Can mindfulness work its magic on anyone? Jennifer Gibson, our stress-head editor, gives it a go.
I’ve been in the room barely five minutes when Emma makes a proclamation that makes the hairs on my arms stand on end. “We’ll just go around the room for everyone to introduce themselves”, she says, as though this is a perfectly normal thing to do and not an absolute nightmare.
It surprises a lot of people, I think, that I do the job that I do yet I don’t enjoy public speaking, speaking about myself, or, *shiver*, networking. It’s a key part of my job, of course, and I do it – but only because I have to. Which, to be honest, is one of the reasons I’ve ended up on Emma’s doorstep, along with 13 other souls seeking, individually, to alleviate stress, to get a better work-life balance, to deal with big life changes such as unemployment and retirement, and to better manage anxiety and depression.
As it turns out, going around the room is beneficial – I know everyone’s names and motivations before I’m asked to close my eyes and meditate alongside them. Trust is key.
If all this sounds a little hippy dippy, bear with me – while I experienced no small amount of awkwardness in the first hour of the course, it was absolutely worth it. In my introduction I told my course companions that I got the Headspace app and tried and tried to make it work for me, but that every time I switch on a meditation track I spend the time thinking about how bad I am at meditating, before moving on to formulating a mental shopping list, and finally getting mad at my own failure. Everyone nods. I am not, it seems, the only one. Everyone in the room has their own motivations for being here, but universally they share the experience of trying, and failing, with meditation.
Which is where the revelation comes. We’re not failing. Seeing your mind is wandering, recognising it and recovering from it, says Emma, is what mindfulness is. Everyone struggles at times. My mind is blown.
From that moment, I started to understand why mindfulness is called a practice. It takes work, and I need a lot more of it, but the benefits are extraordinary. Four weeks in, I’m sleeping better, I’m calmer and less frazzled, and I’m managing, mostly, to bring my practice to mind when I catch myself sweating the small stuff. I’ve started to see myself better – what motivates me, what upsets me – and to accept it and work with it instead of against it. Mostly, I’m just happier. Which surely is eight hours very well spent indeed…