How mindfulness can make you better at being you

Taravandana specialises in mindfulness and meditation. In this field of practise, there seems to be an ever-increasing body of evidence, as well as a spike in general public interest.  Here, Taravandana shares her thoughts and insights.  You can also find out more about Taravandana here or on our Meet the Team page.

There’s a lot of talk about Mindfulness at the moment as the answer to stress, compassionate leadership, maximising engagement, and improving performance. But what does mindfulness practice actually do and how does it do it? It’s a big question with many answers, ranging from changes in brain chemistry to enabling leaders to be more positive in their outlook.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the way mindfulness practice creates a space in my mind, and how that means I have more choice about how I respond when things don’t go the way I want. For example when I’m stuck in traffic – yet again – on the M6 and feeling anxious about getting to my meeting on time.  If I’m not mindful of my actions, I’ll start blaming the government, my partner, and all the other drivers for their part in creating this delay. This only makes the stress worse and actually adds to my irritation, frustration, and anger.

Unfortunately, suffering happens; it’s part of being alive. We get stuck with things we don’t enjoy, like difficulties with colleagues, traffic jams, illnesses, and loss. We also don’t always get what we want, like the perfect partner, well behaved and happy children, a pay rise, or a stable and unchanging workplace. It’s just how it is; it comes with getting born and being human. Whilst we can do our best to respond creatively to difficulties and issues, we simply can’t prevent suffering all together. However, we can learn to not escalate it further by being aware of how we feel and the stories we tell ourselves about our experiences.

Mindfulness practice helps me to stay with simply the anxiety of not getting to my meeting on time, which is a start. This anxiety is tough enough, but if I add all those thoughts about other drivers, or what will colleagues think of me if I’m late, the suffering grows. The same applies if I’m unwell, am waiting to go into a Board meeting, or have just received some bad news. Taking up a regular Mindfulness practice trains the mind making it clearer and fitter when facing difficulties or navigating change, just like working out at the gym makes the body stronger and more flexible. It helps us to recognise our habitual ways of reacting when we are on autopilot. and how we can combat them if necessary. This is normal human behaviour, but can be harmful if we let it! With regular mindfulness practice, we discover that we have much more choice than we thought about the way our life and relationships develop.

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