Why Practice Compassion

Scientists have found when you feel compassion, your heart rate slows down, you release a hormone called Oxycontin that promotes bonding, and the part of your brain involved in care and pleasure is activated. You are then motivated to care for and help others. Compassion also increases resilience to stress and boosts the immune system to accelerate healing.

You can train yourself to be more and more compassionate with practice--it’s not a fixed trait, but more like a muscle. Researchers at Emory University have found people who did a compassion training course had greater levels of compassion and lower levels of stress hormones in their blood and saliva.
    
Self-compassion in particular trumps self-esteem. Research by Kristin Neff found that people with high self-esteem could end up in traps like narcissism, self- righteous anger, prejudice, and self-absorption. Consider those who have high self- esteem and see themselves as high achievers. This self-image can cause them to believe they are above others, and their arrogance comes at a cost: when things go wrong in life, their self-esteem naturally drops as their self-image as superior crumbles. This is a stressful way to live.

Self-compassion, in contrast, is about being kind to yourself and seeing your imperfection as human. With this tendency, you’ll refrain from criticizing yourself and not be vulnerable to seeing yourself as worth less when things go wrong. You'll have greater resilience against future life challenges and therefore lower levels of stress.

I experienced self-esteem issues myself. For example, when I was a high school student, I was top in the class. My sense of self-esteem was high, built on my academic achievements. But in university, I never achieved the highest grade in the class. The more I tried, the more frustrated I got. I felt low and wanted to give up. By good fortune, I discovered mindfulness halfway through my studies. I learned the value of self-compassion and finished my studies successfully without pushing myself too hard.

Other fascinating recent studies have found compassion to heal, but empathy to hurt. Empathy is a way to feel other people’s suffering but can lead to emotional burnout. For example, health professionals or caregivers can become distressed themselves and suffer greatly. Empathy activates areas in the brain associated with unpleasant feelings like sadness and pain. Compassion is very different. Compassion activates the more warm and caring parts of the brain, like a loving mother toward her crying baby.

World-renowned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard has been collaborating with Tania Singer, neuroscientist and Director of the Department of Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute. Preliminary findings suggest those in the helping professions should do compassion training to help protect them from burnout.

Shamash Alidina - extract from his book ‘The Mindful Way through Stress’.

Do you want to be 10% better, or shoot for the moon?

President J.F. Kennedy took the bold step of promising a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s – a literal moonshot.

That big dream motivated thousands of people to work day and night to make it a reality. But it started with the dream. Moonshot thinking is a concept often spoken about at Google, and now many other organisations. The concept revolves around making the world a radically better place to live in.

You can read my interview here which will give you more information

Shamash! Tell us about you and the power mindfulness can have on the success of entrepreneurs

I’m a mindfulness teacher trainer and author of several books on mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being accepted in mainstream corporations. Google, offers mindfulness in many different forms for its staff. They do this not because it’s the latest fad, but because it works! The evidence base is hard to deny. It increases mental resilience, boosts focus whilst making you feel more relaxed. Mindfulness improves emotional intelligence and communication, and above, makes you feel more happy. There’s hundreds of other companies using mindfulness.

Entrepreneurs are under pressure to succeed. It’s a pressure that both internally generated as well as the external pressures from supplier, customers and staff. Working under high pressure is fine. As long as you know where the release valve is. Mindfulness is the best release valve I’ve ever used to help relieve pressure and improve performance long-term.

Lots of successful entrepreneurs now practice mindfulness and meditation – I’d urge you to have a go if you haven’t tried it yet!

Can you tell us more about the concept of moonshot thinking and how it can help businesses?

Moonshot thinking is the opposite of the way most people think. Most entrepreneurs think about how they can make their service 10% better, not 10x better.

But 10% better is what all your competitors are doing too. And the way 10% growth is often achieved, is by working harder. This leads to burnout and you’re still left competing with your former competitors who are also working harder! 10% improvement isn’t very exciting, is it?

There is a different way. But it requires brave, bold thinking. Not harder work.

Think about how your service could be 10x more effective. To achieve that, you need to think wayyy out of the box. You need to put the box in the bin and start again.

This very idea of thinking creatively and starting again is what can make the difference in your industry.

Without moonshot thinking we would never have had any new technologies like: radio, television, digital camera, mobile phones, the internet, the self-driving car, planes, the new electric car ‘Tesla’, wifi etc.

I also believe in personal moonshot thinking.

How can you make your life a radically better one? Going on a mindfulness retreat? Totally changing career? Moving to a different country? Taking action to build that app you’ve been thinking about? Creating personal moonshots and the challenges around actioning them are all things we’re revealing in our London workshop in May.

Do you have a moonshot in mind, how are you working towards it?

I’ve got a few I suppose! It can seem arrogant to share moonshots, but that’s the whole point of this workshop – to give you the safe space to share radical goals (that may likely fail, but that’s fine!) to help you make a bigger positive difference in the world. They may sound impossible, but so did inventions like the radio – it seemed completely crazy that music could be transmitted without wires!

Okay, here’s some of my moonshots:

  • One of my big dreams is to help build a Museum of Happiness in every city in the world! I’ve taken steps to start gathering an initial community and have organised a couple of events. We’ve even been given a building in London to start the first one! This is what moonshots are about – having big dreams and then taking the necessary small actions.
  • Another is to deepen my personal mindfulness, as best I can. I do this by prioritising to attend as many retreats with whoever I consider the best mindfulness/meditation teacher in the world. I’ve been doing that for the last few years, learning with the Dalai Lama, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Ajahn Brahm. Not sure I’m radically more mindful, but at least I’m hanging out with the right folk! I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to spend time with such wise and kind teachers.
  • Finally, I endeavour to live each year as if it’s my last year on the planet. This helps decision making for me. None of us know for sure how long we have on this beautiful earth, so it's important to make the most of the present moment. Living each year as if it’s my last has taken me to some interesting, fun places all over the world, from New Zealand to Mexico. However, I try not to spend everything in my bank account every year…that’s the other challenge! More important than travel, is attitude. If you live each year as if it's your last, you're less likely to get into stupid arguments or worry about the future too much. Looking after the present moment is the best way to look after your future.

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to take the above steps on my moonshots. But everyone’s different and your moonshots may be far more conservative, or wild for that matter. Whatever they may be, we each start from where we are and go from there.

What was the first workshop in Brighton like for you? what did everyone leave with?

I had a wonderful day, and the participants said they got a lot out of it too.

I loved the combination of a relaxing start with little mindfulness meditation exercises, followed by radical ideas around 10x thinking with Laurence, getting creative juices flowing through the vision boarding with Claire Holgate, and finally getting down to setting some concrete goals and actions with Carlos. A perfect day for me – I felt energised, uplifted and inspired to take action, which I did! Following that day, I set up the Museum of Happiness’ first event, which was a sell out!

“An amazing day. I felt a huge shift in my energy, motivation and clarity.” Attendee, Brighton workshop

Even if you come away with just one new idea, one new friend or one new tool, it’ll be worthwhile to come along. I met some really cool people making a big difference in the world. I really can’t wait for the next one, and would love to meet you too!

Come shoot for the moon with us in London on Friday May 8th. Join Shamash, Carlos & Laurence for a fun, interactive day. You’ll create a vision that inspires you (and your team) to do great things and move from ideas to action. Early birds available, and get 3 tickets for the price of 2 (limited availability). View website & booking info » 

How to make friends with stress by Shamash Alidina

Stress has got a bad reputation. A quick stress for the term ‘stress’ online, and I find the first five websites are about reducing stress and dealing with anxiety and depression. Magazines are full of tips for reducing stress. And even mindfulness was researched initially through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.

But is stress really that bad? If you watch the talk by Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal on TED, you may be pleasantly surprised. She highlighted a huge piece of research at University of Wisconsin-Madison that shocked many people. The research on 29,000 people over 8 years discovered that your view of stress impacts your health far more than the stress itself!

The research found you think stress is always bad for you, then your prediction will come true. But, if you think stress is a good thing – it energises you, challenges you and gets you moving – you’re also correct. People with a positive view of stress lived many years longer than those with a negative view of stress – an amazing fact!

So stress itself isn’t so bad after all. Part of the reason I titled my book ‘The Mindful Way Through Stress’, was to emphasise that it’s about discovering how to move within the feeling and experience of stress effectively, rather than just reducing stress.

Short term stress has the following potential benefits: it boost your immune system, makes you more social, improves learning and may improve memory.

But here’s an important point. We’re talking about short term stress. Chronic stress isn’t such a good thing. Exercise is good for your body, as long as you’re not exercising all day and every day. So a bit of stress is fine from time to time, as long as you know how to let go of that stress – mindfulness meditation is one excellent way to achieve that.

Mindfulness can help you to spot not only when your stress level is rising, but what your personal reaction to that stress is. Imagine you have an interview coming up. Do you think ‘I love this feeling. I feel so energised and pumped up to do this interview!’ Or do you think ‘Oh no, I’m so stressed! I need to meditate away this feeling as soon as possible!’?

Hans Selye, the renowned researcher who discovered the dangers of the stress response, later coined the terms eustress and distress. He was keen to emphasise that all stress is not bad. Eustress is a positive experience, the stress you feel when you’re having fun on a rollercoaster, or down a ski slope. Or even in an interview for that matter. And distress arises when you tell yourself you don’t like the feeling and experience that you’re having.

I’ve developed a simple, short exercise to help you to re-frame your stress, next time your heart begins to race. Give it a go now if you have time, and again when you feel your stress levels rising:

1.  Find a place to comfortable sit or lie down, and close your eyes if you can.

2.  Spend the first minute being aware of your body and getting comfortable. As time passes, you’ll notice more body parts that are tense and begin to relax them as far as you can.

3.  Notice the physiology of the stress response in your body. Your heart racing, the tingling in your stomach and/or fingers. Any tension in your body.

4.  Say to yourself ‘There is a positive side to stress. Stress can be energising and uplifting. In the short term, stress can boost my immune system, improve performance and optimise learning.’ Combine this with a little smile on your face.

This combination of mental reframing with a little smile on your face will help to start changing the feeling of stress to be a more positive experience.

Hopefully, you don’t feel a failure for feeling stressed – stress is a natural feeling to have from time to time. Discover not just how to reduce stress, but how to reframe that very human experience.

My new book, the Mindful Way through Stress is available here

3 gentle secrets to an awesome (+happy+successful) life

Greetings!

Guess what? If life's a bit of a struggle right now, you

CAN

gently make things better. You can be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Even if you currently think you can't. Even if you're in a situation where there seems no way out. Why? Because today is a new day. Because this present moment is fresh and unique and full of potential. Here's a few ways that'll immediately and easily begin to create that change.

Treat yourself really nicely
You can call this self compassion, self kindness or self love.

Whatever word or words that work for you. Be nice to yourself. I mean super nice if you can. Hug yourself. Put your hand on your heart. Smile big and smile often. Treat yourself like you'd treat your bestest of friends. No need to be embarrassed about this - it's all the negativity in society that's embarrassing. It's time to take a positive stand!This activates the nurturing and caring part of your brain to ease excess anxiety. See talks by Professor Paul Gilbert to learn more about this. 2.

Take really TINY steps and celebrate them big

Feeling stressed all the time? Take a few deep breaths. Want a new job? Google new jobs in your area. Want to meditate daily. Start with a few seconds today. And after you've done that, celebrate. Literally say to yourself 'yippee. I've made a super tiny step to less stress. I'm so cool.' Small steps are giant leaps in disguise. You can quote me on that one. :-) 3.

Let EVERYTHING be your teacher.

I woke up a bit tired this morning. So today, I listened to my body and took a rest and didn't push myself. The other day, a random person insulted me. I used the chance to learn to smile at him and practiced some forgiveness. Whatever adversity comes your way, big or small, be grateful ASAP. Maybe you have cancer, or maybe you have a cold. I'm not saying it's easy, but I'm suggesting a way to a bit more peace and happiness. If you don't feel grateful, just write down what you've learnt from the challenge. It won't always be easy. That's where the self kindness and tiny steps comes in. You can even take this to the next level and think - everything that I experience is specifically sent to me to teach me a lesson in life. To help me grow. To offer me a chance to help others. Thanks for teaching me this lesson, dear Universe! Your friend, Shamash PS - I'm happy that you're here, sharing your precious moments of life with me. Thank you! PPS - if you haven't heard, my latest online mindfulness teacher training is on early bird offer. See http://www.teachmindfulnessonline.com for the latest info

Four Steps to Laugh Easily and Mindfully

laughter

They say laughter is the best medicine. Can that be true? Last week I successfully completed a laughter yoga leader training (I'm not joking here) and I must say, I probably laughed more in those two days that any other time in my entire life. And I laugh quite a lot!

The concept of laughter yoga is to laugh for no reason. It was discovered by a medical doctor and now there's 16,000 laughter clubs in over 70 countries. No need for jokes or comedy. Just fake it till you make it. And your body benefits from the laughter as if it was real. A great boost for your immune system and lots of extra oxygen for your brain - yummy!

So I've come up with the idea of 'Mindful Laughter Yoga'. Why not give it a try right now?

1. Start with a few minutes of mindfulness of breath. Or just three deep breaths if you want. With a smile.

2. Do some laughter warm up exercises by clapping your hands and saying 'ho ho ha ha ha, ho ho ha ha ha'. Walk around as you do this to help energise you.

3. Now do a laughter exercise. For example, pretend you're opening up your credit card bill and instead of worrying, make the sound of laughter for about 10-20 seconds. Or pretend you're talking to your friend on the phone and start doing a fake laugh as if you heard the world's best joke. Or pretend you're a witch stirring her cauldron and do a witch like laugh as you stir your frogs legs and spider potion.

Try and let go of your inhibitions and discover your inner child. And let go of those self-judgmental thoughts.

4. Finish by lying down and practising a mindful body scan, as described in most of my books.

Laughter yoga is similar to mindfulness in the following ways:

  • You disocver how to be non-judgmental of yourself and others
  • You let go
  • You discover your inner joy
  • You accept yourself just as you are
  • You learn not to take life so seriously

You can do it! Here's a TED talk on it.

Image by Marc Kjerland 

3 Simple(ish) Ways to Make 2014 your Most Mindful Year EVER

scenery

As the year draws to a close, perhaps you're reflecting on ways to make mindfulness a bigger part of your life in 2014. Here’s my three tips for you.

1. Treat yourself as if you’re your own best friend

New year resolutions may be something you use to beat yourself up with, when you fail. This year, don't.

Instead, use this time to be nice to yourself. Imagine what a kind, wise friend would say to you, if you didn’t manage to stick to your goals. ‘Don’t worry about it’, ‘try again next time’, ‘these things happen, don’t be hard on yourself’. Those are the sort of words I'd suggest you try on yourself.

You’ll feel better, and believe it or not, the self-compassion will make you better able to stick to your resolutions.

Tip - to remind yourself to do this, put a subtle message on your screen saver, leave a note in your purse or wallet, or place a picture of family or friends at work. These cues can be helpful.

2. Take one mindful breath a day

You probably know that meditation is good for you.

And you may be one of the millions of people that just didn’t manage to do their meditation, no matter how much you wished you could.

So, try one breath meditation. Resolve to take one deep in and out breath, in a focused way, everyday.

Anything else is a bonus.

That’s easier to do and can help to build your willpower for a longer meditation, if you so wish.

You may think that's not long enough, but there's only ever this breath and this moment. A mindful breath a day is a great way to start the day! And if you didn't manage to do your 10 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever length of meditation you were planning, why not just start with the one breath and take it from there?

3. Book time off now

Look at your calendar in 2014 and book some time off. Long weekends, vacations and regular days off. Time off from work or home responsibilities are nourishing for body, mind and soul. You’ll feel better afterwards and your work and home life will improve as a result. You could even book a retreat. We have one in Morocco in May.

Mindfulness, above all, is about living with awareness in the present moment. So, no matter what your goals for 2014, remember that you can only be mindful in the here and now. Stop, look and listen is the order of the day.

 

Thanks for reading! Do share your comments if you have a sec, and if you don’t know how to practise mindfulness, check out our bestselling online course, LiveMindfulOnline.com

image by Rudolf Getel

Easy Steps for (Incredible) Focus - tips from Daniel Goleman [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

I recently interviewed Dr. Daniel Goleman. He's famous for his book called 'Emotional Intelligence'. Today, he's talking about his new book, called 'Focus'. Here's a recording of my interview with him, and a full transcript below too.

For listening to the audio of interview

Hello and welcome back to the show. Today we are honored to be speaking with Dr. Daniel Goleman, renowned Psychologist and author of the book, Emotional Intelligence. He's currently in the UK partly to talk about his new book, called Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence and we will be talking to him about the book Focus shortly on our discussion today. So first of all, thank you very much for joining us today Dan.

Alidina: So, what prompted you to write a book on Focus at this particular time?

Goleman: Well, I think that attention is a mental capacity under siege which has never been seen before in human history because of, well largely because our technology is so clever, it's seducing us away from that thing we are supposed to be looking at. And I also think that it's time for Western culture to get more serious about the training of attention, something that's been very advanced in Eastern cultures for a millennia. But something that, somehow we hesitate with in the West, but now that it's under attack in this way I think it beholds us to get more serious about training ourselves in attention.

Alidina: Interesting, I've been reading your book and you talk about three particular forms of Focus. Could you just talk us through those three types of focus to start with?

Goleman: Well, I talk about inner focus, other focus and outer focus. And these are places we put our awareness. Inner focus refers to paying attention to our inner world, to our thoughts, to our feelings, and of course, mindfulness is the training in how to do this. Mindfulness and the sense, that's called metacognition, being able to witness what's going on in the mind instead of just being carried away by it. But this inner focus has a very important application for instance, in terms of managing our inner world. One of the strong predictors of how well a child will do in life is what's called cognitive control. And cognitive control is something meditators know well, it's being able to keep your mind on one thing and ignore impulse or distraction to go somewhere else. It turns out that the child's cognitive control, which is again part of inner focus is a better predictor of how well they'll do in adulthood than IQ or the wealth of the family you grow up in. So it's quite important.

The second kind is other focus, empathy, tuning into other people knowing their feelings, their thoughts and being able to then have compassion for them or be able to help them if they are in need. It's extremely important to have with anyone, but particularly the people closest to us as it determines how rich our connections are, our relationships.

And finally there's outer focus, which is a sense of the larger forces that are at work in shaping our own lives, our organizations and in fact the future of our species. One of the things that troubles me now is the fact that even though it's our daily activities by large, what we buy, what we do it's slowly degrading the global systems to support life with global warming being the most obvious sign. We really don't have a good way to tune into that. We must get better at that if the species is to survive.

Alidina: I came along to talk to you a few days ago, The Actions for Happiness event in London, and with regards to cognitive control, you tell people about the marshmallow test. Some people might not know about it, could you just briefly go through that one please?

Goleman: It's a rather legendary experiment in psychology which was done at Stanford University. Children came to a room and sat down at a small table, and the experiment is to put some marshmallow in front of the child and say, "You can have these now if you want but if you don't eat it until I come back from running an errand, you can have two then," and then she leaves the room. It's a real predicament for any child, and about a third of them just grab it gobble it down on the spot and the other third wait the endless ten, twelve minutes until the experimenter comes back, they get two. The two groups are tracked down fourteen years later, they were about to go to University and the ones who waited still are able to delay gratification to pursue their goals. They had a huge advantage, a 210 points advantage on the University entrance exam. There are ten out of sixteen hundred, so they learned much better and it wasn't due to the differences in IQ because all these children were -- the children are people of Stanford University.

Alidina: Wow, okay. So what is exactly happening on a neurological level? So what's happening in the brain when we're actually focusing, could you look into that?

Goleman: Well, when we're voluntarily focusing, that is when we're being mindful or we're keeping our mind on our work. It's a choice we've made, there's two general systems in attention, one is a top-down system as it's called, this is where we choose, it's voluntary, it's intentional. The other's bottom-up, these are the things that capture our attention. Our emotions are flashy at that thing you get on your smartphones saying that there's a message for you. These are things that involuntarily that we follow and those are a constant tension within the attentional system between top-down or bottom-up.

Alidina: Okay, so let's say for example, I go to watch a movie and I find that movie really fascinating, would that be a top-down approach?

Goleman: The only top-down there is, is that you chose to go to see a movie, the rest of it is the movie's playing your emotional brain.

Alidina: Okay so all forms of entertainment are as interesting as possible as I'm trying to capture attention.

Goleman: Entertainment are things we choose to manipulate in our brain because they are pleasant. The problem with bottom up attention which is manifest as mind wandering, is that in the wild, if we just leave it to go where it wants, it tends to go to things we're concerned about, problems in our life. So we end up being a little less happy than we were before our mind wandered, so if you choose where to go, "Oh yeah that looks like a good movie!" What you're saying is, I'm going to give my bottom-up system…a pleasant experience.

Alidina: Okay, that's interesting, So now, this may link to the next one question. I understand Professor Richard Davidson is a pioneer in research in the field of meditation. I was just wondering what you've learned in your time with him, about focusing and about other things in general.

Goleman: Well you have to understand my time with Richard Davidson goes on from graduate school. We were fellow students together at Harvard, best friends from that time so I've been following his research quite closely and it was his work on others on what was then called Affective Neuro Science that prompted me to write the book, "Emotional Intelligence" because I saw there was a critical mass of new exciting findings on emotion in the brain. And more recently, Dr. Davidson has been doing research on Contemplative Neuro-Science which is the study of what goes on in the brain during meditation and that was one of the other factors that prompted me to write this book, "Focus".

Alidina: You also mentioned something about him being involved in making a game which helps people to focus.

Goleman: Well, I write about it in Focus, it's a very encouraging development because today is -- video games has rather random sets of impacts on the attentional system, in the psychological system generally of children who play them a lot. One is that you do get a bit better at attentional capacities like vigilance, but on the other hand if you play one of those battle games, where you're constantly vigilante for some enemy or alien that's going to kill you if you don't kill him. It gives you a certain psychological ban which manifests then when you're at school and someone inadvertently punches you in the hallway, your immediate assumption is that this kid has a grudge against you. In other words, you get a hostile attribution. So a rather unfortunate aspect of video games as they are now but Davidson has teamed with a group of game designers to come up with a game which teaches children how to strengthen their attentional circuitry in a very positive way, one game that I saw called Tenacity has children on an iPad tapping as they breathe. Then they get a visual reward, flowers bloom in the desert, something like that. And kids love it and the better you get at it the more challenging it gets so it's a very systematic way to strengthen attentional circuitry.

Alidina: And you also mentioned Sesame Street in your book!. Apparently it has got a lot of Neuro-science in the program?

Goleman: Yeah I paid a visit to the Sesame workshop where they put Sesame Street together. The day I was there, the writers were all in the meeting with two cognitive scientists and what I learned was that every segment on Sesame Street is a lesson from cognitive science wrapped in entertainment. So one that's airing this season which is actually about cognitive control, there's this is character Cookie Monster who loves to gobble cookies and he wants to join this club, you pick up the cookie and you examine it for imperfections and you sniff it and then you take a tiny nibble which for him is very hard but then he learns that if he can just resist gobbling and it just take a nibble he's going to be able to eat all kinds of cookies and that helps him learn the lesson. In other words what they're doing in Sesame Street is modeling for toddlers, a number very good emotional lessons.

Alidina: Wow! It's really nice to hear that. So Cookie Monster's turning into a mindful eater, that's amazing. [Laughter]

Goleman: At least for that segment!

Alidina: So I suspect you've talked with other leaders in the schools and thought about bringing a great level of focus into schools as well as previously mentioned emotional intelligence. Also tell us of best practices have you seen in bringing a great level of focus in schools.

Goleman: Well I visited a school in Spanish Harlem which is in a very impoverishing section of New York City where they have what's called the breathing buddies. It's a daily session, every child takes a favorite small stuffed animal, lies down on a carpet and put some animal on their tummy and watch it as it rise and falls as they breath in and out and watch what they're doing, they count one, two, three on the out breath, one, two, three on the in breath. What they're doing is basically learning to concentrate and to keep their attention there. It's a very basic lesson in cognitive control. And I think it's rather exemplary, more and more schools are bringing mindfulness into the curriculum in one form or another. Usually in this developmentally appropriate way where for the very young children you do just a little bit in an easy way to do then you make it more challenging, children develop through the grades.

Alidina: That's really interesting. Just one in particular example that comes to mind from your book is the traffic lights approach.

Goleman: Well this is something that comes from a program called Social and Emotional Learning which is called SEAL here in the UK, and the traffic light is a poster of a stop light; red light, yellow light, green light. This is when you're upset remember the stop light, red light, stop, calm down and think before you act. Yellow light think of the range of things you might do and what the consequences would be and then green light, pick the best one and try it out and what it does is actually teach children to have a mindful pause, not to just to act on the first impulse when they get upset, angry or anxious, but to notice how they're feeling and to take some control of that and then to make a more thoughtful decision on how to act.

Alidina: That's really nice model, great. Well we've been talking about schools and you say SEAL is one kind of approach and mindfulness would be another one. But also one organization is trying to take hold of using mindfulness in improving focus. For example, Google, which you mention in your book, with their program, 'Search Inside Yourself' and we had an interview with Meng a few weeks ago. So that program integrates both mindfulness and emotional intelligence from my understanding. Just wondering what's your involvement in that and how you recommend organizations train employees to heighten their focus?

Goleman: Well, the program was developed with Meng and the very dear old friend of mine, of Miabai Bush. Google is an ultra-high IQ place to work and I think it's because the emotional intelligence skills determine how well people do in an organization. It's IQ to get you into Google, but it's your ability to collaborate to be a member of a team or to manage yourself and persist toward your goals and code writing there that's going to get you ahead. Those are emotional intelligence factors, so Meng whose from Singapore, and he's been I think a long time meditator, saw a real opportunity to blend mindfulness training with emotional intelligence because mindfulness is a skill builder from emotional intelligence, it cultivates your ability to witness what's going on to your mind, to manage it and I think to be emphatic too which is another key component. So he put together a program that has been really popular at Google but he has also taken it out on the road to other companies. More and more companies, at least the states are bringing mindfulness into the workplace. For several reasons, one is it helps people manage their stress and helps them keep their attention where it needs to be despite all the distractions. And it also helps group performance so it's a kind of win-win-win.

Alidina: And I know there's lots of mindfulness people keen on mindfulness into companies and organizations. How do you recommend people do that? Do you have any suggestions?

Goleman: Yeah, I think they should give my book to the CEO.

Alidina: [Laughter] because it got lots of research in it?

Goleman: It makes the business and scientific case for doing this.

Alidina: Okay, it's interesting. What about the connections between one's level of focus and one's happiness and well-being? There's a lot of books out there on happiness now, people are really interested in that. What's the connection and why is there a connection --?

Goleman: Well you know the better you can manage your upsetting emotions, and increase the positive ones more, the happier you will be and real happiness is not having ways and ways of ecstasy, it's just having more and more moments that are really pleasant during the day. And fewer and fewer that are upsetting, so it's that ratio, positive to negative that matters.

Alidina: Okay. Going back to technology, do you think that kind of massive use of technology nowadays is actually changing the way our brain is shaped?

Goleman: I don't know if it's changing the shape of the brain but we have to be careful that it doesn't de-skill us in attention because our machines are seducing our attention away and taking it from top-down to bottom-up continually or at least trying to, and this means that our attention circuits maybe getting more flabby than they've been in the past. That's one reason actually why I wrote Focus, to advocate, intentional, purposeful, attentional training to make sure that particularly for children but actually for all of us, that our circuitry for paying attention when we want, and where we want and how we want and stay strong in the middle of this onslaught from technology.

Alidina: And is this use of technology, I haven't seen you come and talk about multi-tasking that much but how was our ability to pay attention, focus links with a desire for multi-tasking?

Goleman: Well, you know, multitasking doing many things all at once is a little bit of a fiction from the point of your cognitive science and that attention doesn't expand to take on more tasks, it switches from one to the other. May switch quite rapidly but every time you switch you're losing a bit in the momentum you had in the original things. So if someone's concentrating on getting something done at work and then you start, you know you go online and you read your email, whatever it is, it takes ten or fifteen minutes to get back your full concentration on that first task. So it's much better to do, to put aside until later the things that don't really matter now like reading your email, unless there's an urgent one you must look at. And do that thing you have to get done and then decide, okay, now I'm going to do this and this and this, rather than try to do everything at once because it diminishes your ability to do each thing individually.

Alidina: So if you are in charge of a large organization, let's say multi-national organization, how would you set that organization up so that people would improve their ability to focus, reduce multi-tasking and improve all these different things you've been talking about?

Goleman: Well, I would do a couple things, one is I would probably have a mindfulness session at the beginning of the day and encourage mindfulness breaks. Secondly, I would use, implement apps that close down technical distractions like little things that indicate you have a text and little pop ups that show you have emails to help people, people stay focused because you need to, that kind of protection cocoon for people to get the task done. And this is very rewarding to get a task done, people who are working on projects will tell you that every day if I have small win toward that big project that I'm working on, I feel good at the end of the day, it was a useful day and if you've been invaded by all these distractors and multi-tasking, whatever, that doesn't help you get that small win, you just don't feel this good.

Alidina: Yeah, I mean I find for myself off those notifications is really important otherwise I would get distracted and go and tap on it.

Goleman: Exactly.

Alidina: What is it about it that makes it so addictive because you can see couples in restaurants using phones, you see people on the phone constantly using phone wherever they are?

Goleman: Yeah, I think we get a small hit of dopamine which is a pleasure chemical when we get up a message that we want like, someone saying something nice to you or hearing from a friend you get a dopamine hit and the brain acts to rewards you for that. And in Reinforcement Theory, in the old Skinnerian framework, they said reinforcement is key. That means you know you may only get one of those out of ten emails but it still highly reinforcing, so it keeps us looking for that hit and it's very seductive and I think we have to be very intentional in not following it forth.

Alidina: And the best approach would be to kind of turn off notifications for a short period of time.

Goleman: And then turn them on once you want them.

Alidina: Yeah, okay. So you've mentioned mindfulness is one approach in a way in developing a better level of focus. Is there a best form of mindfulness or meditation practice to improve? What would you recommend?

Goleman: Well, there's several kinds of focus but I think that mindfulness is key for all of them because mindfulness allows you to step back from what's going on in the mind and monitor it. And to monitor it you can see when your mind has wondered off. The most explicit training in focus attention is a concentrate of method like watching your breath, staying with the breath and then bringing it in back when your mind wanders actually strengthens the neuro circuitry for attention. So I think, that is the very best training for concentration.

Alidina: And what sort of length of time would you recommend people put into doing that?

Goleman: As much as you can.

Alidina: [Laughter] Okay, so even a few minutes is better than none?

Goleman: Start with a few minutes particularly if you find it difficult at first. Don't make it too hard, just do a minute or two and then extend the time as you find it easier. And then you know what becomes more natural for you, you can do whatever your schedule allows. I like to meditate in the morning, you know if it's a busy day, ten, twenty minutes, if it's an open day maybe forty five minutes or maybe an hour.

Alidina: On a mindfulness course, people would often say I can't meditate because my mind is all over the place no matter how much I'll try, my mind keeps wandering off, I can't do it. Well how would you response on question like that?

Goleman: I would tell people that's actually a sign that you may be becoming more mindful because usually in life when our mind wanders, we just go right along with it, but when you start to try to keep your focus on your breath for instance, all of a sudden you notice, "Oh my gosh my mind's wandering!" So it seems at first as though you're mind's going crazy, actually that's the way our minds always are, we just don't notice it until we try to manage it.

Alidina: Okay, so it's actually seeing it as a positive sign that a mind is wandering a lot of the time.

Goleman: Exactly.

Alidina: Okay, now for people who don't want to do the kind of closed eyes, feeling the breathing kind of approach, you have come and talked about the positive aspect of this top-down attention, so when you're deciding to intentionally pay attention to something. What about if people went around their day and they just did as best as they could trying to pay attention to what activity they were doing, would that be just as helpful in a way as mindfulness meditation?

Goleman: Some people find that they can focus better or be mindful if they're doing, say a walking meditation or eating mindfully, that is if they do it in the midst of an activity and other people more naturally take to just sitting still and watching their breath. I think the key point is to find what suits you. I did some research project years ago with Jon Kabat-Zinn who was one of the real Fathers of Mindfulness in the West, looking at two kinds of anxiety, some people experienced anxiety inside in their body, so automatically some in their mind, cognitively can't stop thinking these thoughts. And people who experience it more on the body we found did better at managing that anxiety by doing mindful yoga, people whose minds just were racing found it more easy at first to just watch their breath and bring their mind back to their breath. So I think there's a lot of individual variation. It's important to find what works for you.

Alidina: So for some people, meditation is the answer, for others, it may be mindful running.

Goleman: Well, I think so but I also would say that at a certain point in the practice, it's good to get to the point where you can sit and watch your breath. As well as merge mindfulness with other activities.

Alidina: Okay. As we come towards the end of the interview, one question which may not be quite directly related, I'm just curious about it. You have spent some time out with the Dalai Lama, I was just wondering what sort of things you've learned from your time with him?

Goleman: Well, one thing that he's made very clear to me at least, is that mindfulness is a great beginning but if you add to that a compassion or sense of loving kindness toward people, it enriches what you can offer to the world and I find that a very valuable lesson.

Alidina: I know you recently spoke about Compassion at a Conference in London too, so did you link up on how Focus is connected with compassion or do you see them separate?

Goleman: Well, empathy that is other awareness is a kind of focus and it's empathy which is a necessary component and precursor of understanding what's going on with the other person, if they're suffering in some way or in need, what you can do to help them. Wisdom then leads to the compassionate action.

Alidina: Wonderful, great! Well, I would just like to finish by saying thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it and if people want to find out more obviously I would recommend this book, Focus which is out in all book shops now in the UK as well. But do you do any kind of newsletter or blog that people can continue to follow you at?

Goleman: Yes, people can find what I'm doing in two places, one is morethansound.net, and the other is danielgoleman.info - those two websites will keep you up to date with what I'm up to.

Alidina: Fantastic! Well, thank you once again for your time and I hope this book goes on to revolutionize the world just like emotional intelligence did as well.

Goleman: Thank you Shamash. Thanks for having me.

I hope you enjoyed the interview! Some of our top interviews are available exclusively for our subscribers. Join up by subscribing at the top of the website. Thanks for reading and I hope you keep in touch!

5 (Essential) Tips for a Mindful Christmas

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Okay, okay, I know it's only November, but the holiday season is not far away! And although some of you may not be celebrating, almost all of you will be very busy

The Christmas period can be manic. You could find yourself running around trying to get the shopping done, worrying about all things from money to who you’ll be spending the day with. This kind of pressure, on top of an already busy life, can lead to a miserable December full of anxiety and stress. If you’re feeling the pressure here are some ways to help you have a mindful Christmas.

  1. Try some mini mindfulness meditations. It might be difficult, but find some time to sit still and think about what is good in your life right now. Sit comfortably and focus on your breathing. Try doing this before you go Christmas shopping, as it will help you to stay calm.

Later, when you’re queuing to pay for your presents and starting to feel the stress, focus on standing tall, and breathing slowly and deeply. Accept that it’s okay to feel frustrated in the queue. Who likes queuing? It’s natural to be annoyed. Try to realise you are annoyed, and then look around you to appreciate the present moment aspects of Christmas. Smell the pine trees and cinnamon.

Appreciate the colours - when else do you see so much sparkle and glitter?  Feel your breath filling your lungs, and appreciate how good it fees to correct your posture and stand still for a short while. Resist the temptation to get your Blackberry out and check your messages. Are your feet throbbing? Feel the throbbing, and visualise your blood pumping around your body and breathe deeply to slow it down.

  1. Make giving more mindful. When you write your Christmas cards this year, take the time to include a few words that express the reasons why you love or appreciate the recipient. Thank people for what they have done, and show gratitude for any kindness.

Write them for those you have lost, or fallen out with too. This will help you to accept your life as it now is. Also, write a card for yourself, listing all the good things that you are experiencing in your life. You don’t need to post this one of course, but keep it somewhere obvious, and read it when you feel anxious, or need a reminder about what is important here and now.

Write your cards slowly, and concentrate on forming each letter. Handwriting is usually rushed these days, if it happens at all, so take time to feel each curve of the pen and each full stop, be mindful of your handwriting.

  1. Volunteer. You don’t need to be a practising Christian to appreciate what the Christmas spirit is about. Practise mindfulness and help out at your local homeless centre, or offer your services to a charity. My co-author and I have put ourselves down to volunteer in a local soup kitchen for a couple of days after Christmas. There are many worthy causes, and in return, you’ll find a sense of wellbeing that outshines any expensive gift you may receive. Keeping up this activity into the New Year will really help you to focus on what you already have, and highlight the good aspects of your own life.

If you don’t have time to volunteer, then try little things such as feeding the birds in your garden, or the ducks at a local park because they will certainly appreciate it in the cold weather (unless you're in Thailand!). Which leads us nicely to....

  1. Take a walk in the fresh air and live in the moment. Look at the leaves, are there any left at this time of year, what colour are the trees now? What are the clouds doing? When did you last look at the clouds? If it’s raining, then wear a waterproof coat and take an umbrella. It may snow – after all it is Christmas! Just try to go out, the rain won’t hurt you. Listen to the birds; they still sing in the winter. Breathe in the winter air. It’s so clean, it will blow out all those central heating impurities.

If you have a child, take her/him with you. Don’t tell them off if they get wet though, just try jumping in puddles or throwing snowballs with them. Chase the leaves and laugh. Appreciate them being this young, They won’t be like this again. Create a moment and enjoy it. 

  1. Yes, you can enjoy Christmas dinner. Christmas dinner is often the climax of the Christmas period, but do you really enjoy it? Even if you had to cook this year, and are so stressed and sweaty that you don’t feel like eating, try to sit back and look at each person around the table. Think of the ways in which you have been close to them, and the reasons you choose to spend time with them. Even if you don’t get on particularly, there is a reason they are sat at the table with you. Think about them, appreciate their good points and accept their failings. Nobody is perfect.

Christmas is a good time to practice mindfulness. Your family may visit, you are seeking out gifts for your friends and relatives, and using a variety of decorations, fabrics, music and foods. Take notice of each person, material or sensation over Christmas. Each time you do this you will focus fully on the present. Each step you take is a step away from your former anxiety-avoiding self. Use this Christmas period to kick-start yourself into the New Year – a New Year where you practise mindfulness and feel happier and healthier!

How will you ensure your Christmas is a mindful one?  

Best Websites for Healthy Living

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I've recently been searching for a list of websites that help to improve health and wellbeing to be able to pass onto my mum, but couldn't find a good list, so I've created one here. All these websites have information that is based on good quality scientific research rather than just being made up by the author of the website.

Help Guidehttp://www.helpguide.org

One of my favourite websites on the internet. Very easy to read and great quality information.

NHSwww.nhs.uk

The UK's NHS website is packed with great information, and continues to improve everyday.

Patientwww.patient.co.uk

This website is often recommended by doctors. Not so easy to navigate, but some of the links from there are brilliant.

Web MDhttp://www.webmd.com

Great, easy to follow, evidence based advice and tips from doctors and health professionals.

Net Doctorhttp://www.netdoctor.co.uk

Similar to Web MD but based in UK

Mayo Clinichttp://www.mayoclinic.com

Vast amount of information in an easy to follow writing style.

National Institute of Healthhttp://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

This is a well-funded US based site. I don't use it much, but the quality of the content is well-researched.

British Heart Foundationhttp://www.bhf.org.uk

This is a charity in the UK for keeping your heart healthy - something we all need to do!

BUPAhttp://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-information

Bupa is a private health organisation, but offer quite a bit of free information here.

Action for Happinesshttp://www.actionforhappiness.org

This is a charity and movement based in the UK but offered globally. Lots of great ways to raise your level of happiness which turns out to be extremely good for your health. Very easy to follow information here.

Please let me know if you know of any more that are easy to use and full of evidence based medicine for body and mind. Thank you.

Know the Five Amazing Benefits of the Mindful Executive Coach?

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As an Executive Coach, I hope you enjoy the many thrills and rewards of working with a diverse client portfolio. But of course juggling  the objectives and cultural styles of multiple companies is not without its challenges. As well as being required to get to grips quickly with the vision of an organisation, coaches need the ability to observe a company and its staff dispassionately and are often expected to produce effective decision making that will drive the business dynamically forward. All whilst ensuring that the company still meets its financial targets and staff remain motivated and aligned to their goals. On any given day, obstacles such as conflicting personalities, cultural clashes or unwieldy processes may threaten success - and coaches need focus, clarity of thought, empathy and more to navigate through these challenges swiftly and with grace. What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a form of secular mind training that requires the participant to bring their attention to the present moment.  Mindfulness is rapidly becoming the training of choice to improve focus, increase productivity and resilience in the workplace and the affects from this bewitchingly simple practise can be long reaching and profound. Investing in a Mindfulness course can dramatically improve both the service that  coaches are able to offer their clients as well leading to physiological and emotional benefits for the individual. We've detailed the top five reasons why Mindfulness training could help transform your skills as an Executive Coach and help you make the move from good to great in the eyes of your clients.

1. Increased Resilience through Stress Reduction

The workplace can be a stressful environment, particularly in difficult economic times as we face anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Executive coaches spend time trying to balance the demands of  differing work environments and  personalities along with a range of obstacles threatening success such as conflict issues, poor communication styles, or even the fears and procrastination of the client that hired you. A hectic work life spent juggling the needs of your clients along with the demands of a personal life where partner and/or children require your support too can be challenging and often lead to increased stress and overwhelm.

What causes the stress?

You can react to stress by getting stuck into unproductive cycles of negative thinking such as worst case scenario worrying. When you become immersed in our thoughts and worries our body start to think of them as true – and provide the physiological response to match – hence increasing levels of the “stress” hormone cortisol and physical responses such as  ezcema and IBS.  Mindfulness exercises  allows you to calm down and place your attention back to the present moment as well as placing non-judgemental awareness into your body. Meditative practises have been proven to reduce cortisol levels.  The increased “feel good factor” of living in a more mindful and present state will also have a positive affect on your clients as your body language, tone of voice and presence will be evident.

2. Heightened Creative Problem-Solving  and Attention

Expectations from clients differ. Some require a sounding board they can use to bounce ideas with; other clients seem to want to sit back and let their coach lead them  “out of the woods.” Either way, its important coaches are adept at seeing the bigger picture; able to effectively asess and reevaluate the strategic direction of a company and come up with solutions to the problems that it faces. Mindfulness exercise concentrate on bringing attention to the given moment. Increasing awareness and consciousness in the feelings, thoughts and physical sensations of the present allow practitioners to approach problem solving with clarity, spaciouness and creativity. The  Institute of Mindful Leadership conducted research that discovered mindfulness exercises helped 93% of leaders make room for innovation and found that 70% said that it assisted them in strategic thinking. Research studies such as those conducted by Ostafin (ref  1) have linked mindfulness exercises to improved insight-based problem solving.

3. Laser-sharp decision-making and focus

Mindfulness exercise encourage us  to recognise when our thoughts drift away and require we gently pull them back to the present. In research conducted by David Marchant – a lecturer in Sport Psychology from Edge Hill University – it was found that mindfulness  naturally improves concentration and develops “attentional control”   which leads to  a better command over disparate and distracted thinking and improves our ablity to respond  rather than jump into “react” mode thereby improving our decision making faculties and focus.

Paying attention creates a flow state

Paying attention to the present moment helps workers access more readily the “flow state' associated with high performers and  sports stars. As you move into the "approach state" your confidence improves which and  increases the  ability to trust your own decisions. Staying in the present moment allows you to become less distracted by self critical thoughts, less judgemental and aligned to preconceived outcomes and mindsets and more open to noticing and evaluating new data.

4. Boost in Productivity

In a recent piece of research  64% of participants in a workforce study said they were distracted by thoughts of home whilst at work.  Mindfulness exercises train practitioners to become consciously aware of these thoughts and bring their attention back to the present moment – the only place where we can truly take effective action.  It becomes clear if you can apply this to your daily lives and continue to redirect your attention constantly to the  present task at hand your productivity will increase.

When asked to conduct a mindfulness exercise in the workplace and become “aware” of their thoughts  and levels of productivity the percentage of  participants in the research who saw their thoughts drift to “home” dropped from 64% to 17% which can only be good news for productivity levels.

 5. Enhanced Emotional Intelligence

For an Executive Coach developing your attentive listening skills to really hear the story of the organisation and its employees; being able to empathise with your clients  and learning how to respond with compassion to the wide variety of people, characters, and business scenarios you are faced with are crucial skills. Mindfulness exercises have been proven to improve both self-compassion and compassion towards other people, improve softer skills such as attentive listening and increase empathy.

Rewire your brain at work

Research shows that our brains have a degree of plasticity which means they can be taught new things. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain imaging shows that practising loving-kindness exercises and developing an emotion such as compassion can be learned in the same way as learning how to play a musical instrument. Brains change for the  better and the circuits used to detect emotions were dramatically changed in subjects who had experienced practising compassionate mindfulness.(ref 2)

Summary 

Mindfulness is one of the leading-edge business approaches, although ancient in origin, and is being used today to improve both the physical and emotional health of staff as well as performance in the workplace. Mindfulness will improve  your ability as an executive coach by developing your creative problem-solving skills and allow you to work with more attentiveness, clarity, and empathy – as well as reducing the stress of a busy and demanding life. You will also be able to pass on the benefits of a calmer, more compassionate you to your clients.

If you're interested in becoming a Mindful Executive Coach, join our new 12 month Online Coach Mindful programme.

 

References

1) Ostafin BD, Kassman KT (2012). "Stepping out of history: mindfulness improves insight problem solving". Conscious Cognition; vol.21, issue 2.

2) Lutz A, Brefczynski-Lewis J, Johnstone T, Davidson RJ (2008) Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise.

Image courtesy of CC - Victor1558

Supercharged Brain Training with your Feet?

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Yesterday, I was feeling a bit agitated. My mood was a bit up and down. And I had a book deadline to meet. So, I decided to take action. I could sit down and meditate, but I didn't think that would help so much on this occasion. I needed fresh air and exercise really. So, I decided to do some mindful brisk walking. This combines the physical exercise of walking with the brain training of mindfulness meditation - at the same time. Good for your physical health (especially your heart) and good for your brain too (improves focus, raises mood).

To do mindful brisk walking, try the following:

1. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths.

2. Set your intention for the walk to be brisk, so you're slightly out of breath when walking, but could still comfortably have a conversation. Also, set your intention to be mindful. You can open your eyes now by the way.

3. Start walking briskly. And you can be mindful by simply feeling the sensation in your feet. If you don't like that, you can try feeling your breathing or the breeze against your face and hands. Whatever you prefer.

4. Remember to walk upright, with a sense of purpose. Look up rather than just at the ground (unless your path is full of pot-holes!)

5. Your mind will wander. Just bring it back and BE NICE TO YOURSELF. You don't need to beat yourself up for not being able to focus.

Tips

  • Leave your phone at home. This is a time for you.
  • Make this a daily habit and you'll feel much better within weeks if you don't currently meditate or exercise
  • Try slow mindful walking some time too.

Let me know your thoughts on this on here, or facebook or twitter. I haven't seen many blog posts on this particular mindful exercise, but I think it's great.

 

Brand New "Mindfulness Workbook for Dummies" hits the bookshelves

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Mindfulness Workbook For Dummies (For Dummies (Psychology & Self Help))

Our new book, 'Mindfulness Workbook for Dummies' is now out. I thought you would appreciate access to the first Chapter of the book, so here it is. Or you can read the first few paragraphs below. Let me know what you think of it!

Chapter 1 - Beginning Your Mindfulness Journey

No matter how or why you decided to look into mindfulness, we believe that you’ve made a smart move. Everyone can benefit from the increased awareness and self-knowledge that practising mindfulness can bring.

So what do we mean by that phrase? Practising mindfulness means paying attention regularly and intentionally to your present-moment experience with mindful attitudes. Four of the most important attitudes of mindfulness are compassion, curiosity, acceptance and open- ness for yourself, other people and the surrounding world. You deepen and develop your mindfulness by practising mindfulness exercises and meditations and by living mindfully on a day-to-day basis.

Scientific studies confirm that practising mindfulness regularly allows you to begin to change the way you experience life. As a result your brain is less stressed, focuses better and reacts automatically less, becomes more resilient to future challenges and regulates your emotions more effectively. Your body also becomes better at fighting disease and your tension eases. Most likely your relationships improve and you’re more engaged at work. You may well experience greater levels of happiness and peace in your life by living with mindfulness.

In this chapter we introduce you to the concept and practice of mindfulness and guide you gently into beginning your mindfulness journey.

Understanding Mindfulness

In some ways, mindfulness is simple. You pay attention to whatever’s going on right now with the right attitude, whether it’s an internal or external experience. But mindfulness is also much more subtle. The challenge is remembering to be mindful, rather than reacting automatically, and letting go of your self-criticism and doubt as you begin to practise. The triangle in Figure 1-1 summarises the essence of mindfulness as proposed by Dr Shauna Shapiro and colleagues, and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Continued...

 

5 Life-changing Principles from Mindfulness 'Guru'

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn spends an evening sharing his secrets in the legendary London Euston

Friends Meeting House

By Shamash Alidina

 

Mindfulness is getting very popular. Jon Kabat-Zinn, MIT Molecular Biologist turned mindfulness advocate, first began researching mindfulness in the west, back in 1979 in Massachussetts. He gave a rousing lecture to a captive audience in London yesterday.

The talk was simply titled ‘An evening with Jon Kabat-Zinn’ and he honoured and valued the 1200 packed venue for showing up, despite the bitterly cold weather and the fact that there’s always something else we could be doing. The talk turned into a guided meditation seamlessly and before we knew what was happening, we were all feeling our breath and watching our thoughts. He gently brought us back in the room and shared some beautiful poems, which he recited by heart, and from the heart.

Kabat-Zinn is on a mindfulness tour of the UK. He ran a one-day guided mindfulness workshop  at the ‘Mindfulness in Society’ conference in Chester, England. He was also a keynote speaker at the annual conference ‘Mindfulness in Education’ in London.

I enjoyed listening to Kabat-Zinn’s lecture. Here’s the five priniciple take home messages that I felt he emphasized for us all:

1.    Be mindful rather than do mindfulness

‘Mindfulness is not a technique, it’s a way of being’. Kabat-Zinn continuously emphasised this point.  As mindfulness continues to roll out into different areas, people are more likely to use the approach as a tool kit of ways of dealing with difficulties. But the power of mindfulness comes from living with awareness, moment by moment, in everything you do.

2.    Meditate to be mindful

‘You won’t reach the door of this hall without forgetting to be mindful without a practice’. Although mindfulness is more than just meditating, Kabat-Zinn wanted to convey the importance of a daily practice. ‘Before I check my email or deal with my family details, I get on the cushion and mediate. That’s what I do anyway. You can do what you want’. That sounds wise to me - you can't beat a good cushion.

3.    Remember, you’re already perfect

You don’t need to try and improve or change or endlessly develop yourself. Because you’re perfect already. Your inner essence is whole, pure, perfect and complete as it is. Just as a young baby is perfect just as she is, so are you perfect just as you are.

I think this is an important point. Nowadays, pretty much every book in the self-help and personal development field is about improving and changing. With mindfulness, the tide is changing. The key is acceptance rather than constantly trying to change. Acceptance first, change may or may not come later. In my opinion, once you accept your inner self is whole and complete, the constant chasing after, and addiction to too much food, drugs, alcohol, relationships, work can begin to diminish. I'm not saying this is easy, but that's the invitation and mindfulness is a great way to that.

4.    Embrace the research

‘The level of research continues to grow exponentially and that’s why we’re seeing mindfulness in all sorts of new places’ he stated. Kabat-Zinn shared his love of London because it’s the ‘birthplace of neuro-plasticity’. He explained how the medieval streets of London meant taxi drivers have to spend years learning the roads of the ancient metropolis. This meant, scientist were able to do brain scans of the drivers before and after the ‘Knowledge’ (the test the drivers study for) and found the brain changes through learning and experience. The area of the brain to do with spatial awareness and memory grew bigger. The brain is not static and fixed but changes more than any other organ in the body. And with later studies of meditators, scientists found you can change your brain using mindfulness, in very healthy ways. Other key research has shown how mindfulness can slow the rate of ageing by reducing stress, right at the level of your genes. This research was first done by Elizabeth Blackburn, who won a noble prize for her efforts in physiology.

5.    Discover that mindfulness is almost nothing and, yet, everything

Mindfulness looks like you’re doing nothing. But it can be the hardest process in the world, because it’s not doing nothing, it’s non-doing. And non-doing, or being, is not easy for us nowadays in our fast-paced, result-driven world. And although mindfulness may look like nothing, it’s your life. Mindfulness is everything. Without awareness, there’s no world, no people and no you. Wake up and smell the roses folks!

The event was beautifully organised by the non-profit group, Action for Happiness. Join their movement encourages Jon (and me!) – I think they’re great. The online video of the lecture will be posted here once available.

Any comments or questions, please feel free to share below. I'm happy to answer any questions.

 

Get a big discount off our online mindfulness course, Live Mindful. Drop me an email with the code KABAT-ZINN ROCKS and you got it for £97! Or try our free 21 day email mindfulness course

 

Google Uses Mindfulness with Mirabai Bush

 

Listen to internet radio with ShamashAlidina on Blog Talk Radio

In this episode, Mirabai Bush talks about how to integrate mindfulness into the workplace, using her experience of creating the mindfulness programme at Google.

Most people today are asked to improve performance at work with fewer resources and tighter deadlines, all while dealing with equally stressed co-workers and clients. This toxic combination leads to employee burnout and harms organizations. While people may not have control over stressors at work, mindfulness-based exercises are a scientifically proven, natural way to manage one’s responses to them.

Mirabai Bush’s mindfulness trainings for the workplace are based on traditional Buddhist practices to help reduce stress, increase productivity, and encourage creative problem solving.

 

Mirabai is a Key Contributor to Google’s Search Inside Yourself Curriculum.

She has released a new CD called Working With Mindfulness. You can get this at morethansound.net

Also visit contemplativemind.org for lots of resources.

Happiness and Mindfulness with Mark Williamson

 

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Hello and welcome back to my show. This week we have Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness. Action for Happiness is essentially a movement for positive social change. They focus on bringing together people from all walks of life who want to play a part in creating a happier society for everyone.
Here's the questions we discussed on the show in this episode.
1. Why do you think happiness is important?
2. Can you say what you do in your work for action for happiness?
3. How has working for AfH changed your life personally?
4. Do you know any examples of how AfH has helped someone get out of depression/anxiety?
5. I know you're a fan of mindfulness. Why do you like it?
6. Could you finish with 3 practical tips to help our listeners be a bit happier?
Check out ActionforHappiness.org to join this wonderful movement!

Mindfulness for Relapse Prevention with Dr. Richard Fields

 

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Welcome back to my radio show. Today we have the honour of having Dr. Richard Fields on the show. He is author of "Drugs in Perspective, "Awakening to Mindfulness" and recently edited a book called ‘A year of living mindfully”. Dr Fields has a PhD in Psychology and 30 years experience in counselling specialising in drug and alcohol relapse prevention. Dr Fields also organises FACES conferences in the USA, focusing in the field of mindfulness at the moment.

Dr Fields explains:

- What causes addiction

- How mindfulness can help

- Practical tips for managing addiction and the difficult emotions that go with it

- Relapse prevention techniques

He also talks about his new book on Mindfulness. You can get a copy from Amazon here

Mindful Manifesto with Ed Halliwell

 

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Ed Halliwell is a mindfulness teacher and writer. He is the author of the Mental Health Foundation Be Mindful Report, and writes for the Guardian newspaper on meditation and well-being. He also writes a regular blog for mindful.org. He teaches mindfulness to a wide range of individuals and groups in the UK, and is a faculty member at the School of Life in London.

Ed is co-author of 'The Mindful Manifesto'. The book integrates the latest scientific research on mindfulness with its historical context, and explores how practising meditation can help us:

 

- cultivate mental well-being, and work with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety
- cope with the busyness of everyday life
- manage chronic pain and illness more effectively, and nurture physical well-being.
- let go of unskilful behaviours and improve how we function in our relationships and jobs.

His website is http://themindfulmanifesto.com

Dr. Daniel Siegel on Mindfulness and Wellbeing

 

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This is a recorded interview with Dr. Daniel Siegel on his book 'Mindsight'.

Dr. Daniel Siegel is a leading Clinicial Psychiatrist and Co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, researching and using mindfulness to help improve wellbeing through relationships and more.

He has spoken with the Dalai Lama, at Google University and at TEDx.

This is the first time this interview has ever been released online. I hope you enjoy the show - its a particularly special one, worth checking out.

Interview with Author of Confidence For Dummies

 

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Our first guest is an author and coach, Kate Burton. She's written many books, including NLP for Dummies, Coaching with NLP for Dummies and the new, Building Self-Confidence for Dummies.

Discover ways to build self-confidence from an experienced expert in the field!

Shamash

Compassion and Meditation with Sharon Salzberg

 

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Sharon Salzberg is one of America’s leading spiritual teachers and is co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Massachusetts. She played a key role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the Western world. The foundations of her teaching are the ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (which is mindfulness) and metta (which is lovingkindness). She’s author of many excellent books including ‘loving kindness’, ‘the power of meditation’ and ‘real happiness’.

In this fascinating interview, Sharon talks about how she learnt about meditation, practical ways of managing difficult emotions, the importance of loving kindness practice and a lovely story about her meeting with the Dalai Lama.