The University Student who accessed Joy I once asked several university students at a mindfulness workshop why they were so stressed. Below is a conversation I had with a young student: 'Why do you get yourself so stressed out?' 'Because I have so much work to do in order to pass my masters degree', replied the student. 'Is the degree important to you?' 'Of course it's important. If I pass, I'll have the chance to work for a law firm and eventually become a junior partner'. 'Why do you want to become a junior partner?' 'So that I can work my way up the ladder, have more influence and earn a lot of money'. 'Why do you want to have a lot of influence and earn a lot of money?' I asked. 'If I have a lot of money and influence, I will have enough financial muscle to provide everything for my future wife and children.' 'Do you have your own family yet?' 'Not at the moment. I'm single but I want to prepare myself', the student replied. 'So, why do you want a partner and children?' 'Because, I'll feel complete and satisfied', the student replied. 'Do you mean that you will feel happier if you have all of these things?' 'Yeah, that's it! I want to be happy and feel good about myself. I want happiness'. 'Why don't you just decide to be happy right now rather than spending most of your time desperately hoping to find happiness in something that hasn't happened yet? You can still create your own reality and meet your dream partner but you can start to feel happy now before you meet her'. This conversation helped the student to see the futility of booking appointments in the future to be happy, when he could consciously make that choice in the present moment and also that he would have a much better chance of attracting his dream career and partner if he was vibrating joy in the present moment. The wonderful realization of mindful living is that we do not need an excuse to be happy and serene. Being joyful comes as a result of being mindful. Nothing more is required from us apart from honouring the nowness of life. What a startling revelation!!
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Two monks were once travelling together down a wet and muddy road. The rain was torrential, making it almost impossible to walk along the path. As the two men were trudging along, a beautiful girl dressed in silk appeared. She was unable to cross the path and looked distressed. 'Let me help you', said the older monk. He picked her up and carried her over the mud. His younger male companion did not utter a word that night until they reached their lodging temple. Then after hours of restrained conversation, the younger monk exclaimed: 'We monks do not touch females; it is too tempting for us and can create a bad outcome'. The older monk looked into the younger monks eyes and said, 'I left the girl on the road. Are you still carrying her?' This ancient Zen story illustrates beautifully how so many of us are trapped in the habit of constantly 're-living' the past in our minds, thus dishonouring the present moment. The young monk wasted hours distressing himself with judgment, speculation, anxiety, resentment and ultimately self-perpetuated unhappiness as a direct result of not being mindful.
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During the Meiji era, the Japanese Zen master, Nan-in had a visitor from a respected university - a professor who wanted to learn about Zen. Nan-in served the professor a pot of tea, but when the cupwas full, he continued pouring until the cup was overflowing. The startled professor watched in amazement until he could no longer restrain himself from intervening, 'The cup is full and no more will go in. You're making a mess!' 'Like this cup, ' Nan-insaid, 'You are full of your own opinions, artificial concepts and negative speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?' Like the learned professor who wanted to understand spirituality, you too must empty your cup and have an open mind and heart.
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When the weeks have built up with frustration and immense stress and one of your co-workers, a manager or an employee triggers irritation or angers you, knowing how to respond in a mindful way can pay huge dividends. Knowing how to not take other people's emotional baggage personally and intuitively sensing when to bring up concerns and when not to is an expression of emotional intelligence. This is all possible if we are being truly mindful.
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Maybe (Taoist story) A classic ancient story illustrates the importance of equanimity and emotional resilience beautifully. Once upon a time, there was a wise old farmer who had worked on the land for over 40 years. One morning, while walking to his stable, he noticed that his horse had run away. His neighbours came to visit and sympathetically said to the farmer, 'Such bad luck'. 'Maybe, ' the farmer replied. The following morning, however, the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. 'Such good luck, ' the neighbours exclaimed. 'Maybe, ' the farmer replied. The following afternoon, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses and was thrown off, causing him to break his leg. The neighbours came to visit and tried to show sympathy and said to the farmer, 'how unfortunate'. 'Maybe, ' answered the farmer. The following morning military officials came to the farmer's village to draft young men into the army to fight in a new war. Observing that the farmer's son's leg was broken, they did not draft him into the war. The neighbours congratulated him on his good luck and the farmer calmly replied, 'Maybe'.
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First and foremost, if we maintain healthy emotional boundaries and direct love and kindness inwards, we are taking care of ourselves and secondly we are giving a subliminal message to others about how we wish to be treated. People tend to subconsciously treat us how we treat ourselves.
The human brain is incredible in its capacity to heal and rewire itself. The human brain can be shaped and trained to be more resilient, calm, compassionate and alert-we can condition ourselves to be successful. Through mindfulness meditation, we can literally re-wire our brains through new experiences, which modify our neural network and our neural chemistry. Mindfulness also enhances gamma synchrony and improves the function of the human brain.
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Conscious breathing anchors us into the nowness of life and gives us a fresh outlook, no different from how a baby observes reality without mental commentary. The baby enjoys watching the world and human activity without any limiting mental concepts spoiling his or her perception. Naturally, we all have to evolve from the helpless state of babyhood, but to be able to tap into that wonderful ability and truly BE in the moment is immensely liberating.
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Mindfulness (present-moment awareness) is deliberately focusing our attention on our thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations and mental activity without losing awareness of what is happening in the present moment. It is essentially being in a state of present-moment awareness and maintaining clarity without being swayed or distracted by mental commentary.
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We cannot control the mind by trying to force it to be peaceful or positive. Many have attempted this using a plethora of methods throughout the ages, but it simply does not work. Trying to fight the human mind is like walking into a lion's den empty-handed and believing that you have a realistic chance of defending yourself.
The process of applying Mindfulness Burnout Prevention (MBP) in the workplace or any environment has a much more far-reaching effect than simply accessing equanimity throughout the vicissitudes of life. Continuous learning helps us to stay youthful, sharpen our mental faculties and wire new neural connections in our brain (making us better equipped to accomplish); it is also a sign of humility.
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Learning to practise mindfulness greatly enhances our ability to manifest emotional intelligence and equanimity under pressure and to display calmness, empathy and adaptability when communicating with others, whether it be with co-workers, clients or the board of directors. Learning to apply mindfulness on a daily basis will significantly encourage a positive, creative and enthusiastic attitude at all levels in companies large and small.
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The incredible benefits of practising and applying mindfulness and self-compassion in the workplace are being increasingly recognised by human resource professionals as well as the medical profession, as the stresses of competing in today's global economy take their toll on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of many otherwise talented and enthusiastic individuals in the workplace.
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Whether someone is a CEO of a major corporation or is serving meals in a diner, failure to adopt a mindful approach will mean that mental and emotional exhaustion could become a habitual condition. Whether someone is stressed about their stocks losing value or being able to pay their bills, the internal underlying conditions of stress and pressure are essentially the same.
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Many of us have been unconsciously programmed to treat walking as a means to an end, especially while in the workplace. Naturally, a lack of mindfulness while walking leaves one hostage to self-perpetuating stress and anxiety. We rush (often while shouting into a mobile phone), completely missing the enjoyment of walking. Walking and breathing, if practised harmoniously, can be peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable. Even walking down a corridor or into an office or wherever we are working or being of service can be a harmonious action.
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To be self-compassionate is not to be self-indulgent or self-centred. A major component of self-compassion is to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with love, care, dignity and make your wellbeing a priority. With self-compassion, we still hold ourselves accountable professionally and personally, but there are no toxic emotions inflicted upon and towards ourselves.
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The Happiest Man in The World The French interpreter for the 14th Dalai Lama, former academic and dedicated meditator Matthieu Ricard, came into the spotlight in the field of neural science after being named 'the happiest man in the world'. Naturally, there are many other men and women who demonstrate such equanimity, but the studies on his brain uncovered truly astonishing results. MRI scans showed that Matthieu Ricard and other serious long-term meditators (with more than 10, 000 hours of practice each) were mentally, emotionally and spiritually fulfilled and displayed an abundance of positive emotions and equanimity in the left pre-frontal cortex of the brain. When talking about his mindfulness training, Matthieu Ricard said with humility that: 'Happiness is a skill. It requires effort and time'.
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Like gratitude, authentic appreciation in the workplace is a realisation that can be nurtured and accessed with daily mindful practice. By and large, people who are grateful, happy and enthusiastic are going to demonstrate better performance than those who are unhappy and unappreciative. There is increasing evidence that a grateful mindset amplifies happiness and mental and emotional wellbeing.
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The beauty of mindful-life-breath meditation is that you are not restricted to having to sit in the lotus position to be present. Whether you are on a busy train, driving a car or walking down a crowded high-street, you can easily remind yourself to focus on your breathing. Appreciate the subtle sensation of oxygen flowing in and out of your nostrils.
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It is impossible to control outcomes or results, although most of us have been programmed from a very young age to believe otherwise. The idea that we can perform actual 'magic' causes tremendous dysfunction, unnecessary suffering and prevents the development of emotional resilience.
Stress, burnout and strain on the human heart are all increasingly taking their toll for millions of hardworking people. However, even someone who is working in a job that simply 'pays the bills' can turn mundane and stressful tasks into pleasant activities with a slight adjustment in attitude and by adopting a daily mindful practice.
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The word 'pranayama', often referred to as alternate breathing, comes from the Sanskrit meaning 'extension of life force' or 'extension of breath'. At times, we are going to have days where we are bombarded with one task after another. This simple yet effective meditation only takes a couple of minutes and its calming qualities can be felt almost immediately. It is one of the easiest meditation techniques to apply. This practice is well worth applying at least three or four times a day (somewhere private) to develop emotional balance and evenness of mind, especially in the working environment.
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