Mindfulness is becoming a global phenomenon but it is often misunderstood. This article explains what mindfulness is not to help clarify what it actually is!
John Shearer has been on an extraordinary journey that has culminated in him becoming an Australian Master of Mindfulness. He currently conducts online training for those who wish to become Mindfulness Mentors and teach mindfulness.
What Mindfulness Is Not.
The worldwide emergence of mindfulness reminds me of the ‘mouse trap effect’. Let me explain. Back in the sixties, I remember watching a super slow motion film clip of an experiment by Australian scientist, Dr Julius Sumner Miller. The floor of a room was covered in mouse traps with a ping-pong ball on each trap. One single ball was thrown in which set off a chain reaction. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and so on. In no time at all, the room was a blur of ping-pong balls. I believe that mindfulness is in the early stages of a similar chain reaction. I also believe that mindfulness is the best hope for the world to overcome mental suffering and suicide.
Let’s clear up a few misconceptions. One thing is certain… mindfulness is not easy, but it is simple. It doesn’t come naturally, that is why it requires much practice. It’s not about relaxing. Mindfulness just means noticing what’s happening, including the things we find difficult. It doesn’t involve listening to panpipes to escape our worries. It isn’t a meditation practice. Mindfulness is a practice for the whole of life. It’s about finding a different way to respond to experience throughout our day.
It isn’t about emptying our mind. Minds produce thoughts, it’s what they’re built for, and our mind keeps on producing them even if we do happen to be meditating. We can become calm and settled by learning to accept our thoughts, making room for them or letting them go. It is always good to remind ourselves that thoughts are just that… thoughts. No need to dwell on them, fight with them, act on them or try to avoid them with alcohol, drugs or other distractions, like eating or over-working.
It isn’t Buddhist. It is true that mindfulness has it’s roots in the age of Buddha but no-one owns mindfulness. Mindfulness has evolved and has now become the merging of ancient eastern philosophy and the latest western psychology. The beauty of mindfulness is that it is not a religion at all. However, all religions could greatly benefit from having a mindful practice.
It isn’t a technique. Mindfulness isn’t something you do. It’s a way of being. It isn’t a way to fix our problems. Mindfulness can help eliminate depression, anxiety, stress or chronic pain, but not by fixing them. We learn to relate in a new way to the things that trouble us, rather than trying to make them go away. Having a mindful practice is about re-training our minds so that we can cope with whatever comes our way.
It isn’t about doing things slowly. Some mindfulness courses include things like eating a raisin slowly. That does help us notice details that we may otherwise miss. It also highlights the fact that we often rush or go through the motions while thinking about other things. But that doesn’t mean that you should do everything slowly. A mindful practice is about doing things on purpose, even if they are sometimes at a fast pace.
It isn’t scientific. Research into the effects of mindfulness and its impact on the mind and body are impressive. It is helping to bring mindfulness into the mainstream. Science can measure what mindfulness does, but it can’t measure what it is. Measuring mindfulness is a science; practising it is an art that requires presence, awareness, connection and living in the moment.
It isn’t a fad. Mindfulness is certainly becoming popular, but is it a fad? Our communities are becoming more distracted than ever before. Mindlessness is rampant and there is a growing epidemic of mental suffering. Modern culture seems to be focused on wanting more, getting more and having more. Mindfulness is about being grateful in the moment and is here to stay!
About John Shearer
John Shearer’s journey began in 1982 when he died in a horrific truck accident. He was revived with substantial physical injuries but they were nothing compared to the fifteen years of mental suffering. He was diagnosed with a mental illness and health professionals told him that he would never be cured, that he would have to take medication for the rest of his life and that he would never work again. He felt ashamed with his condition and refused to get help outside the ‘system’.
In 1997, John got his miracle when an old friend knocked on his door and told his story. This put John on the road to recovery. He stepped from the darkness into the light with no more depression! However, his mind continued with unhelpful stories and negative self judgements. These were easily overcome and he was able to live a ‘normal’ life and work again.
In 2009, John started a personal mindful practice as well as an intensive five year study into the many aspects of mindfulness. His life was completely transformed and he now lives with both peace of mind and clarity of mind. Later the same year, he moved to Grafton NSW Australia and started work with Juvenile Justice as a youth mentor. John also started his business as Mindfulness Coach. (ABN 4217 3070 9530) His role is Life & Business Coach/Mentor, ACT Therapist, Author and Speaker.
John is very passionate about his purpose which is to help people with mental suffering. In 2011, he created a facebook page called Mindfulness Coach which now has nearly 700,000 followers. In May 2014, he invited Australians with mental suffering to an online facebook event called Mindfulness Day. (1st Sunday in May) 4,700 people attended the month long event and it was hugely successful with hundreds of lives transformed. The event became his book Mindful Actions which was launched on World Mental Health Day, 10th October, 2014. John’s book now has a worldwide distribution and he is constantly amazed with the positive feedback and hearing from people coming off meds.
John’s latest project is founding mindfullyMAD.org (mindfully Making A Difference) His vision is world mental health without medication. His mission is love, peace and happiness through the practice of mindfulness. His objective is to lobby for mindfulness in schools. His focus is prevention of mental suffering and suicide. It is also a place to find a mindfulness mentor or tell your story. Please help John to help others by sharing his story.
Mindfully Yours with Love, Joy & Peace Always! – John Shearer