Remember that time I said I was going to focus on mindfulness and then promptly forgot about having said that? Well, fast forward more than a year and I saw an article in the newsletter at work about how they were looking for participants for a study on if mindfulness-based stress reduction affects well-being and ability of people in healthcare to do their jobs. Basically, you get free mindfulness classes for two months1 and fill out some surveys along the way, plus a work colleague fills out some surveys about you too. Since I’ve been interested in learning more about mindfulness (not to mention that I love of being a research guinea pig and getting stuff for free), I signed up. When I received the research consent form, I discovered that the principal investigator for the study is one of my favourite profs from b-school!
I first learned about the concept of mindfulness – if not the name – when I read the book Intuitive Eating, which takes the concept of mindfulness to the practice of putting food in your face. I’m much better about being mindful when it comes to eating and in a few other parts of life, but there are some times when I’m as far from mindful as you can get. I’m a fast walker and often find that I’ve gone from point A to point B without noticing a single thing along the way. I’m very goal-oriented – which I think overall is a great thing, but sometimes can lead to spending a lot of time thinking about the future at the expense of experiencing and appreciating the present. And I’m notoriously bad at remembering names – I’ll forgot the name of the person I’ve just been introduced to before the introduction is even over!
So, on Monday night, I had my first of eight classes on mindfulness. We learned a bit about the concept and did a couple of practices. First, we ate a raisin mindfully. It was an interesting experience – spending time feeling the texture, smelling the raisin, listening to the sound of it as you roll it between your fingers. And then, of course, the taste – so much flavour when you actually pay attention! Of course, you couldn’t eat like that all the time – it took us about 5 minutes to eat a single raisin, but it was a reminder that though I am more mindful when I eat than I used to be, I could still be a lot more mindful than I am.
Our second was a body scan – we spent about half an hour focused on breathing and paying attention close attention to each body part in turn. Since I was still pretty sore from Sunday’s half marathon, it was actually pretty cool do a body scan, as I found that it actually eased the pain in the part I was focused on2.
A big part of mindfulness is paying attention to your thoughts. But not in a judgmental way – just observing them. Being non-judgmental and patient are two of things we are supposed to be practicing, and I found it amusing just my body scan to notice when I was having a judgmental thought and attempting to be nonjudgmental about my judgmentalness3.
During class, the instructor gave us some homework – first we had to pick one thing that we would do mindfully for two minutes per day – I chose petting my kitties. But then she said we are supposed to do a 30 minute body scan every day! I mean, I know that practice is critical to actually getting results, but I was unprepared for an expectation of an additional 3.5 hours per week on top of the 2 hour class! I’m not going to be able to fit that into my schedule every day, but I’m going to attempt to do it more than half the time. I guess we’ll see how that goes!