Most of us lead complex and overly busy lives, with too much to do and not enough time. The world we live in is complex, uncertain and full of challenges and concerns. And we are connected to all of this by our “always-on” smartphones, social media and 24-hour news. It’s interesting that secular mindfulness emerged into the mainstream in this context. Although the practice is useful for individuals, groups, and potentially, society, it’s not a universal panacea. Many things need to be solved in the world before we can live in balance.
Practising mindfulness is neither easy nor obvious. For a start, most of us are not explicitly taught what thoughts or emotions are as we develop. So, we reach adulthood assuming that we are our thoughts and emotions. Through repetition, we also lay down habit patterns of thought, emotion and behaviour; some that serve us well and others that limit and deplete us. It’s unfortunate that our brain forms and adapts around what we pay attention to. So, for example, the more we worry, the more worrying thoughts the brain provides. When we cultivate mindfulness, we begin to rewire the habitual pathways in our brains that no longer serve us and transform our relationship with our experience.
So, it’s no surprise that everyone experiences real barriers at times, especially when we are starting out on this journey. Before we start on exploring some of the barriers to mindfulness practice, it’s useful to remind ourselves why we’re doing this in the first place. Focusing on the work context, some of the benefits include: improved attention and focus, clarity of thought and decision-making, the capacity to be more resilient under stress, emotional awareness and stability, and better relationships. And all of these benefits can be found in our personal lives as well.