Lessons from a speed awareness course

slowdown

If I were to describe mindfulness to you, I would say it is an awareness, a noticing of what is happening right now. So when I received a letter recently explaining to me that I had been caught speeding by a camera positioned close to my home, I realised I had not been practising mindfulness recently. I had not noticed the camera and I had not even realised that I was speeding. I was in such a rush to get where I was going, my thoughts were half an hour ahead imagining being late to meet my friend and the possible outcome of that, or in the past, why hadn’t I set of earlier, I should have finished work on time. So I had clearly proven to myself, that when you move through the day mindlessly it tends to make life more difficult. So this was my first lesson in mindfulness taught to me by the speed camera.

I was offered the opportunity to attend a speed awareness course rather than have 3 penalty points of my drivers licence. I reluctantly attended the course expecting it to be dull, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Apart from learning a lot about road safety and feeling embarrassed at my lack of knowledge on the highway code! I heard words of wisdom which by can be directly transferred to the practice of mindfulness in day-to-day life. And so I got my second lesson in mindfulness from the speed awareness instructor.

The instructor asked “how do we feel when we are speeding in our cars and driving erratically?” We responded that it can feel stressful and frustrating, we make mistakes and miss turn offs. “So” the instructor then asks “how does it feel to drop back, take it a little slower, leave more space between us and the next car?” After some thought we all admit it would feel more relaxed, we would have more space and time to respond appropriately, we would probably, actually get there quicker and more safely.

It struck me that this is exactly what we are achieving when we live mindfully. It is allowing more space and time. We have time to respond calmly rather than react hastily to life events. Things “go right” more often because we are not rushing or cutting corners. By taking more time we probably are more effective and achieve things in a more timely manner. So since my speed awareness course, I have been mindful of my speed when driving and I have to admit that driving is a much more relaxing experience. I have also tried to bring this reduced pace into my life, and so far so good. I still get my work done on time, I am more effective and the stress is lifted. The only way I can describe it is that I have more “space” in the day in subtle ways that make me feel better.

Challenge yourself to consciously slow down in everything that you do for a whole day and see how it feels. I promise you, you will like it.

Just for today…….

Reiki-Principles

As I prepare to further my Reiki training, I have been studying the principles of Reiki and realised how closely they link with Mindfulness and present moment awareness. Dr Mikao Usui developed the five principles of Reiki (or the 5 Reiki intentions) to help us gain the most from Reiki and understand the ancient secret method for gaining happiness. Dr Usui believed that applying the five principles or intentions in our lives, in conjunction with Reiki practice, helps to increase our wisdom, compassion and inner strength.

The appealing aspect of the Reiki principles is that we only have to think about today. The thought that it is “just for today” can often make any difficult or daunting life experience seem manageable. Maybe when we are making a lifestyle change such as stopping smoking or dieting, the prospect that we might never smoke another cigarette again or will have to go for weeks without our favourite food, seems unbearable. If we bring more present moment awareness to the experience and remind ourselves we only have to do this today, and tomorrow is a new day, things somehow feel more achievable.

This fits in nicely with the mindful approach to living and present moment awareness. Our tendency to be carried away by our thoughts into future events or fears is a common source of stress. Reminding ourselves of these intentions, and living just for today brings us back to the now.

I found these intentions particularly helpful when I was grieving for a very dear and beloved grand parent. I found it over whelming that I would never see her again. Imagining my whole life stretching out before me without her in it seemed frightening and heart breaking. Just thinking about it in these terms now as write, makes my heart race and my eyes fill with tears. But, if I ask myself will I be OK if I just don’t see her today? The answer is yes, just for today I will be OK without her.

So if you are grieving, trying to change a habit or stuck in a job that you dislike and are feeling stressed about spending the next few months there, ask yourself, can I do this  just for today? The answer will probably be yes. You might think that this approach may prevent you from moving forwards in life or changing unhappy circumstances, however, when you remove the stressful thoughts of a future that hasn’t arrived yet, you achieve some mental clarity and space to take positive action.

 

 

5 Habits of mindful people

 

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If you want to become succesful at something, a good place to start is to find a role model and examine their habits.

On my recent Enhancing Mindful Resilience training I was impressed and in awe of the trainers who seemed to embody mindfulness and exude the serenity that mindfulness can bring. So I have spent some time watching people who I consider to be “mindful masters” to compile a short list of habits that promote mindful living.

1. Meditation

Mindful people prioritise their meditation time. They don’t wait to see if they get everything done and then if they have time, squeeze 10 minutes of meditation in. They meditate (usually as part of a morning ritual) and then begin the rest of their day. If you feel like you don’t have time to mediate, set your alarm just ten minutes earlier, when it goes off hit snooze. Then sit up in your bed and meditate for the 9 minutes until your snooze alarm sounds. You will feel the benefits for the rest of the day.

2. Conscious Listening

How often are you involved in a conversation and whilst the other person is talking, you are planning your answer, wondering if you will finish work on time or wishing you had bought those shoes in your lunch break? You are not in the present moment, consciously listening to the other person, you are in the past or the future.

When I observe mindful people in conversation they are calm and you can sense that they are present and listening fully. They don’t rush to provide answers or respond in the conversation. Their speech is unhurried and considered. They creat space to engage fully in the present moment. Being in conversation with a person who is mindfully aware is noticeably different and a much more enjoyable experience.

3. Mindful Eating

How often do you eat your sandwich at your desk or eat your tea whilst watching TV? You are not concentrating on your food. You are not enjoying the tastes, the textures or the smell of the food. More importantly you are not paying attention to when you are full, and so you mindlessly eat until the plate is clear. Experiments have shown that when a person is blindfolded during their meal, they eat less. They are not distracted and cannot see when the plate is empty, and so they stop eating based on their sense of feeling full.

Mindful people will treat their meal times like a ritual. Preparing the food and eating the food without distraction. Try turning the TV off and sitting quietly to eat your food. Savour each bite, chew the food for longer and take some time between forkfuls. Listen to your body and stop when you feel full rather than when the plate is empty.

4. Uni-tasking

I often find myself checking my emails on my i phone whilst I am walking round the supermarket. Or writing an email at work whilst I am on hold on the phone. By multi tasking we are doing neither task to the best of our ability. Rather than save time, we are probably causing more problems for ourselves and wasting time. I might forget half of my shopping list due to being on my phone and have to go back to the supermarket. I might make a mistake in the email because I am concentrating on the phone call.

Mindfully completing one task at a time will save time. Look at each task like a ritual. Give it your full attention and do it to the best of your ability then move on to the next task. Try to remain in the present moment. When your thoughts wonder to the next thing on your “to do” list, notice this and gently guide your attention back to the task at hand.

5. Self Compassion

One of the key principles guiding mindfulness and mindful people is self compassion. Being kind to ourselves as much and as often as possible. Don’t judge yourself for your thoughts, actions or lack of action. If your mind is busy during meditation, don’t get frustrated,  just notice the thoughts, acknowledge the busy mind and guide your attention back to the breath and the present moment. It is not possible to do a mindful meditation incorrectly, just a moment of quiet and stillness will benefit you. Don’t stop practicing because you fear you are not meditating correctly.