Journey to Well-being
Written by Isabel Aldiss
Sam Harris, philosopher, neuroscientist and author, says that mental well-being is a skill which can be learnt once we know the mechanisms to start. This article will build on the earlier ideas of the well-being journey that I outlined in my last article.
Like the earth which folds into itself and rejuvenates during the darkest months of winter, it is essential that we too regard rest and relaxation as a necessity; not just something we do four weeks a year. Just how we might do this when we are already ‘way too busy’ is through mindfulness and meditation. Developing the art of doing nothing, “but sitting in silence and watching and gaining insight into our deepest, most essential nature” (Ken Cloke in Dance of the opposites p,153) restores balance and equanimity, allowing the reframing of experience, acknowledging the imbalances in our experience, accepting that suffering is a choice, and that we can move away from the black and white thinking that keeps us stuck.
Mindfulness and meditating have become almost interchangeable words and concepts today, and are used extensively in the mental health field, often as a fundamental aspect in a therapist’s approach. Mindfulness is the concept of paying attention to your thoughts, behaviour and feelings in order to become fully present in the moment, to gain awareness, come into presence and acceptance. Being ‘way too busy’ is a contemporary condition that seems to signify that we are not important enough to stop, to listen and to attend to our deepest needs. However, it is not until a life tsunami hits, as it did with me, that we find the necessity and the capacity to develop a meditation and mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness and meditation are mirror-like reflections of each other: mindfulness supports and enriches meditation, while meditation nurtures and expands mindfulness. Where mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day, meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time. Meditation practice gives your body deep rest and restores the vagus nervous system. Many people have a misconception that a clear mind is necessary for a successful meditation. However, just as our heart keeps beating, our thoughts keep coming. We cannot turn our brains off – thoughts are not the enemy and there is no such thing as a bad meditation (Emily Fletcher in “Stress less and accomplish more”).
Ken Cloke devotes a chapter to meditation and mindfulness in Dancing with the Opposites and lists some of the benefits for mediators such as:
- Improved ability to remain calm and balanced in the precancer of conflict and intense emotions
- Expanded sensitivity to the subtle clues given by others, indicating a shift in their thoughts, feeling and attitudes
- Increased ability to be completely present open, and focused, and
- Reduced stress and burnout.
I discovered Ziva meditation in Emily Fletcher’s “Stress less and accomplish more”. Ziva is a Vedic style meditation which I have now been practicing for six months now. The positive difference in my sleep, thoughts and daily interactions with others have been noticeable. Meditation is a daily habit which for me is now non-negotiable. And it really doesn’t matter what method you chose my recommendation is don’t procrastinate, just do it. Start by exploring some options, reading, talking with others, listening to podcasts, do a course, and discover what you’re drawn to and what works for you.
Popular amongst some mental health professionals for example is Tara Brach. Her doctorate explored the use of meditation as a therapeutic modality in the treatment of addictions. She has blended her work with western psychotherapy techniques and eastern Buddhist practice of meditation. The result is a vast library of meditations on her website and as podcasts. Another great place to start is with John Kabat-Zin who also marries mindfulness and meditation in wonderful guided meditations.
Final words are from Ken Cloke who writes:
“don’t beat yourself up, don’t give up but keep trying. Progress is slow at first but accumulates, and over the course of years your body and mind will gradually learn, in spite of all your lapses and distractions, how to find their own natural resting state” (p 158).
Follow whichever path appeals to you.
About the author
Isabel Aldiss is a Resolution Practitioner at FairWay, who specialises in mediation and Preparation for Mediation. She is an accredited Family Dispute Resolution provider through AMINZ . Isabel is also an accredited counsellor with the New Zealand Association of Counsellors.
FairWay Resolution Limited is New Zealand’s largest specialist conflict management and dispute resolution organisation.
FairWay offer a range services, including mediation, adjudication and specialist coaching to help people to prevent and resolve complaints, disputes and disagreements in both the public and private sectors.
For more information please visit www.fairwayresolution.com