Mindfulness meditation helps us get in touch with our true selves, says UK-based educationist and holistic wellbeing consultant ROHINI VIJAYGOPAL

All of us want to be happy and yet this is a goal we all strive towards more often than attain. Even when we do achieve momentary satisfaction, we analyse the past moments of pleasure and pain in order to think about maximising future pleasure and avoiding future pain. This unsatisfactory nature of our existence stems from our evolutionary process. Historically, cultures around the world developed different methods to alleviate this negativity bias to feel safer in an uncertain world. In the modern world, we live much of our lives on automatic pilot, thoughtlessly and habitually, in ways to which we have become accustomed to. However, by meditating, we slow down, take time to reflect and increase purposeful awareness so as to live consciously. In doing so, haze dissipates, struggles dissolve and solutions to problems manifest themselves. Hence a calm mind is a clear mind. Mindfulness meditation is one such method that is designed to interrupt our inherent negativity bias.

Young Practitioners

Young children are blessed with mindfulness if they are fortunate to receive love and care. However, as they grow, they slowly begin to lose this sense of calm especially with the distractions of the modern age. Research suggests that quietening the mind and heightening awareness through meditation and controlled breathing help clear the mind and sharpen the student’s focus and boosts academic performance.Moreover, in their teenage years, the hormones and increasing demands escalate stress and anxiety thus impinging upon their studies.Many problems in adulthood show their first signs in childhood and hence meditation is the best life insurance policy that parents can give to their children. Rick Hansen, neuropsychologist and Richard Mendius, a neurologist mention that ‘neurons that fire together wire together’ — what happens in our mind, changes our brain. As long as we live, some physical and emotional discomfort is unavoidable. However, when we add our reactions to this, problems of anger, agitation, guilt and hatred seep into our systems — thus adding suffering. Emotions intensify — so much so that the brain is now on alert, our heart rate increases, pupils dilate, and the immune system is suppressed with the fight or flight system activated. Gastrointestinal problems, immune system issues, cardiovascular and endocrine problems are the result.At a mental level, this translates into anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Nonetheless, our body also has the potential for the ‘relaxation’ response — thus not reacting to the ‘fight or flight’ response.We could strengthen this ‘equanimity response’ by practising meditation. Harvard research suggests that health issues arising out of job stress is one of the top five causes of illness. We often end up doing excessive work and the balance starts tipping towards our wants rather than our needs and our lives become a rat race.

Positive Attitude

Mindfulness helps break this autopilot. As a good leader, it assists us to manage our emotional quotient. We are able to face up to problems with a positive attitude rather than avoiding the same, thus improving resilience. Mindfulness helps create space for new ideas and enhances creativity too. Meditation is today’s stress antidote for organisations and it doesn’t come as a surprise when prominent Fortune 500 companies too institute such programmes.

Journey Of A Lifetime

It is important not to treat mindfulness meditation as yet another passing fad — for it is precisely the opposite of this — and is at least 2,500 years old. Although this process got further refined in Buddhism, it does appear in various forms in many traditions, religions and philosophies of the world. Nevertheless, it is vital to remember that commitment to regular practise is the only way to reap full benefits. Mindfulness meditation is a journey of a lifetime which only leads to one person — getting in touch with our true selves by consciously shaping our minds to shape our brains for nothing other than calm, joy and compassion, enjoying the silence of our own mind and body at peace.

Published with permission from Dr. Rohini VijayaGopal from her original article that appeared in http://www.speakingtree.in/article/living-mindfully