Some thoughts on mindfulness

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If you haven’t encountered the concept, mindfulness is essentially a set of thought-techniques and attitudes which can, through practise and application, help the practitioner develop a sense of calm focus.

In many ways, it sits at the opposite end of the thought spectrum to multi-tasking. It’s all about finding a way to shut out the chatter of competing demands and applying yourself fully and wholeheartedly to the task at hand, physically and mentally. It recognises that even when physical distractions, say kids, are absent, our minds can themselves be hugely distracting.

Many time management philosophies encourage prioritisation based on hierarchies of perceived importance and urgency. This is all well and good, but it often means that a huge backlog of low urgency stuff accumulates. This can be stressful. Alternatively, it can lead to a situation where conflicts arise between big important things (lesson-planning, marking) and mundane but necessary stuff (ironing shirts, washing up and feeding your kids).

Applying a mindfulness based approach to the same competing demands can be a revelation. Using the example above, the mindful individual will be focussed entirely on washing the dishes or on feeding the kids, and mentally being in that moment. They will not be feeding the kids whilst silently mulling over what to teach tomorrow. As they wash the dishes, they will be thinking of nothing deeper than the act of washing the dishes.

In doing so, the mundane can become less onerous, even enjoyable, your mind gets a break and when you shift your mindful attention to those big, important tasks, it will be without the baggage of having spent dinner time fretting about things that you were not in a position to do anything about. A clear mind can work wonders.

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2 responses to “Some thoughts on mindfulness

  1. Found it a lot easier to do that once I gave up teaching! Seriously, more teachers need to take heed of what you say. Their lessons will be at worst infinitesimally not as good of(and in truth because of their own increased happiness probably significantly better), and the rest of their life so much better the sum total of human happiness will increase significantly. Suspect much of the problem for many lies with some SLT who have a way of talking about work life balance in a way that makes you feel guilty for having one.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to reply, Paul. I take it that you are to some extent familiar with the technique? I’m not professing to be an expert, but I have found it incalculably helpful. As you say, the core strength of it is to increase overall contentedness at the individual level, which seems to contribute to a greater overall happiness level ‘in the room’, so to speak. I do believe that makes for people working more effectively.

    I’m not ignoring your words on work-life balance, but mindfulness is a theme I intend to return to, so some nebulous future post will almost certainly touch upon that very issue.

    IB

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