Mindfulness for Life [Video]

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Published on Jan 30, 2015
Professor Mark Williams explores how mindfulness has the potential to transform our lives and help create a happier a more caring society. He introduces the concept of mindfulness, including some practical examples, and show how it can help us cope better with problems and discover a greater sense of choice in how we lead our lives. He also shares his perspective on the wider mindfulness movement. This talk was filmed at an Action for Happiness event in London on 21 Jan 2015


So, thank you, Mark, and thank you for inviting me to this lovely place. So, we introduce ourselves to other. Now, why don’t we introduce to ourselves in a one minute sitting? So, let’s just come into sit for one minute. And if you wish, you can close your eyes. We’ll know your gaze, and simply stepping inside, so noticing what’s going on in mind and body right now. As soon as you’re checking in yourself. As soon as the coming home. Noticing the weights on the body on the chair. The feet on the floor. And align to yourself to be exactly as you are. And meeting an old friend.

And perhaps asking yourself what brings me here? What is it I’m seeking? And then coming back to this body, sitting—this moment. And then when you’re ready, letting your eyes open, perhaps moving fingers and toes and taking in the room again.

So, in this talk, I’d like to do a number of things. First of all, to introduce the idea of mindfulness. How it is defined. Why do people seek something in this thing we call mindfulness? What is it and what are they seeking? And then, to understand how mindfulness works, how it meets the mind when we meditate, when we try to be mindfulness and to see what is it in the mind that is met there. Look at those some of the wonders of the mind. Especially those parts of the mind that take shortcuts to see how their shortcuts help us, but also sometimes deceive us. Then, having spent some quite a bit of time on that, coming back to look at the practice and how the practice helps those particular things, and finally seeing what we’re able to observe about how effective it is, where it isn’t effective, where it is effective? And also, perhaps, what new things are being thrown up by the evidence, what the questions, and what their implications are. So, starting what is it that people are seeking in the mindfulness and they come to mindfulness for all sort of reasons. Sometimes, in our ___ that I’ve recently retired from, Prof. ___ taken over us as director there, coming for help with deep depression and anxiety, and our work involves people who feel suicidal when they get depressed as well. So that’s one group of people who come in and seek mindfulness.

But others come to mindfulness, because they will help their moment to moment living. They don’t feel deeply depressed or deeply anxious, or—it’s just a ___ life a bit, and things are going to be a bit overwhelming, and they want to find some meanings, some peace in the middle of such a ___ world.

And then, I guess a third category of people who just want to come and get inspired. They’re already committed to some sort of path, and they want food for the journey. So all of those things are happening and of course, they may all be rose into one. And against the background of seeking something for ourselves, and for our family and for our world, mindfulness can seem very appealing, especially since, as Mark said, it’s become very popular. And also, when all the pictures in the magazine, and on the tabloids, if you have an article on mindfulness, they all involve somebody, probably on top of the mountain, it’s never raining and its usually a monk who is blissed out or if it’s a human being and not a monk, if you know what I mean, if it’s an ordinary, average human being, then it’s a beautiful woman sort of human being. It’s rarely they have the ordinary ___ or ordinary people meditation. So this is sort of the image, that if you have this, then somehow, you’ll be transported on top of the mountain alongside a monk or a beautiful woman, and you get to choose.

So, it’s not a surprise that we want to reclaim our life, and say, I want some of that please. Yes, why not? And then we sign up for a mindfulness class, or we buy the app, or the book, or and then we notice that we’re being asked to meditate once or twice a day. And we said, just a minute, I wanted some space in my life. I didn’t want to fill up the valuable spaces by meditating for goodness sake. That’s the only time I have, when the children are asleep or when I don’t have to phone my mom and dad or something. I’m not going to do something else. That’s when I just want to chill.

So, quite right, too. Why not? Why not, too? If you do want to allocate the space to mindfulness and you give up your chill space for a bit of mindfulness space, and I find myself that I have to get up early in the morning, too, before the house was up to do my meditation, because once they have started, it is very difficult to fix in.

When you do, then you learn a bit more about mindfulness, and then there’s another paradox in there. Not only it is taking space in your life, but it promises to make you more aware, and you may have come to mindfulness, because you’re already acutely aware of your pain, or your pre-occupation or your ___, or your anxiety.

So, how on earth is making yourself more aware going to help? You may have been trying to get rid of these things forever. Why open the door to something you might have quite successfully closed the door on? So, that’s the puzzle that I want to address tonight. What is it that mindfulness does that allows you to be more aware, but also gives you more freedom, but fills your space, but apparently gives you more space?

That’s at the heart of what I’m trying to address. Well, let’s start with the definition of mindfulness, which I promised.

To donate to Mark Williams directly, visit http://www.psych.ox.ac.uk/team/mark-williams

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