In Their Own Words: Practicing mindfulness in a world of stress
This article is the first in a series exploring what it means to maintain a positive mental health, in a world that seems to be constantly moving, unpredictable, and oftentimes stressful. Here are the words from everyday meldCX team members who are living it.
- Educator and Team Leader — leading outdoor educational activities for young kids while teaching them to care for the environment
- Theatre & TV actor
- Head of Marketing at a company in the education space
And then one day, he decided to completely change career paths.
Looking back, Clint feels grateful because his experiences gave him a broad perspective beyond his job description as a developer today. But at that time, living through it was no walk in a park. When he led outdoor activities and excursions, there was always a risk of death and injury so he had to learn to be mentally present and deal with the stresses that come with the job.
What really helped him was his meditation practice. It helped him stay grounded.
How did you start your meditation practice?
My relationship with meditation has been on and off throughout the years, but what I’ve come to realize is, I’ll always come back to it eventually.
I started meditation when I was in my early teens. We had a half-a-day introduction to meditation in school. I didn’t know at that time that it would help me a lot, but I kept practicing. I realized its positive effects early on when I can calm my mind and focus more after doing each meditation. I would meditate before exams, or before the start of any chess or basketball tournament.
Many many years later when I decided on becoming a developer, I moved to London for coding school. Not only was I switching careers, but also had to relocate to a new country! I had to get used to the unfamiliar — not only was it exhilarating but also immensely challenging.
That coding school I went to was quite unique, as they had daily meditation sessions built into the schedules. Everyday for 15 minutes, a meditation and yoga instructor would lead staff and students to meditate. I found that helpful in relieving stress.
Now I practice meditation everyday, and try to incorporate its values of mindfulness into my daily activities.
Could you tell us a bit more about mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about being focused in the now; being in the present moment.
It is about clearly recognizing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment.
I understand it may be easier said than done, because how can you be focused when everything around you is going awry?
The truth is, mindfulness is a mental muscle that needs practice. Just like how you’d exercise your body muscles by lifting weights, you need to practice mindfulness through mindfulness meditation.
“Mindfulness meditation is a mental training that teaches us to slow down thoughts, which helps in letting go of negativity and as a result, calms both the mind and body.”
Mindfulness meditation generally involves deep breathing or focusing on our breath as anchor, while at the same time being aware of our body and mind.
How often do you meditate?
I practice meditation at least once a day. Usually first thing in the morning, but sometimes I spend 5-10 minutes after lunch just to reset my mind.
I also do yoga once or twice a week. Not only is it a good no-impact workout, but it also teaches mindfulness.
Some people reading this can’t even sit still for 10 minutes! Would it be okay to move around during meditation?
People think there are all these rules with meditation, but that’s not true! It is okay to not be completely still for 10 minutes.
For instance, if your hair brushes your face and you’re overcome with this urge to scratch it, what’s important is to acknowledge these thoughts and urges without any judgment.
Most good meditation apps teach a beginner course to show in more detail the different techniques in handling these.
What apps have you found useful that you would recommend?
I personally use the Balance meditation app. It has a 1 year free subscription on offer.
I’ve also tried Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer. They are all very good for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.
Are there any tips you would share on how we could all become more mindful in our daily lives?
Yes, absolutely! That is really the end goal — to integrate these mindfulness techniques into our daily lives.
For instance, I do a lot of running outdoors on the road and on the trails. I also do running at home on the treadmill. Whenever I run, I try to be mindful and focus on what is in front of me and really appreciate the view and my surroundings.
When I drive, being mindful helps me relax and focus my mind on the road and not wander off. It makes me feel less tired and a safer driver. Weird as it may sound, it also helps me appreciate driving more.
Other daily activities such as making your coffee in the morning, showering, eating, et cetera, can be made better if we do a bit of mindfulness practice.
“For beginners it will be a challenge, but if you believe in the long term benefit of meditation or mindfulness meditation, just stick with it. Make it a habit. Start with 1 minute everyday. You will be surprised where your mindfulness meditation practice will take you.”
Continue the conversation with Clint on LinkedIn or Twitter.