inflated ego, when you’re on your own you will not know. As soon as you enter a room full of other people, the mirror is there.’ HITTING THE ‘PAUSE’ BUTTON
inequality to technology that hooks our attention and eats our time. ‘We’re living in a world where there are so many aspects to entertain us and detract from what’s actually happening in front of us,’ says Zen teacher and mindfulness instructor Heila Downey. Practised in the East since 1 500 BC, mindfulness trains you to live in full awareness of what’s happening around you, instead of in an illusionary mental world of worries and obsessions. It may entail sitting quietly, counting your breaths and noting when you’re distracted by a thought, or being fully engaged in more of your daily activities, such as brushing your teeth, washing dishes or listening to your child. The training undoubtedly works. Meditation, for example, can reduce stress levels, insomnia, blood pressure, pain and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
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THE WORLD IS YOUR MIRROR
But trying to stick to a strict schedule in the name of selfimprovement can, ironically, leave us feeling exhausted, stressed and despondent when we don’t achieve our goals. We may become too focused, even anxious, when work and family responsibilities clash with meditation or prayer time. Preferring the sanctuary of our
‘The key is that when you’re kind to yourself, you become kinder to others’ quiet space over real-life encounters may result in us losing sight of the simple things that make life good – genuine human connections, and giving and receiving kindness and compassion. It’s not the practice that’s the problem, Downey notes. It’s that a driven type-A personality can get obsessed with anything, whether it’s mindfulness or banting or gym. The key is that when you’re kind to yourself, you become kinder to others. ‘The point isn’t to perfect your body or your personality. The point is really to perfect your compassion and your love,’ writes meditation teacher and author Jack Kornfield in ‘ Finding Freedom Right Here, Right Now’, an essay for Tricycle magazine. We need both individual reflection and development of mindfulness around others, Downey believes. Attending regular group meditation sessions, for example, can be a powerful reflective practice. ‘Those
Mindfulness practice is just that – practice for real-life ‘off the cushion’. ‘You cannot possibly have true mindfulness without “kindfulness”,’ says Downey. The more you practise mindfulness, the more the ‘kindness factor’ naturally develops. You become more aware of the consequences of your words and actions, and your heart opens. After a screw-up, you’re able to say, ‘I acknowledge that I made a mistake’ or ‘I’m sorry’. It helps to constantly remind yourself to pause when your emotions rise. Ask yourself, ‘What is this?’ ‘Am I feeding my ego?’ Then, ‘What is the best possible response to this situation, in the absence of my ego?’ instead of ‘What would I like in this moment?’ says Downey. ‘By doing this, you’ll give yourself the best opportunity to respond consciously rather than lashing out. If 25% of the human population did this, we wouldn’t have the problems we have in the world.’ In this conflicted country where tensions run high, people may be quick to take offence. Kind daily interactions, whether with colleagues, cashiers or beggars, go a long way to restore the natural peace and goodwill residing in each of us. ‘In true mindfulness, there is no “I”, “my” and “me”,’ says Downey. ‘Ask, “Do I want to feed the hungry, selfish “I-my-me” demon, or do I really want to make a difference in this world, not just for me, but for others?”’
Published on Mar 12, 2018
Published on Mar 12, 2018
Is 'kindfulness' the new mindfulness? There’s only so much that can be achieved by sitting in silence on a cushion. Real change will come wh...