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Mindfulness:  powerful coaching for the mind?

Mindfulness: powerful coaching for the mind?

by Moyra Mackie on February 27, 2016

This week my much beloved, but aging, Mini Cooper helped me to find a moment of true quiet and stillness by letting me down.

As I left my car to be repaired, I dreaded what I felt was a long walk into town.  I was conscious of my laptop weighing heavily in my bag, alongside a feeling of uncertainty about spending a day working out of a coffee shop, unsure of how long or how expensive my wait would turn out to be.

I had so much to do, I hadn’t time to slow down

I resigned myself to a walk along a busy road, when I noticed that I could take a short cut along the canal.  This was a bit better.

As I turned onto the canal tow path and headed away from the road I realised that even though I’d lived in this town for more than twenty years, I’d never walked along this stretch before.

I began to notice what a nice day it was

Crisply cold in the shade and unexpectedly warm in the puddles of sunlight. I was all by myself.  I began to enjoy the sight of the tiny gardens of the cottages that backed onto the canal.  A strong contrast to the blue metal industrial buildings on the other side.

The further I walked, the quieter it became, the less I noticed the weight of my laptop

Then I saw a tiny wooden bridge that led from the canal, over a stretch of water and onto a little lane that would take me into town.  Thanks to a sign put up by the town council, I discovered that the water was “an artificial lake” that covered an area that used to be a thriving watercress field in Victorian times.  Watercress was grown and transported all over England using canal transport or the newly built railway.

Still thinking about this – and how much the town had changed – I stepped onto the bridge.  And stopped.

What I could see was beautiful. 

The shallow water was so clear I could easily see the tiny fishes zig zagging beneath the surface.  I could see all the different shades of pink gravel on the bottom. I noticed the red-beaked moorhens hiding in the reeds and the reflection of the moving clouds in the water.

It felt delicious to just stand still

A fragment of one of David Whyte’s poems, Lost, came to mind:

Stand still.
The trees ahead and the bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.

~ from The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

The powerful stranger was telling me that slowing down was not prevaricating

I allowed myself to continue standing still, noticing my breathing slowing and my shoulders relaxing.  All my senses seemed to be fully engaged.  I could feel the warmth of the sun on the top of my head and the coolness from the water on my face. I could hear the slight creaking of the wood beneath my feet and the splash as the ducks landed in the canal.

This was a moment of mindfulness

Where my mind had been full, my shoulders heavy, my chest tight with the pressure of all I had to do that day, I now felt calm and focused.

Mindfulness is not tuning out, but tuning in

The biggest myth I encounter about mindfulness is that it is about “zoning out” or “emptying our minds.”  To me this completely misunderstands the intent and benefits of mindfulness, and its more challenging cousin, meditation.

We need to accept that our default state is not one of focus but of mindLESSness

When our minds are full, it’s very hard to focus.  When we’re hurrying or holding onto busyness we do many things on autopilot.  Whilst this may not be disastrous, it’s not the best we can do.

Mindfulness is about tuning out the junk

Mindfulness is a way of truly coming to our senses – all of them.  It’s not always easy doing this.  Which reminds me of a constant theme in the book I’m currently reading:

“A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.”
~ Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness: A handbook for living

Mindfulness is a form of mental discipline

And the discipline lasts long after the moments of mindfulness are over.  After that ten or fifteen minutes on the bridge,  I didn’t need any caffeine to feel alert and focused.  I noticed that I avoided my typical comforting/distracting activities (eating junk and surfing social media).  I seemed to zoom through my to-do list.

It seems to me that mindfulness is a form of coaching for the mind

Both are disciplines that require us to be present and open, to become aware of everything that is happening around us.  Both ask us to pay attention to our patterns of thoughts and feelings. Both should leave us with greater clarity and energy.

When my husband got home he remarked that I seemed to have had a good day because I seemed “happy”.  I think he was expecting me to say that I’d done something momentous but I just said:

“Yeah it’s been brilliant.  I got everything done and discovered the most amazing place.”

 (Click the link below for a few more images from my walk)

Reflection  Another sunny day, another chance to grab a quick moment of quiet along the canal path. If I keep this up I may soon rebrand as #coachwiththegreenwellies

Posted by Moyra Mackie Coach with the Green Hat on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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