I confess I have a book addiction… as much as I have attempted to embrace technology and use my Kindle, I can’t let go of the thrill of opening the door for the delivery of an amazon parcel with yet another hard back book. The problem is where to put them all. While I was sorting through my pile of summer reading I realized that many of my recent purchases all seem to be saying the same things just in different ways. The Power of Now, The Joy Diet, Loving What is, The Attitude Factor and You can be Happy no Matter What all overlap in identifying the same key concepts that are part of finding a way be happy.
In various ways, these books seem to be saying that the reason we are in pain emotionally is not necessarily our difficult circumstances or our problems but rather it is our thinking about our problems and circumstances that causes us to suffer. The key concept these books all share is the importance of learning how to shut down our inner dialogue and quiet our mind. In her book The Joy Diet, Martha Beck describes how you first quiet your body then you detach from the “restless child” that is your mind and become the kind nonjudgmental mother who regards that child with tolerant affection.
The origins of quieting the mind and embracing the present can be traced back to Buddhist doctrine which encourages focusing on the moment rather than being consumed by the pain of the past or anxiety over the future. As a secular practice, mindfulness became widely popular thanks to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Here is a video link to him explaining the concept.
Basically the practice of mindfulness can be done formally through meditation or informally in your daily life by non judgmental acceptance and staying focused on the present moment without getting distracted by your thoughts or feelings.
So if you are not quite ready but possibly thinking “Yes It is now time to drink the kool aid and start riding the Mindfulness wave”. Let me share what Polly Vernon of the Telegraph stated about meditation.
” It’s chilled me out. Taken the edge off, stilled the caffeinated stress flicker that once permanently inhabited my left eyelid, quieted the washing-machine churn of chat and ire – the fury at perceived slights and injustices, the revisiting of ancient sadnesses, the picking over of scabby old grudges – which used to run on high-spin cycle pretty much constantly in my head.
I sleep better, I laugh more, I am less prone to compulsive actions. Mindfulness makes self-destructive behaviour eminently avoidable. Meditate enough and you become less inclined to eat until you feel sick, drink coffee until you get a migraine, put off bedtime for another hour because you want to scour Facebook for evidence that an ex has moved on more quickly than you have and never mind that you are a knackered, drained husk, physically and emotionally. That sort of thing loses its appeal naturally, with minimum effort.”
Mindfulness matters because it is such a simple tool for becoming happy. You don’t have to get anything, or do anything complicated, you simply have to stop paying so much attention to your thoughts; the ruminations of that restless child called our mind or our ego.
It helps if you can carve out a regular time each day to sit comfortably and quietly, you let your body relax, you focus on your breathing and then you start to separate from the mental static in your head. You gain a little bit of distance so you can see that thoughts are simply like dreams, they aren’t real. In the book The Power of Now, Eckart Tolle writes
“The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance , some form of unconscious resistance to what is.”
Your level of pain is dependent on how closely you are enmeshed with your mind and its thoughts. If you don’t think about the terrible things from the past and if you don’t worry about the terrible things that could befall you in the future, you are left just sitting in the present moment, the Now.
So if you are ready to give it a go then you may want to down load an easy-to-use app called Headspace on your smartphone. Headspace has been described as a gym membership for the mind. Founded in 2010 by a former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe, it has a legion of celebrity fans, from Emma Watson to Gwyneth Paltrow. Choose from hundreds of guided sessions and play on your phone, tablet or computer. It will lead you through daily practices that can get you started. It could change your life