Last Friday I had the opportunity to spend a day surrounded by other people championing mindfulness. I headed up to north London and had a look round the Mindful Living Show in the Business Design Centre in Islington.
It’s a fantastic venue and I’m already looking forward to heading back next year. The keynote speaker for Friday was the fantastic Ruby Wax who I have listened to, and also blogged about, before, after going to see her on her Frazzled tour last year.
The 3 new speakers I heard that day were Jamie Bristow, director of the Mindfulness Initiative, Tessa Watt author of the books Introducing Mindfulness: A Practical Guide and Mindful London and Dan Harris (via video link) author of 10% Happier. I found all three of speakers inspiring and interesting in different ways.
Jamie Bristow’s talk on The Mindful Nation Report left me feeling more positive about the state of British politics. The highlights were:
- 1 in 10 MPs (from the last UK parliament) have given mindfulness a go and 145 of them had been on an 8 week course.
- Drop-in mindfulness meditation sessions are now a weekly occurrence in parliament (when it is sitting) and, for the people who attend these and for those who have done the course in general, it seems to help with cross-party relations. In fact Tim Loughton, Conservative MP and former government minister said: “There is an affinity amongst those who have been through this mindfulness course and a rather more considered approach to exchanges of differing views.”
- It was the Labour MP Chris Ruane who initially brought mindfulness to Westminster. He basically persuaded a few of his colleagues to give it a go…with great results!
- The Mindfulness Initiative have published two significant reports. The first in October 2015 The Mindful UK Report addresses mental health concerns in the areas of education, health, the workplace and the criminal justice system through the application of mindfulness interventions. The second Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace provides an updated summary of the research which strongly suggests the positive impact mindfulness can have on the workplace.
A quote from Nic Dakin MP and former teacher: “In 2013 I was one of a host of MPs and peers who did a mindfulness course in parliament. It was transformative. These are gifts of the mind and body which can and should be taught to all and the best time to learn these skills is at school.”
Tessa Watt’s talk on Mindful Parenting was warm, honest and full of practical tips. The highlights were:
- her openness about how mindfulness can help us as parents but will most definitely not make anyone a perfect parent. She told funny stories about her own family life and how her two daughters have differed in their enthusiasm for practising mindfulness.
- reminding the audience of the ‘oxygen mask principle’. The fact that if we take care of ourselves then we are better equipped to support and nurture those around us. She reminded us of how mindfulness “loosens the hold of those self-critical thoughts” and guided us through a very gentle befriending practice which extended to wishing our children well too.
- the explanation of how mindfulness can help us create moments in our day where we follow our children’s pace, respect their curiosity and allow their enquiring mind to lead us.
- her description of mindfulness as a way of ensuring our day is punctuated with “pauses’ from the to-do list and how it can help us to “react’ less to challenging behaviour and instead “respond” more.
- some tips on how to practice mindfulness as a family – everyone could have a mindful mouthful at a mealtime, encouraging the children to stop and listen to the sounds around you all at the park for one minute and to do some gazing out of the window on a car journey instead of all being glued to a screen the whole time.
Dan Harris’s talk on meditation for fidgety sceptics was funny, engaging and full of realism. The highlights were:
- listening to his life story and how he came to meditation. He had an incredibly interesting life and was very honest about his panic attack on live TV, and the reasons for it, when he was reporting the news in 2004.
- his likening noticing the mind wandering and bringing it back to focussing on the breath as a ‘bicep curl for the brain’.
- His reminder that “the pursuit of happiness can become a source of unhappiness.”
- His matter-of-fact approach to meditation and how he sees it as a form of mental exercise which will, in future, be just as important to people as physical exercise such as going for a run.
- how his little brother had describe mindfulness as helping him go “from being deeply flawed to merely flawed.”
To get a flavour of Dan Harris’s take on mindfulness then watch this 3 minute happify clip which he narrates.
If you liked the sound of these talks then visit the Mindful LIving Show’s page which already has details of next year’s show on. The dates for your diary are 16th – 17th June 2018.
Thank you to Pep Farley, the organisers of the show for inviting me along to the show.
All views are my own.