3 Myths About Mindfulness Meditation That Keep People From Its True Benefits
Mindfulness meditation can be hugely beneficial in our personal and professional lives, but people often leave the practice because their expectations are set unreasonably high.
Rasmus Hougaard, MA, is founder and managing director of the Potential Project, the leading international provider of Corporate-Based Mindfulness Training (CBMT) programs. He is a recognized authority on training the mind to be more focused, effective, and clear in an organizational context. Hougaard has been teaching mindfulness in individual and corporate contexts in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the United States since 2000.
Rasmus Hougaard: There is a general, huge misconception around mindfulness. Many people think that mindfulness is a spiritual thing. Many think that it’s a private thing that we do at home. And most people think that mindfulness is about slowing down. That’s wrong. Mindfulness, in short terms, is really about speeding up our mental processes whereby we can be more effective with whatever we’re doing — that we have this attentional muscle that allows us really to be on task with what we’re doing. So while mindfulness could have a personal benefit, which it certainly has, we do become more happy. We do become more kind. But it also has a real strong business benefit in terms of our performance and productivity going up. Mindfulness, in short, is learning to manage our attention. And according to neuroscience, that is actually very possible. The brain is consisting of a huge neural network that can be rewired by the way that we’re using it. So basically what researchers can see is that the more we pay attention — whatever we pay attention to, but in this case in mindfulness the stronger our, let’s say attentional muscle becomes — it’s right here behind the forehead called the prefrontal cortex. The more we train, the better we become at it. So that’s the short definition of mindfulness. The bit longer definition of mindfulness is to develop the ability to stay focused with what we want to be focused on while still being aware of our bodily experience, being aware of what’s going on around us. So with more mindfulness we are not only becoming more effective in doing the task at hand, but we’re also becoming more effective in noticing what’s going on around us and which things we should be allowing ourselves to be distracted by. And which distractions to leave out of our mind.
So I think one of the big reasons why some people leave their mindfulness practice is because they have the wrong expectations to the practice. When we sit down and close our eyes in the very beginning, lots of thoughts will arise and that’s natural. And when you sit down and do mindfulness practice after practice for maybe 10 weeks or 10 months or 10 years, still many thoughts will arise. So the trick of mindfulness is not to get a total silent, clear, blissful mind. That doesn’t happen. Mindfulness is a practice where we learn to notice our thoughts, let go of the thoughts, and return to the object of choice, which is in practice is the breath.
Before trying mindfulness, know what you're getting into.
Rasmus Hougaard is co-author of the book One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness, as well as a highly regarded mindfulness teacher. In this video, he shares how the practice can be harnessed to improve your business career by re-teaching your brain how to focus.
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