How much does your mind wander? Recent studies show we’re not thinking about what we’re doing 47 per cent of our waking moments – and that we’re less happy when our minds are wandering!
Perth author, Buddhist and meditation devotee David Michie (he wrote best-seller The Dalai Lama’s Cat) believes we can all get so much more out of life if we only live in the present more often.
His new book, Why Mindfulness Is Better Than Chocolate, explores this topic and is a beginner’s guide to mindfulness and meditation.
He chats to The Starfish:
David, when did you first get into meditation?
It was in1991, when I was living and working in London. I had was a stressful job, and I found that meditation really helped. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Why did you write this book?
There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation in the media these days, but many people aren’t very clear what these practices are about and how they differ. I really wanted to share not only the benefits, but the practical steps on how to transform one’s experience of reality, step by step.
And you no longer work in the corporate world?
No, I still do. I think a number of people like that I’m just a normal person with a regular job, who’s benefiting from meditation, not some ranting hippy.
What do you get out of meditation and mindfulness?
There are so many benefits: you feel less stressed, healthier and more focused. It changes the entire way you perceive and interpret the world about you, for the better. Creating space amid all the mental agitation, discovering that we can become the observers of our thoughts rather than their unwitting slaves – these are some of the extraordinary consequences of a more mindful life.
For example, we think it is automatic to feel unhappy about something in the outside world that doesn’t go our way. What we don’t realise is that its our interpretation of events that’s causing us to feel bad, not the actual event. Mindfulness helps us to change our relationship with our thoughts, not to fall for them. As Eckhart Tolle says, don’t be your thoughts and feelings, be the awareness behind your thoughts and feelings.
What have you learned about your own mind?
My mind is the same as everyone’s mind – I know it has a tendency to become agitated or dull. But I know beneath the surface my mind, like everyone else’s is naturally clear, boundless, radiant and is much a feeling as a perception, one of tranquillity, well-being and benevolence. We can all access this wellspring through the practice of mindfulness.
How often do you meditate?
A couple of sessions a day, hopefully an hour each time.
Do you have a special room set up for this?
No, I just have a cushion which I sit on. I use a variety of meditations for a variety of purposes. If somebody is just beginning, I advocate starting off just doing ten minutes a day. Over time, this gentle, simple practice will change your life completely.
How different would you be if you didn’t meditate?
From an outside perspective, people tell me I’m more calm and reflective person than I used to be. From an inner perspective I have an entirely different notion about who and what I am and what ultimately matters.
When you see aggressive politicians and people on TV, do you imagine how different they’d be if they meditated regularly?
When I see people on the news who have attacked each other in Northbridge, after drinking too much, I think, this mindless activity. Whether it’s drunks in town or aggressive pollies, the world would be a much more peaceful, happy place if people tapped into their true nature through meditation.
PIC: BAY RIGBY
Should we be teaching meditation in schools?
Definitely. This is already happening in some schools around Australia and around the world.
I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t change for the better when they meditate, and just focus on the ‘now” so much more.
David if I was going for a walk by the beach, I’d be thinking of my tax return, and how I have to phone my accountant. What would you be thinking?
If I had to make plans for my tax return, that’s what I would be thinking about too. But I’d try to give myself a cut-off point – like, up the beach, tax return, back again, focus on the waves and sand. There’s a time and a place for planning, but it shouldn’t take over your life, preventing you from appreciating what’s around you. If you’re lost in your own thoughts at the beach, you may as well be in Beijing.
Why Mindfulness Is Better Than Chocolate (Allen And Unwin) is available nationally.
To download some of David’s (free) meditation sessions, visit his website: davidmichie.com http://davidmichie.com
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