Mindfulness is becoming trendy, a cure all activity that has been linked to parenting, eating disorders, anxiety, stress and numerous other conditions. However, it’s alignment to elite leadership, emotional intelligence and emotional resilience has seen a surge in Apps promising everything from relaxation to higher intelligence brain hacks.
The practice itself has been around for thousands of years but gained popularity in the West when Jon Kabat-Zinn began researching its impact on stress reduction.
Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. So initially, like a muscle, we train our minds to focus and not to get involved with our thoughts. Like learning to play a musical instrument or strength training, it requires consistent practice.
When we get up close and personal with what our minds get up to, we might notice things that aren’t very helpful like the famous impostor syndrome or self critic. So in mindfulness we do not squash or avoid these characters, we recognise their contribution and treat them with compassion. We work with them non-judgmentally.
Whilst the practice is called mindfulness, many will be surprised to learn that there is a lot of intelligence in our physical reactions. The mind plays an authoritarian role in our lives but we can gain deep self knowledge from getting in tune with our emotions and physical sensations. These raw and direct experiences can tell us what is really going on for us.
Over time as we cultivate stillness in the mind and work effectively with our thoughts and emotions we reach a place of acceptance and it is in this stillness that something extraordinarily powerful can happen. The root cause of some of our beliefs and habits bubble to the surface and are uncovered so profoundly that they no longer hold the same power over us.
In this way the practice of mindfulness is extremely powerful and it is these experiences that can create the hype around the practice.
An experienced and accredited teacher appreciates the mindfulness journey and will be on it themselves. As part of their accreditation they will be daily practitioners and will be following their own personal growth.
Many of us might not have the time or inclination to sign up to a course and our curiousity in the topic will undoubtedly turn our attention to apps. I myself regularly use two apps one is free and one costs approximately £100 per year.
The free app has an educational aspect to the guided meditation. The guidance is clear about focused attention and continually iterates that in mindfulness there is no sense of getting it right or wrong, we are simply training our attention.
The second app caught my attention because it claims that a half hour session is equivalent to meditating for four hours. Even as a mindfulness teacher, my little ego was excited and found this shortcut irresistible.
Some of the practices are odd and a little unnerving but many practices are relaxing and fall into the category of visualisation. So this really brought me back to the question of intention.
What is our intention when we practice mindfulness? Are we looking for a rich self development experience or are we looking for relaxation? When I use the second app, I really can avoid being mindful and can day dream through the entire session. The only thing that prevents me from doing this, is that I understand what being mindful is. This is something that I learnt from a teacher and not an App.
I’d love to hear about your experience of using Apps and whether you found them useful.