Hi Team,

I wrote today's email a few of weeks ago, however now that we are all struggling with the daily pressures of "stage 4 COVID shutdown" I feel it is even more relevant now than it was several weeks ago.  

Today's email is about something that I have personally found very helpful over the last few years, but it is a topic that I find difficult to discuss. As a middle-aged male builder there are certain topics that are difficult (or even scary) for me to talk openly about and this is one of them. The topic in question is mindfulness and meditation. Up until 5 or 6 years ago I had not really thought much about mindfulness or meditation. I knew generally what it was but was highly sceptical about its effectiveness and thought that it just wasn't for me. However, over the last few years, I have listened to a lot of personal development podcasts and read a lot of self-improvement books, and I have become a lot more aware and interested in mindfulness and meditation. Maybe I am late to come to the party, because in the last decade there has been an explosion in public interest and coverage of this topic and I feel I may have been quite slow in the uptake and acceptance of this practice.

"Mindfulness isn't difficult. We just need to remember to do it." Sharon Salzberg

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness has been widely researched and studied scientifically and has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.

Meditation is a method of practicing mindfulness by focussing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity. The objective of meditation is to train your attention and awareness to achieve mental clarity and emotional calmness, (i.e. taking charge of your mind).

Sounds simple enough doesn't it, but putting it into regular practice for me has been a real challenge. I have come to understand that the key to effective mindfulness is that you have to focus on how you are feeling in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. it is important to understand that feelings and emotions are not good or bad and that you should not try to pass judgement on your thoughts or feelings.  

"Mindfulness isn't about trying to change ourselves for something better, it's about befriending who we are already." Pema Chodron
I have found that the only way to successfully integrate mindfulness into my life and to gain any real benefits, I must make it an integral part of my daily routine. I also found that I needed to have sufficient motivation and some solid reasons why I wanted to do it regularly. For me, learning about mindfulness and starting to meditate regularly was a natural progression to my interest in personal development. I saw meditation as a way to unclutter my mind and to gain control of constantly being unsettled and distracted at work. So early on I recognised the potential benefits of mindfulness, but by far the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my own scepticism of the whole process, it just felt weird!

"The goal of meditation isn't to control your thoughts; it's to stop letting them control you." Unknown

The real problem with mindfulness and meditation is that it is impossible to accurately and truthfully describe to someone else what it feels like and how to do it. The founder of "Headspace" (the world’s biggest meditation App), Andy Puddicombe, used the famous quote from the 1999 movie "Fight Club" with Brad Pitt + Edward Norton 
(The first rule of Fight Club is, you don't talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club.") to help explain how difficult it is to explain to someone what meditation is all about. In other words, it is useless trying to explain what meditation is like and why it works. Instead Puddicombe simply recommends and encourages you to try it for yourself.

If you haven't tried mindfulness or meditation for yourself and you are interested to learn more about it and give it a go, I would recommend that you start by listening to the "Radio Headspace Podcast" and download the "Headspace" app. Both of these were hugely helpful for me when I first started with meditation and I still listen to the podcast and use the app on a daily basis.

Next week I will delve a little deeper into mindfulness and meditation and will be a bit self-indulgent by telling you a bit about my experiences with meditation and how it has helped me over the last few years.


PS: Below is a link to an MBAV document that answers many FAQ's about working on building sites during the stage 4 shutdown. You should be able to find clear answers to any questions you may have about work restrictions and your responsibilities during this shutdown period. If you have any unanswered questions or need further clarity about the work restrictions please reach out to me personally.

Thanks for reading,
Stay safe and non-judgemental!

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