THE mind is people’s most valuable and precious resource through which they experience every single moment in life. It tells people to be happy, content, emotionally stable as individuals, kind, thoughtful and considerate in their relationships with others; as well, it gives directions to people to be focused, creative, spontaneous, and to perform at the very best in everything they do.
“And yet, we don’t spend time to care for it. In fact, we spend more time looking after our cars, our clothes, and our hair,” said mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe whose talk was presented at an official TED conference.
As a result, people get stressed. Puddicombe explained that the mind whizzes away like a washing machine going round and round, with so many difficult, confusing emotions, and a person goes on without really knowing how to deal with it.
People get so distracted that they seem to no longer be present in the world, Puddicombe noted, adding that they miss out on the things that are most important to them and everybody just assumes.
Puddicombe, who experienced being inundated with thoughts and difficult emotions he did not know how to cope with, said people deal with stress in different ways – some people will bury themselves in work, grateful for the distraction; others will turn to their friends, their family, looking for support; while some will hit the bottle, start taking medication.
“My own way of dealing with it was to become a monk. So I quit my degree, I headed off to the Himalayas, I became a monk, and I started studying meditation,” he said.
Becoming a celibate monk, he added, is going to change a number of things. But it was more than that, as it gave him a greater appreciation and an understanding for the present moment.
By that he means not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions, “but instead learning how to be in the here and now, how to be mindful, how to be present,” he added.
He thinks that the present moment is so underrated. It sounds so ordinary and yet people spend so little time in the present moment that it is anything but ordinary. “There was a research paper that came out of Harvard, just recently, that said on average, our minds are lost in thought almost 47 percent of the time,” he cited.
According to Puddicombe, this sort of constant mind-wandering is also a direct cause of unhappiness. He said that people spend almost half of life lost in thought and potentially quite unhappy which seems tragic especially when there something can be done about it, when there is a positive, practical, achievable, scientifically proven technique which allows their mind to be more healthy, to be more mindful and less distracted.
“And the beauty of it is that even though it takes about 10 minutes a day, it impacts our entire life,” he said, adding people need to know how to do it. Exercise and a framework to learn how to be more mindful are needed.
He added this is essentially what meditation is, which is to familiarize themselves with the present moment. However, people should know how to approach it in the right way to get the best from it.
Most people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind, but actually it’s quite different from that, he said.
“It is more about stepping back, sort of seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going, emotions coming and going without judgment, but with a relaxed, focused mind,” Puddicombe pointed out.
People look for a balance, a focused relaxation where they can allow thoughts to come and go without all the usual involvement, he also said.
When learning to be mindful, people get distracted by an anxious thought. Before knowing it, they are anxious about feeling anxious. “But when you sit down and you watch the mind in this way, you might see many different patterns. You might find a mind that is really restless.”
“Whatever it is, meditation offers the opportunity, the potential to step back and to get a different perspective, to see that things aren’t always as they appear,” said the expert who wants people to take a break.
He added people can’t change every little thing that happens to them in life, but they can change the way they experience it.
“All you need to do is to take 10 minutes out a day to step back, to familiarize yourself with the present moment so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in your life,” he concluded.