When asked what behaviors I’d like to change before the start of SCA, a number of possibilities began to spring to mind; time management quit smoking, be more observant, etc… All behaviors that I would definitely benefit from enhancing before the start of term. But when it came to deciding on one I would correct in 21 days, they all felt too broad and abstract to take on in the time given.
I needed to choose a habit that was more concrete and I could actually practice day to day.
I arrived at meditation, although fully aware of the stereotypes connected to the word, it’s a habit that people seem to swear by. In the past, I have listened to friends and family rave about its positive impacts. I have always nodded, ooo’d and ahhh’d and promised to give it a try, and genuinely keen too, but knowing in the back of my mind I wouldn’t…always feeling I didn’t have enough time.
But when I got Marc’s email, asking us to actively choose a new habit I thought it would be a good time to give it a go. So I downloaded the app ‘Headspace’ and began trying to practice.
I followed all the instructions and kept with it, but spent a lot of time subconsciously drifting off to other thoughts, and getting distracted. I know you don’t get the hang of it immediately, but I just wasn’t convinced I was getting it right. So instead of giving up, I decided to explore the context of it.
I started by looking at the creator of ‘Headspace,’ Andy Puddicombe, a mindfulness expert who had dropped out of uni to become a monk. I listened to his TED talk which helped me understand a bit more about how and why it works. In his talk, he was quick to acknowledge the stereotypes and assumptions of meditation but gave some interesting insight into why he believes it’s so valuable.
But there was one point he made that particularly grabbed my attention.
“Our minds are lost in thought almost 47 percent of the time.” (Killingsworth et al. 2010)
This is a big number and left me curious about its truth and even more so about what the word mindfulness actually meant.
I began to explore a bit further, looking at mindfulness and behavior change. I listened to a psychologist called Judson Brewer, who talked about curiosity & mindfulness. He’d done a study using mindfulness training to get people to quit smoking. He says; “with mindfulness training, we dropped the bit about forcing and instead focused on being curious…” becoming curious challenges us to consider what our habits actually do for us.
The psychologist Daniel Goleman explores the subject in terms of a science of attention, he says;
“Open awareness, a form of attention that allows the mind to wander freely… a crucial stage in creativity. It lets us come up with…new combinations of different elements… that will pay off in a creative insight.”
The subject had me intrigued and like most things, when you start noticing something it begins to pop up everywhere. Like in the books I was reading, such as ‘Lateral Thinking’ or in ‘Nudge’. With all this in mind there has to be some truth to it, so for 10 minutes a day, I am continuing with my meditation. Still not entirely sure I have got the hang of it, but I like the idea of it, so I’ll keep going and see where I get to.