Today's world is ruled by the rapidly advancing information technology and the irrevocable impact it has on our society. We are living and breathing the knowledge revolution every day a little more. Though human beings are very versatile and adaptable to new circumstances, as they have successfully proven during many decades, this revolution weighs particularly heavy on our society. The human brain faces challenges and obstacles it never had to face in the past and tries to cope with it as good as it possibly can.
The former threats of being eaten up by a wild animal during the hunters-collectors period have now transformed into a more intangible matter, more of the kind of losing grip in this 24-7 wired world that never sleeps. Also has the fact of automated machines having taken over many of our tasks lead to the realization that more and more labor is being replaced with artificial intelligence.
All this is not always easy to accept and creating permanent tension in our minds. Every knowledge worker knows that technology is on the rise and seeing the current consolidation in many industries does not help in calming the mind of the people working in those industries. Yet there is hope, as for those machines to work, there' s a strong need to actually instruct and manage the technologies. The labor force is absolutely essential in guiding those complex structures, to make good use of it.
Nevertheless, this rise in complexity and the “new threat” can create much worry in the heads of the people living in this new world. It is also not uncommon to hear the words of needing to achieve more with less and to use better stress and time management to reach the requested and often ambitious objectives.
Having to deal with multiple demands and priorities and under the pressure of having to achieve always more, our brains simply get overwhelmed. And our faculty of concentration being one of the biggest assets in this knowledge economy, we just cannot afford to not pay attention to these requests.
In the midst of all those tasks, it is essential to get a little distance to those racing thoughts to be able to attribute true priorities. This is where the key of mindfulness comes in; but what is mindfulness actually?
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s defines it as follows:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Meaning that we do not follow up on every thought that crosses our mind and jump from the bandwagon of past experiences to the worry of the ones that are yet to happen in the future. We just “are” and do pay attention to what is going on in this very moment with ourselves. How am I feeling right now? Are there thoughts crossing my mind? What kind of thoughts? Do I feel that certain thoughts trigger a specific emotional response?
It is the act of observing what is happening in our body and mind in the present moment, without any judgment whatsoever.
As this can be quite challenging in a normal stressful day's context, the remedy often called upon is mindfulness meditation. Instead of running around, watching television, making a phone call and at the same time eating lunch, all those activities are stopped for a little while. We just sit or lie comfortably and pay attention to our body. It is a common and widespread technique to focus on the breath during meditation. It takes away the strain of focusing on the thousands of thoughts in our head and also stabilizes the heart beat in synchronicity with the breathing frequency.
Once the body is relaxed, we can continue giving our focus to the “being”. What often happens, especially for beginners of this practice, is that thoughts keep popping up in the conscious mind. But instead of getting into each and every passing thought, it is simply observed, like a person standing in front of the window and seeing someone passing by. There is no hanging on to it and getting wound up in the next never-ending to do list or that nasty little voice in our head telling all sorts of negative self-talk.
This method of mindfulness meditation, even if practiced only for a few minutes a day, helps to clear the mind and gain the so desperately wanted distance to the emotionally draining happenings of the day or those lingering tasks on the to do list and thus making it much easier to handle and overcome all the obstacles we're thrown at. The beneficial effects are not only seen during the meditation itself, but felt especially during the rest of the day, when suddenly things don't go as planned. It truly helps to calm the mind and focus on what needs to be done next, with much less pressure and stress.
When was the last time you used mindfulness meditation? What benefits did you perceive?
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