The practice of ‘mindfulness’ seems to be all the rage in contemporary business and management circles (and in wider society too). Before commencing my MBA degree, I hadn’t had any exposure to it whatsoever, but at least two of the study units that I have undertaken in the past year have included mindfulness exercises as part of the official curriculum.
Derived from Buddhist meditation practices, mindfulness requires exponents to detach themselves from their stream of consciousness and to disentangle themselves from the anxiety that is associated with the many thoughts that run through the human mind. Regular mindfulness meditation is scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for stress, worry, lack of focus, relationship problems and addictions.
Now, I’m probably not the sort of person that you would expect to take up mindfulness with gusto. A conservative, beer-drinking, sport-loving and naturally-sceptical Aussie bloke is probably the last person that you would expect to find sitting in solitude, eyes closed and deep in contemplation. And let’s face it: the practice of meditation has long been associated with contorted, ommmmm-chanting, long-haired hippies. Hardly my scene.
But against all my instincts, I’m giving it a go. And if I’m being honest, I think I am a good candidate to benefit from the positive effects of mindfulness, if, indeed, they are achievable. I’m a naturally anxious person, a stress-head, a person who can never sit still for any period of time. I pick my nails incessantly; I dwell and ruminate; I am regularly distracted and ‘absent’ from situations; and I often feel overwhelmed when the pressure is on. Mindfulness supposedly can help to achieve better perspective and sense of calm and clarity.
With that in mind, I’ve started Andy Puddicombe’s Take Ten Headspace program. The program involves a daily ten-minute meditation. It’s not too onerous to start with and it’s easy to get going – just download the free app to your phone, stick your headphones in and take the course of ten pre-recorded meditations. Although he’s a pom, Puddicombe’s voice is quite soothing and you’ll soon find him quite pleasant to listen to.
I’ve done three of the meditations so far. Apart from having my wife interrupt me on two occasions (each time I had found a quiet place to meditate away from her, but she barged in on me unaware of what I was doing), I have found them quite relaxing. Opening my eyes after the ten minute period reveals an almost eerie calm that takes a little while to ‘snap’ out of. There have been occasions during the meditation where I have found it difficult to stop my mind wandering, but I’m guessing (hoping) that this will become easier as I go along.
Am I sold on mindfulness? No. Not yet. I need to understand more before I am willing to make it a fixed part of my daily routine. But I’m going to give it a good shot – if only because it’s a requirement of the study course I’m doing at the moment!