3 simple steps towards mindfulness

: Neil Hope

Neil Hope is an expert mindfulness practitioner who has been developing his meditation practice for over 25 years. He has been taught by the highest lamas in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Now, as Director of Wisdom Fish, Neil reminds us that bringing ourselves more into the present can change our outcomes for the better. He offers the first in a series of free audio meditations to get us started.

Mindfulness is a real buzz word at the moment. But, of course, it’s an ancient practice; it’s been around a while. Mindfulness helps us to bring more of ourselves into the present. 

It calms us down. 

Gives us space to breathe. 

It supports us to come from a deeper, more mature place, to be more focused, less irrational. 

And the more we practice it, the more mindful we become. We change the outcomes for the better.  Because every time we’re able to respond rather than react, the result will be improved. 

Everything we do, every decision and interaction, affects us as individuals and those around us. By being mindful, it’s easier to think about and determine the conditions we’re setting up for ourselves, our lives and for our relationships with other people.  Situations have the potential to turn out so much better if we’re more mindful in the moment of ourselves, our motivation, intentions and the feelings of others.


So why consider Mindfulness in the workplace? 

If the above reasons aren’t enough, it’s also worth noting what the research suggests: that when mindfulness becomes a shared social practice in an organisation, when it becomes part of our routines, processes and practices,  the organisation as a whole becomes more resilient and performs more sustainably, our working relationships are enhanced, our leadership, decision-making, creativity and innovation improve. We transform our organisations. What’s not to like? 


So, where to start?

There few starter mindfulness exercises that you can dip into. You may even want to build them into your everyday schedule. 

I’ve also put together some audio meditations if you’d like to take meditation that little bit further: download Meditation series 1 

Remember to breath

Sounds obvious, but when we’re stressed we really do forget to breath. When we’re finding something tough, perhaps a conversation we don’t want to have, a job we hate, or a deadline we don’t think we can reach, our breathing changes. Perhaps we hold our breathe; we interrupt it; we breath too quickly or too slowly, from our chest rather than our stomach. The result? We increase our stress levels; we may begin to feel anxious. In fact, this type of breathing can trigger hyper-ventilation and panic attacks. So take a few deep breaths to regulate your breathing and then try to do the task whilst being aware of the breath. Don’t try to change anything…notice…breathe and slow the mind. 


Recognise how you’re feeling

Our minds can often feel as though they have a life outside of our control, as they move frenetically from one feeling or experience to another. Often we only realise how we feel when we slow down. At which point, we reach for the nearest thing that makes us feel better, in the hope that it will block that feeling out for a while. 

But feelings are impermanent…they pass. However, good or bad in that moment, it’s worth remembering…those feelings will change. Noticing how we feel as we go through life allows us to feel more fully alive. Learn to embrace these feelings rather than trying to pretend they’re not there. In the longer term there’s more of a risk of them taking over or coming out inappropriately.

So how can we begin to embrace them? It’s simple: 

- Notice your breathing

- Be aware of your body

- Allow your body to be held by the ground

- Slow the mind.


Take notice & reduce distractions

Avoid too much distraction. Easier said than done, particularly in the digital age with mobile phones ringing and emails pinging day and night. We love to be distracted; it’s almost an addiction. But our endless mental fidgeting and craving for distraction can lead to some terrible outcomes. A train ride, for instance, may seem like a great time to work, watch a film, or make a phone call. But it can be a wasted opportunity. Slowing down the mind has so many benefits. 

So try to take the opportunity. 

Be aware of your breathing; experience what’s going on in you and around you. Come back to yourself for a few minutes whilst sitting quietly on the train.  Notice how you feel. Breathe….slow the mind. 

The more we practice mindfulness, the better the conditions we set for our present and future selves. But the key is in making it a habit. Don’t just do it once and expect to feel the earth move. As with exercise, we don’t get fit from going to the gym or on a run once. We do it over and over again until we make it a habit; it becomes second nature; part of who we are. It’s then that we, and those around us, begin to see and feel the difference.

Neil Hope, Wisdom Fish


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