Stress seems to be the underlying issue with many of our aversive conditions, whether they’re psychological or physical. My good friend Shamash Alidina, author of the international bestselling book Mindfulness For Dummies, and his newest release,The Mindful Way through Stress: The Proven 8-Week Path to Health, Happiness, and Well-Being, comes to us today to share the direction of mindfulness in our culture, how it impacts his life, and a couple quick tips from his book to get us started.
Elisha: Welcome Shamash!
Shamash: Great to be here with you.
Elisha: Mindfulness is enjoying quite a boon. Where do you see mindfulness currently in our culture and where is it going?
Shamash: I think mindfulness is still very much in its infancy in our culture. The general public hears about it from time to time, but I don’t think it’s fully accepted yet. But we’re certainly on the path toward that happening. The level of interest in mindfulness and its growth is exponential at the moment. As for the future, I don’t know! I have little doubt that in the next year, the research evidence will continue to grow. And as far I can see, people’s desire to learn mindfulness keeps growing too. I’m optimistic and like to think that the quality of mindfulness teaching will evolve and filter into all sorts of organizations, from prisons to hospitals, and from schools to corporations. And eventually mindfulness will be as normal as going for a jog in the morning. Although at the moment, I’m much more likely to meditate than jog!
Elisha: How has mindfulness been effective for you. Give us some personal stories.
Shamash: My most recent example of mindfulness coming in to save the day was around Christmas time. I’d come back home to London after a trip to Boston, across Mexico and across California. Great fun, but it took its toll. I could feel my energy levels much lower than usual as I recovered from the jet lag. That pond between the UK and US is a fair few time zones apart! If I pushed myself back into work in early January, I thought I’d probably get worse. So I meditated whenever I felt tired. And that ended up becoming hours of mindfulness meditation every day. After about a week, I felt so much better. Since then, I’ve enjoy much deeper mindfulness meditations and lots of insights—so I’m really grateful for my illness.
Elisha: If you were to pick a couple practices out of your book that people can engage right now, what would they be?
Shamash: Try these two:
Practice: Accept, Avoid, Alter, Adapt:
Tune into your body and notice how stressed you feel right now. If it feels high and you feel a bit out of control, consider what’s the cause of your stress…your stress. Then try using the four A’s of stress management. Accept, Avoid, Alter or Adapt your stressor.
- Accept. If you can’t change your stressor, begin to accept it. Feel the sensations in your body and hold the feeling with gentleness and kindness. Massage the feeling with your hand.
- Adapt the stressor. See the problem as an opportunity—a challenge to overcome! Think how you’ll discover new ways to cope.
- Alter the stressor by breaking it down into smaller chunks. Or talk to a friend to discover a different way to handle the stress.
- Avoid the stressor. Sometimes, you can just as easily avoid the person or thing that’s causing you too much stress. That saves yourself lots of unnecessary difficulty. Why not!
Practice: Letting Go
- Imagine you’re holding two heavy bags in your hands—one representing the past, and the other representing your future. Imagine how heavy they feel, as vividly as you can.
- After a minute or so, imagine lowering those bags to the ground. Feel the weight come off your shoulders. Gently smile with relief.
- Enjoy a few minutes rejuvenating in the peace of the present moment, without having to think about past and future. And feel free to come back to exercise regularly if the process works for you.