It was already well past midnight. I sat on top of the wall and looked down. The tall pine trees from inside the grounds gave me plenty of cover in the darkness, yet I couldn’t resist the urge to look back one last time to see if I’d been followed. How had it come to this? I looked down again. It was just over twelve feet to the pave- ment. It may not sound that high but, crouching in a flimsy pair of sandals and my night clothes, the thought of jumping made me wince. What was I thinking wearing sandals? I’d tucked them into my trouser bottoms as I crept through the monastery, trying not to wake any of the other monks. I’d gone to the monastery to contemplate life, and yet here I was scaling its walls and contemplating my sandals as I prepared to jump back into the world. It was never meant to be this way. I’d trained as a Buddhist monk before, and in much more challenging environments. But other monasteries had exuded a warmth, a kind and caring approach to what can only be described as a chal- lenging, yet very fulfilling, way of life. This one had felt different though. It was a Buddhist monastery like no other. Locked in, day and night, surrounded by high stone walls and with no way of contacting anyone on the outside, at times it had felt more like a prison. I had no one to blame but myself of course, after all I’d gone there of my own free will. It’s just that traditionally monasticism is a little dif- ferent from the Mafia. It’s not usually the case that once you become a monk, that’s it, for life, with no way out. In fact on the contrary, Buddhist monasteries are known and respected for their tolerance and compassion. So how I’d ended up leaving over a twelve-foot wall to get away from one was a mystery really. It had all started a few years earlier, when I made the decision to pack up and head off to Asia to become a monk. I was at university at the time, studying Sports Sci- ence. It may sound like a dramatic change in lifestyle, but it felt like one of the eas- iest decisions I’d ever made. Understandably, my friends and family were slightly more apprehensive than I was, perhaps wondering if I’d finally lost my mind, but all of them were none the less supportive. It was a different story at university,
however. On hearing the news, my head of year suggested that a trip to see the doctor for some Prozac might be a more sensible option. As well meaning as he might have been, I couldn’t help thinking he was missing the point. Did he really think I was going to find the type of happiness and fulfillment I was after in a bottle of prescription medicine? As I walked out the door of his office he said, “Andy, you’ll regret this decision for the rest of your life.” As it turns out, it happens to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Now you may be wondering what kind of person suddenly decides one day to head off to Asia and become a Buddhist monk. Perhaps you’re imagining a “self- medicating” student who’d lost his way, or a “creative type” with the desire to rebel against a consumerist society. But the reality was actually far more mundane. At the time I just really struggled with my mind. Not in a straightjacket kind of way you understand, but I struggled with the endless thinking. It felt as if my mind was permanently switched on, going round and round like a washing machine. Some of the thoughts I liked. A lot of the thoughts I didn’t like. The same was true of the emotions. As if a “busy head” wasn’t enough, I felt as though I was always drifting into unnecessary worry, frustration and sadness. They were quite ordinary levels of emotion, but they had a tendency to spin out of control every now and then. And when they did, there was nothing I could do about it. It felt as though I was at the mercy of these feelings and would get blown around by them. On a good day, everything was fine. But on a bad day, it felt like my head would explode. Given the strength of feeling, the desire to train the mind was never far from my thoughts. I had no idea how to do it properly, but I’d come into contact with medi- tation at a very early age and knew that it offered a potential solution. Now I wouldn’t want you to think that I was some kind of child prodigy, and spent my teenage years sitting cross-legged on the floor, because that’s most definitely not the case. I didn’t take up the full-time study of meditation until I was twenty-two, but my first moment of headspace that I experienced at the age of eleven most defi- nitely became a marker for what was possible. I’d love to say that it was a yearning to understand the meaning of life that motivated me to sign up for that first meditation class, but the truth is I went because I didn’t want to feel left out. My parents had just separated and, looking for a way to cope, Mum had signed up for a six-week course. Seeing as my sister was going, I asked if I could go along too. I guess I just got lucky the first time I tried it. I didn’t have any expectations, so couldn’t project any hopes or fears on the experience. Even at that age it’s hard to ignore the change in the quality of mind that meditation can bring about. I’m not sure I’d ever experienced a quiet mind before then. I’d certainly never sat still in one place for such a long period of time. The problem of course was when I didn’t get the same experience the next time I tried, or the time after that, I started to get very frustrated. In fact, it was as if the harder I tried to relax, the further I moved away from a place of relaxation. So this was how my meditation began, battling with my mind and getting increasingly frustrated. When I look back now I’m not really all that surprised. The approach I was shown was a little “far out,” if you know what I mean. The language used was more 1960s than 1980s, and there were so many foreign words that I used to switch off in class. And then there was the constant reminder to “just relax” and “just let go.” Well, if I knew how to “just relax” and “just let go,” then I wouldn’t have been there in the first place. And as for sitting thirty or forty minutes at a time, forget it. This experience could well have put me off meditation for life. Support for the cause was certainly limited. My sister found it boring and gave up and, what with all her other commitments, Mum struggled to find the time. And as for support from friends, I can’t imagine what I was thinking telling a couple of mates from school about it. By the time I walked into the classroom the next morning I was met by thirty students sitting cross-legged on their desks, eyes closed, chanting “Om” through poorly stifled fits of laughter. Though I laugh about it now, at the time I was mortified. So from that point on I never mentioned it again to anyone, and eventually I gave it up. Besides, what with sports, girls and underage drinking arriving on the scene, it was difficult to imagine finding time for meditation. You might think I was brought up in a way that somehow made meditation easier to accept as a concept. Maybe you’re imagining me as an alternative character at school, walking around with bell-bottom flares, a pony-tail and smelling of incense. Or perhaps you have visions of my parents picking me up from school in a hemp- powered VW camper van with flowers painted down the side. I say this because I think it’s easy to jump to conclusions, to tap into those stereotypes of meditation, and to think that it’s only meant for a certain kind of person. But in reality, I think I was about as normal as you can be when you’re a teenager. I continued to dabble in meditation, until at the age of eighteen a crisis occurred, a series of tragic events that I’ll come back to later, which eventually gave meditation an importance and relevance it had never had before. It’s hard to deal with grief at any age. We’re not trained for it, there’s no formula for it, and most of us get by as best we can. For me that meant doing the only thing I knew how—pushing every- thing down inside, and hoping I would never have to deal with the feelings of loss and sadness that had so inconveniently arrived on my doorstep. But like anything else in life, the more you push against something, the more ten- sion you create. And eventually that tension has to find a way out. Fast-forward a couple of years, and I found myself studying at university. The first year flew by, and it was hard to imagine what more life had to offer. But then that tension, those feelings that had been ignored, time and time again, started to find their way to the surface. At first it was just uncomfortable, but before long it felt as though they were touching every single aspect of my life. Meeting with my head of year to give him the news that I had decided to leave and become a monk had been the least of my worries. I had been brought up as a Christian, but by the time I reached my teens I felt no real connection with any particular religion. I’d read a few books over the years though, and a good friend of mine often used to speak about the philosophy and psychology of Buddhism. I guess it appealed in so much as it didn’t really feel like a religion. And the stories of the meditation and the monks and nuns who had somehow mastered the mind sounded very attractive—not so much as a way of life, but in terms of the result. When people ask me how I became a monk, the question is usually phrased some- thing like, “So, you just walk up the hill, knock on the door and ask to become a monk, do you?,” and as ridiculous as that might sound, that’s exactly what you do. But before you enthusiastically pack your bags, I should add that there’s a little more to it than that, including a number of years of training as a lay-person, fol- lowed by full-time training as a novice monk and then, with your teacher’s permis- sion, you can become a fully ordained monk or nun. In my impatience to find the right teacher, I moved often at first, from one monastery to the next, and from one country to the next. During that time I lived in India, Nepal, Thailand, Burma, Russia, Poland, Australia and Scotland, traveling across many other countries in the process, learning new techniques, each time building on the foundations of what I’d already learned, and doing my best to inte- grate them into my life. With the exception of the walled fortress from which I was about to jump, I found everywhere I lived welcoming, friendly and thoroughly con- ducive to the training. And yes, thankfully, I eventually found the right teacher, or group of teachers as it turned out to be. Living as a monk can be tricky—not everyone gets the whole “bald-headed man in a skirt thing,” and trying to demystify meditation for a secular audience while dressed as a monk, which is how I worked, can send out a very mixed message. It’s one thing if you’re living in a monastic community or retreat, where people around you understand the simplicity of a monk’s robes, but when you’re living in a city it’s a little different. The more I spoke to people about the benefits of meditation, the more I found that many desperately wanted to find a way to relax, but were uncomfortable with the religious element that robes automatically imply. They sim- ply wanted to find a way to cope with life, to deal with stress—in their work, their personal life, and in their own minds. They wanted to regain the sense of openness they remembered from childhood, that sense of appreciation in actually being alive. They weren’t looking for spiritual enlightenment, nor were they needing therapy. They just wanted to know how to “switch off” when they got home from work, how to fall asleep at night, how to improve their relationships, how to feel less anxious, sad or angry. People wanted to know how to control their cravings, to give up their addictions, to get a bit more perspective on life. But most of all they wanted to know how to deal with that nagging feeling that all was not quite as it should be, or could be—that feeling that there must be more to life than this. The integration of meditation into everyday life was key to my decision to stop being a monk and to live instead as a lay-person. I became quite shy as a monk. Part of that was down to the introverted way of liv- ing, but an equally important factor was seeing more clearly the conditions of my own mind, which left me feeling a little exposed, a little naked, and this was some- thing I was pretty keen to address. I was also keen to address the fact that I’d be- come very inactive. Prior to any monastic training I’d been incredibly physical and yet it was as though that had been put on hold for the best part of ten years. Talk- ing to a friend one day, she mentioned that an old classmate of hers was training at the Moscow State Circus. As she knew I was a keen juggler and had done lots of gymnastics in the past, she thought this might be something worth checking out. Before long I was having private lessons and loving every bit of it. It was during one of these lessons that my teacher asked me if I knew anything about the degree in Circus Arts that was available in London. Yes, you read that right, a university de- gree in Circus Arts—seriously, you couldn’t make it up! I began some tentative in- quiries and, sure enough, it really did exist. The demand for places on the course is surprisingly high (let’s be honest, who’d want to study atomic physics when you can swing around like a monkey on a trapeze all day long?), so on paper my chances didn’t look good. But late one evening I received an e-mail to say that I’d been offered a conditional place—the condition being that I agreed to sign a dis- claimer that, in no uncertain terms, said I was old, more likely to injure myself, and needed to take full responsibility for this fact. Old at thirty-two, who’d have thought it? While the transition from monk to clown may not sound like the most obvious one, there are perhaps more similarities than first meet the eye. The application of moment-to-moment awareness into physical activity was to prove invaluable, in more ways than I could ever have imagined. Think of a circus act, whether it’s jug- gling, tightrope, acrobatics or trapeze, all of them require the perfect balance of concentration and relaxation. Try too hard and you make a mistake. Don’t try hard enough and you fall off or slip over. One of the most challenging aspects of training at the circus was constantly being asked to step out of our comfort zones—for most of us on a daily basis. The ego takes quite a battering in that process and we were encouraged to take ourselves a little less seriously throughout. Funnily enough, this is very similar to the training in the monastery, where the ego is also being challenged. In clowning workshops (still difficult to say with a straight face) we were encouraged to make fools of our- selves, to take risks, to try things out, confident in our ability to fail. We would be sent up on to the stage, with no material whatsoever, and be instructed what to do. And in those moments there was nothing but silence, nowhere to run. If we took too long to think about it, the teacher would simply bang a drum to indicate we were finished and send us off the stage. There was no room to escape in thought or reply in clever witticisms. It required a presence, a brutal honesty to put some- thing out there and see what happens. Sometimes it was inspired and the thrill was exhilarating, other times it was painful and the result was humiliating. But some- how it didn’t matter. What mattered was going out there and doing it, not thinking about it, not worrying what others might think, not even being attached to a partic- ular result, just doing it. Often in life we get so caught up in the analysis, the dissection of every possible outcome, that we miss an opportunity altogether. Of course, some things require careful consideration, but the more we live mindfully, in the moment, the more we start to get a sense of what feels right. Whether you think of it as a gut feeling, intu- ition, being guided, or just knowing for yourself that it’s the right thing to do, this can be an incredibly liberating discovery.
The founding of Headspace Teaching meditation was something I’d long felt passionately about, but I also felt a certain sense of duty to pass on the care and attention to detail that had been given to me by my own teachers. When I saw the way that meditation was some- times being taught here in the UK, it amazed me that anyone could get any benefit from it at all. While the transition of meditation from East to West had been han- dled with great care and sensitivity by the monks and nuns of spiritual traditions, in the secular world it was done in the same way as we do everything else—in a hurry. It was as if we simply couldn’t wait a moment longer to experience a quiet mind. So the techniques were extracted in isolation and without any context. This made them almost impossible to learn. How many people do you know who’ve tried medi- tation but then given it up? Worse still, how many people do you know who would never even give it a try because they think they’d be no good at it? But without knowing what meditation really is, without being given the essential instructions and guidance on how best to approach the techniques, how could it ever possibly work? As you’ll soon discover, the practice of meditation is about much more than sim- ply sitting down for a set period of time each day. Although it may be a key compo- nent, it is just one part of a broader system of mind training that incorporates three distinct aspects. Each aspect is equally important and, in order to get the most out of your meditation, the other two aspects also need to be learned. Traditionally, meditation students were taught first how to approach the technique, then how to practice it, before finally learning how to integrate the techniques into their everyday lives. With the intention of presenting meditation as part of this broader system of mind training, Headspace officially launched in 2010. The idea was simple: to demystify meditation, to make it something accessible and relevant for modern-day living. Nothing kooky, nothing wacky, just straightforward tools that people could use to get some headspace. The idea was also to get as many people as possible to try meditation, not just to read about it, but to actually do it. There will undoubtedly come a time when sitting down to get some headspace for ten minutes a day is no more unusual than going out for a walk. Ten or fifteen years ago, it was hard to say the word Yoga without people sniggering, and yet going to the gym to take a yoga class is now no more strange than going there to do aerobics (in fact, arguably less so). Although it took years of research, planning and development to make the project a reality, it is but a blink of the eye in terms of the history of the techniques. These are meditation exercises that have been passed down from teacher to student over thousands of years. That’s more than enough time to refine and develop the tech- niques, not to mention iron out any creases. In a world of novelty, fads and fash- ions, there is something very reassuring about that authenticity. It was that authen- ticity which allowed me to start working alongside doctors, assisting in the adap- tation of the techniques for medical use. It was the same authenticity that allowed me to start up in private practice as a Clinical Mindfulness Consultant, where over the years I’ve seen clients suffering from insomnia, impotence, and everything in- between. So, there I was, perched on top of that wall. I took one final look behind me and jumped. I was sorry to leave the monastery in this way, but, looking back, I have no regrets about being there in the first place. Every monastery, retreat and meditation center I have ever lived in or visited has taught me something. In fact, over the years I’ve had the privilege and good fortune to study with some incredible teach- ers, meditation masters in the truest sense of the word. If there’s any wisdom to be found in these pages, then it’s entirely down to them. The way I see it, my strongest qualification for writing this book is that along the way I’ve made just about every mistake possible in my meditation training, and so hopefully I can help you avoid making similar ones. This means giving you advice on how to best approach medi- tation, how best to practice meditation, and how best to integrate meditation into the rest of your life. Carrying a map is one thing, having someone to show you the way is quite another.
How to get the most from this book Meditation is a wonderful skill with life-changing potential, but how you choose to use that skill is up to you. With increasing coverage of meditation and mindfulness in the media, many people seem to be in a hurry to define its purpose. But the truth is, you define the purpose by deciding how you choose to use it. When you learned to ride a bike, I’m sure you were simply shown how to ride the bike, not how you should use that ability. Some use a bike to commute, for others it’s to hang out with friends, and for a very few cycling may even become a career. But the skill of being able to remain in the saddle is the same for each. So while somebody else might have taught you how to ride, you define what cycling means to you, how you use it, and how it best suits your lifestyle. And so it is with the skill of meditation. It can be applied to any aspect of life and the value of it is equal only to the value you place upon it. In order to get the best from this book, and consequently the many benefits of meditation, you don’t need to choose just one area of your life that you’d like to focus on. At least not at first anyway. Meditation is much broader than that and the qualities that arise from it tend to inevitably impact those areas of life where it’s needed most. However, it’s useful to know how other people use meditation, to appreciate its full potential. For many it’s the all-round stress buster, an aspirin for the mind. In short, a way of getting some headspace each day. For some, it’s the foundation of a broader approach to mindfulness, an opportunity to touch base with what it means to be present and in the moment throughout the day. For oth- ers, it might be part of a personal development plan toward greater emotional sta- bility, or integrated into a spiritual path of some kind. And then there are those who turn to meditation as a way of improving their relationships with partners, parents, children, friends, colleagues and associates. Since 2004 the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recom- mended the use of an adapted program of meditation (or mindfulness as it’s known in the medical world) for those at risk of a relapse of re-current depression.
It has also been studied in a wide range of stress-related health disorders. These include, but are by no means limited to, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, compul- sive eating, and heart health. Away from the medical world, but still with the intention of targeting one specific aspect of life, many people use meditation to give them an extra edge in a partic- ular discipline, job, hobby or sport (including many professional athletes). And fi- nally, stretching the boundaries of your imagination, meditation has even been adopted by the US marines to make them more focused and efficient on the front line.
Meditation and the mind It may seem implausible that meditation could have such a broad range of bene- fits. But if you think about it, whatever you do that involves the mind is going to benefit from meditation. It’s like fine-tuning the hard drive of a computer. And is there anything you do that doesn’t involve the use of your mind? Given what a cen- tral role the mind plays in our lives, it’s remarkable that this meditation revolution hasn’t happened sooner. We don’t think twice about exercising our bodies (well, most of the time anyway) and yet the well-being of the mind tends to take a back seat. Whether that’s because nobody else can see it or because we think it’s a lost cause is neither here nor there. The fact is, our entire existence is experienced through the mind. We depend on it for our sense of happiness and fulfillment in life and for positive relationships with others. So taking a few minutes out of each day to train and maintain it is simply good common sense.
Meditation is an experience As well as being a skill, meditation is also an experience. This means you need to do it in order to fully appreciate its value. Meditation is not just another fluffy con- cept, or philosophical idea; rather, it’s a direct experience of the present moment. In the same way that it’s up to you to define the purpose of meditation, it’s also up to you to define the experience of meditation. Imagine a friend describing an amazing meal they’d eaten at a restaurant. Now imagine going there and eating it yourself. Hearing about the food and tasting the food are two completely different things, right? Or imagine reading a book about skydiving. No matter how much you reflect on the author’s words and visualize yourself jumping from 10,000 feet, the experience will never come close to actually launching yourself out of a plane and hurtling toward the ground at 120 mph. So in order to get meditation, you need to do it. I’m sure you know what it’s like to buy a new book, become inspired, commit to changing your life and then, within a few days, be back in the same old habits won- dering where it all went wrong. In the same way that sitting at home reading a diet book while eating chunky chocolate fudge ice-cream is never going to make you any thinner, simply thinking about what’s written in this book is not going to give you any more headspace. Well, okay, it might give you a little more headspace, but the point is you need to actually do the exercises to experience the real benefit. And preferably not just once or twice either. Like going to the gym, it only works if you actually go and do the exercise on a regular basis. In fact, the real change will hap- pen in those moments when you put the book down and practice the techniques. The change is subtle, intangible yet profound. It involves a growing sense of aware- ness and understanding that can’t help but change the way you feel about both yourself and others. But to really make the most of this book it’s worth considering the possibility that not everything you’ve heard or read about meditation is necessarily true. In fact, some of the myths are spectacular. Unfortunately, many of the more popular mis- conceptions about meditation simply reinforce the same old patterns of thinking that most people would like to change. We’re often rather attached to these ideas, and like old friends they feel familiar and comfortable to be around. But for gen- uine change to take place a certain amount of openness is required, a willingness to investigate. So this book isn’t written to give you a definitive answer, to tell you what to believe and how to think. Nor is it written to solve all your problems and give you everlasting happiness. But it is a book that has the potential to fundamentally transform your experience of life if you put it to the test. Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and understanding how and why you think and feel the way you do, and getting a healthy sense of perspective in the process. It just so happens that when you do that, any changes you want to make in your life become that much more feasible. More than that, it shows you how to be okay with the way you are right now and how you feel. But put it to the test. Don’t simply be- lieve it works because that’s what the scientists say. As valuable and fascinating as that research is, it will mean nothing if you don’t directly experience the benefits yourself. So use the instructions, refer back to them, give it time, be patient, and see what ten minutes a day can do for you.
The Headspace app Although this book contains every thing you need to know to get started with medi- tation, you’ll find the Headspace app to be an invaluable tool and companion. Many people find it easier to learn how to meditate when they are guided through the exercise by a teacher’s voice. Headspace is available for download on iOS and Android.
The techniques Throughout this book you’ll find specific exercises designed to get you started and keep you going with your meditation practice. It may be a short two-minute exer- cise, introducing a particular aspect of meditation, or the full ten-minute version, known as Take10 in the app. Or it might be a mindfulness exercise, designed to bring awareness to everyday activities such as eating, walking and exercise. There’s even an exercise to help you get a good night’s rest. But remember, it’s when you put the book down and close your eyes to meditate that you’ll feel the real benefit of these techniques.
The stories Meditation instructions always used to be given in the form of a story and this is a tradition I’ve continued in writing this book. Stories make difficult concepts easy to grasp, and forgettable instructions easy to remember. Many of the stories pre- sented here involve my own misunderstandings and struggles with meditation along the way. Sure, it would be easy to write about the times when I felt relaxed, calm and even blissful during meditation, and also about the radical, positive change that meditation has made to my life. But the real value is in looking back at the mistakes that I’ve made and sharing those with you, because that’s where the learning took place and it’s from those very same experiences that I can help you to get some headspace. The science In recent years the advancement of MRI technology, together with sophisticated brain-mapping software, has meant that neuroscientists are now able to observe the brain in a whole new way. This means that they’ve been able to discover exactly what happens to the brain when we’re learning to meditate, and also some of the effects of long-term practice. At first it was assumed that it was simply the activity of the brain that changed during meditation, but multiple studies have shown that the structure of the brain itself can change, in a process known as neuroplasticity. So, in the same way that training the body can make a particular muscle thicker and stronger, so training the mind with meditation can make the area of the brain asso- ciated with happiness and well-being thicker and stronger. For many people this new research can be motivating, inspiring and help to build confidence—especially in the early days of learning meditation. It’s for this reason that I’ve included a handful of these research findings at the end of the book in chapters titled The Approach, The Practice and The Integration. They relate specif- ically to the information in those chapters, but have a much broader relevance too. But if you’d like to find out more about the research into meditation and mind- fulness, check out the dedicated research section of our website headspace.com/ science
The case studies
In addition to the stories described above, you’ll also find a chapter entitled Tales from the Clinic, which brings together a number of case studies from over the years. Some of these people have been referred to me by their doctor or GP for specific symptoms, but many more have come simply because they’re looking for more headspace in their life. Written with the kind permission of each individual, these case studies demonstrate the simplicity, power and potential of a daily medi- tation practice.
Diary and feedback
Although meditation is all about letting go, keeping a diary when you’re starting out can really make a difference. You can use the diary section provided at the back of this book to help keep track of your progress. I also suggest you “like” the Headspace Facebook page to hear from other meditators, and join the community.
Mindfulness and meditation—what’s the difference?
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to hear the word “meditation” without thinking of a yogi in a loincloth on a mountain-top somewhere in the Himalayas. That, or a shaven- headed monk or nun sitting in a monastery, chanting, chiming bells and blowing horns, while cloaked in thick clouds of incense and orange robes (been there, done that). Or perhaps stoned-out hippies in tie-dye T-shirts spring to mind, or groups of New Age enthusiasts running around in the woods taking it in turns to hug a tree or two. There’s no escaping it, the word “meditation” comes with baggage. When a few progressive Western doctors tried to introduce meditation into main- stream healthcare more than thirty years ago, they were pretty much laughed out of the hospital they worked in. Not to be deterred, they changed the name to “mind- fulness” and continued with their research. Now although mindfulness, in the form it has come to the West, has its origins in the Buddhist meditation tradition, there is nothing inherently “Buddhist” about it. Mindfulness is the key ingredient of most meditation techniques and goes far beyond the formal aspect of sitting down with your eyes closed. Mindfulness means to be present, in the moment, undis- tracted. It implies resting the mind in its natural state of awareness, which is free of any bias or judgment. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? This is in contrast to how most of us live our lives, which is to be constantly caught up with all the little (and big) thoughts and feelings, and to be critical and judgmental of ourselves and others. It’s usually when we’re caught up in all the little things that we start to make mis- takes. At least that’s the way it’s always been for me. And those mistakes can affect our performance at work, our relationships with others, even the bottom line in our bank account. Whenever I think about a lack of mindfulness I’m reminded of a time when I was living in Moscow. The school where I worked used to pay me in US dollars and as the salary was quite good I was able to save up a bit of money each month. It was just after the financial crisis of the late 1990s, and so nobody trusted the banks. People either hid their money under their mattress, or tried to find a way to squirrel it out of the country. I’d been saving up for a meditation re- treat, so on my next flight back to the UK I decided to take what money I had with me. The government had introduced strict rules about taking money out of the coun- try—the main rule being that you couldn’t take any. So I’d resorted to tucking $500 down the front of my underwear. Standing there in my monk’s robes with a wad of cash shoved down my pants, I couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty, no matter how good my intention was to spend it on a retreat. In fact, I got so caught up in all the little thoughts of anxiety, of rehearsing my Russian for the customs officials, that when I went to the toilet I completely forgot I’d put the money down there. As it happens, the restroom was busy and so, with no urinals free, I went into one of the cubicles. I won’t go into detail, but these toilets had seen better days and whoever had used it beforehand had forgotten to flush. I was still lost in thought and worry as I stood there and lifted up my robes. And then it happened. Before I could do anything, I watched in horror as $500 in loose notes fell into the pan. Needless to say, had I been more mindful and less caught up in all the thoughts, it would simply never have happened. I got distracted, and when you get distracted, you make mistakes. You may be wondering what happened next—did I really leave $500 floating in the toilet, or did I roll up my sleeves and do the unthinkable? Let’s just say I ended up going on that retreat. So mindfulness means to be present. It means being “in the moment,” experi- encing life directly as it unfolds, rather than being distracted, caught up and lost in thought. It’s not a contrived or temporary state of mind that you need to somehow create and maintain. On the contrary, it’s a way of stepping back and resting the mind in its natural state, free from the usual chaos. Take a moment to imagine what it might be like to live life this way. Imagine how it would be to drop all the baggage, the stories, the arguments, the judgments and agendas that take up so much space in the mind. This is what it means to be mindful. But after a lifetime of being lost in thought, the right kind of conditions are needed in order to learn how to step back in this way. That’s where meditation comes in. There’s nothing mystical about it. Meditation is simply a technique to provide you with the optimum conditions for practicing the skill of mindfulness. Of course you can experience being “in the moment” or fully absorbed in the present with any activity, not just with the practice of meditation. In fact, you’ll have no doubt experienced this feeling many times in your life before. Perhaps you were skiing down a mountain, riding a bike, listening to your favorite bit of music, play- ing with your child, or even watching a sunset. The problem with this approach is it tends to be a bit hit-and-miss and so we don’t get to experience the feeling all that often. But by sitting down to meditate each day, even if it’s for a very short time, that feeling of being present, aware, and in the moment, becomes increasingly familiar and is then that much easier to apply to the rest of your life. As with learn- ing any new skill, if you want to get the very best out of it, you need to provide yourself with the very best conditions in which to learn. In fact the practice of edi- tation provides such good conditions for learning mindfulness that for many that’s as far as they want to take it. Simply having ten minutes of resting the mind each day can feel like enough. The idea of mindfulness and meditation and how they relate is not necessarily that easy to grasp. So try thinking of it this way: imagine you’re learning to drive a car, presumably you’d head out to a quiet country road rather than a busy motorway at first. Of course you can drive on either, but one is much easier than the other when you’re learning. The same is true of mindfulness. You can use it in any situation and for any purpose, but the easiest place to learn the skill of mindfulness is dur- ing meditation. The funny thing is, even when you feel confident in applying mind- fulness to everyday life, you’ll probably still want to take a short time out to medi- tate each day. That’s because no matter how good a driver you might be, there’s something comforting, and even exhilarating, about driving along a quiet country road that a motorway never can quite match. What’s more, it also gives you the time and space to notice what’s going on around you, to admire the scenery. The distinction between meditation and mindfulness may not sound that impor- tant, and often the words are used interchangeably. But unless you’re about to pack your bags and start life afresh as a monk or a nun, this distinction matters a lot. Be- cause so long as you’re living life outside of a mountain retreat, there’ll always be a limited amount of time to sit down and practice meditation in a formal, structured way. Often I hear people saying “I don’t have time to meditate, I’m too busy, I’ve got too much to do, I’m too stressed!” But if we look at the broader context, in terms of training and cultivating the mind no matter where we are or what we’re doing, then suddenly it starts to look more achievable. At the very least it sounds more compatible with all the responsibilities and commitments of modern-day liv- ing. And that’s what will hopefully make this book such an invaluable guide for you. It will show you how you can continue to live in the world with a daily medi- tation practice bite-sized enough to fit into your schedule, yet long enough to make a difference. It will also show you how you can use this broader idea of “mind training” or “mindfulness” to transform your experience of everyday life. I’m sure there’ll be some seasoned meditators who’ll throw their hands up in horror at the idea of a ten-minute meditation. If you’re one of them, then at first glance I appreciate this may sound like the equivalent of a ready-cooked- mi-crowavable meal. But examine the intentions of mind training a little more closely, and you’ll see that the idea of “little and often” makes a great deal of sense. We need to be flexible, adaptive and responsive in our approach to meditation. It’s all well and good to sit perfectly still for an hour, but if you’re unable to maintain your awareness for all that time, then little benefit will come from it. And what about the other twenty-three hours of the day? Like so many things in life, when it comes to meditation it’s about quality rather than quantity. Start by taking just ten minutes. If you find it easy, want to do more and have the time, then great. But there are still many benefits to be had from simply sitting for ten minutes a day. Even if I ignore all the anecdotal benefits that I’ve heard and seen over the years, there’s now substantial scientific evidence (which you’ll notice throughout the book) to support the health benefits of short, regular, daily meditation sessions.
What is headspace? If mindfulness is the ability to be present, to rest in the moment whatever you’re doing, and meditation is the best way of learning that skill, then “headspace” could be considered the outcome. I’m using the word in the broadest possible context here. In fact, many people might choose to use the word “happiness” instead. The problem with the word “happiness” is it tends to get confused with the emotion of happiness. Don’t get me wrong, having fun, enjoying yourself, laughing and smil- ing are wonderful aspects of life. Who wouldn’t want to experience more of these things? But life’s not continually like that. Stuff happens. And that “stuff” is not al- ways nice. As much as we try to ignore the fact, life can be difficult, stressful, upsetting and even painful at times. So the type of happiness that just comes and goes dependent on our circumstances and mood is too temporary, too unstable, to offer us any lasting sense of calm or clarity. That’s why I prefer the word “headspace.” It describes an underlying sense of peace, a feeling of fulfillment or unshakeable contentment, no matter what emotion might be in play at that time. Headspace is not a quality of mind dependent on sur- face emotions; this means it can be experienced just as clearly in periods of sad- ness or anger as it can in times of excitement and laughter. Essentially it’s “being okay” with whatever thoughts you’re experiencing or emotions you’re feeling. That’s why meditation feels so good, often even the very first time. It doesn’t (necessarily) leave you rolling around in laughter or swinging from the chandeliers, but it leaves you with the sense of having touched upon that underlying sense of contentment, that place where you just know that everything is okay. The conse- quences of this can be life changing. This distinction between headspace and the emotion of happiness is an important one. For some reason we’ve come to believe that happiness should be the default setting in life and, therefore, anything different is somehow wrong. Based on this assumption we tend to resist the source of unhappiness—physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s usually at this stage that things get complicated. Life can begin to feel like a chore, and an endless struggle to chase and maintain that feeling of happiness. We get hooked on the temporary rush or pleasure of a new experience, whatever that is, and then need to feed it the whole time. It doesn’t matter whether we feed it with food, drink, drugs, clothes, cars, relationships, work, or even the peace and quiet of the countryside. If we become dependent on it for our happi- ness, then we’re trapped. What happens when we can’t have it any more? And what happens when the excitement wears off? For many, their entire life revolves around this pursuit of happiness. Yet how many people do you know who are truly happy? And by that I mean, how many people do you know who have that unshakeable sense of underlying headspace? Has this ap- proach of chasing one thing after the next worked for you in terms of giving you headspace? It’s as if we rush around creating all this mental chatter in our pursuit of temporary happiness, without realizing that all the noise is simply drowning out the natural headspace that is already there, just waiting to be acknowledged. During my travels in India I met with a man called Joshi. He was one of those people who is instantly likeable. He started talking to me as I was waiting for a bus one day. As anyone who’s been to India will tell you, that can be a long wait, espe- cially in the mountains. We got on well and had a few mutual interests—the most notable being meditation. Over the next few weeks we spent more time talking and sharing our experiences. Each day Joshi weaved into the conversation just a little bit more about his life. A few years before we met, Joshi had lived with his wife and four children. Because neither his parents or in-laws were particularly wealthy, they also lived with the fam- ily. Joshi said that although it had been a very crowded house back then, it had also been a very happy one. But not long after his wife had returned to work, having had their fourth baby, she was tragically killed in a road accident. Her parents and her newborn child were with her in the car at the time. It was a very serious accident and there were no survivors. As I think back to Joshi telling me this story, it still brings tears to my eyes. He said that the pain had been unbearable, that he hadn’t been able to face the world, that all he wanted to do was to retreat within himself and hide away at home. But his parents reminded him that he still had three chil- dren who needed his care and support, and that what they needed most of all was a father who was there for them. So Joshi threw himself into looking after the chil- dren and giving them his undivided attention whenever he could. A few months later the monsoon arrived and with it came the typical floods in that region of the country. As a result there was a lot of standing water in the area and the incidence of disease shot up dramatically. Along with many other children in the village, Joshi’s children got very ill. His mother also became unwell. Within two weeks, all three children and his mother had died. His mother had been weak be- forehand and passed away quickly. The children had been stronger, but not so strong that they could fight off the illness. Within three short months this one man had lost his wife, his mother, his children, and his in-laws. His father was the only survivor in his entire family. Unable to live in the same house that had witnessed so much tragedy, Joshi went to stay with his friends. His father, unable to leave the house that he had always called home, remained to look after it. Within just a few days of moving, Joshi received the news that his house had burned down, with his father seemingly trapped inside. Joshi said he still wasn’t sure whether it had been an accident or whether his father had decided that he was simply unable to go on. As I heard this story unfold I felt increasingly ashamed of my grumbling, moaning and complaining in life—of always wanting things to be exactly as I wanted them to be, and not being satisfied unless I got my way. How could I get so upset about the train being late, or being woken up in the middle of the night, or a disagreement with a friend? Here was a man who had suffered in a way that I could only ever imagine, and yet who still seemed to have this extraordinary sense of calm and presence about him. I asked him what he’d done since losing his family and he de- scribed how he’d moved to this new area. He said that having no family, no home and no money had forced him to think very differently about life. In the end he’d chosen to live in a meditation center, where he spent most of his time. I asked whether he thought that his time spent meditating had changed the way he felt about what had happened. He replied that it hadn’t changed the way he felt, but had instead changed his experience of those feelings. He said that while he still felt a great sense of loss and sadness at times, he perceived it differently. He described how he’d found a place beneath those thoughts and feelings where there was a sense of peace, of stillness and of calm. He said that it was the one thing that could never be taken away from him, that no matter what else happened to him in life, he would always have this place within himself to return to. While this may be an extreme example, life will inevitably serve up challenges for all of us, situations we wish were different or would prefer to be otherwise (although hopefully none so tragic as the story of Joshi). Meditation can’t change that, nor can anything else for that matter. It’s part of being human, of living in this world. Sometimes there’ll be external situations that require change, that might even de- mand change, and you’ll need to handle these situations skillfully, with mind- fulness. But when it comes to the way you think and feel about those situations, the starting point is to acknowledge that it’s the mind itself that defines your expe- rience. This is why training the mind is so important. By changing the way in which you see the world, you effectively change the world around you. I think often this point is misunderstood and people feel as though they have to give up their dreams and ambitions in life in order to practice meditation. But that’s not the case at all. There is something inherently human about striving to achieve something, and having a sense of purpose and direction in life is vital. But, if anything, meditation can be used to clarify and support that purpose, because what the practice will show you, in a very direct way, is that a lasting sense of happiness and sense of headspace is not dependent on these things. This will allow you to live with a greater sense of freedom and ease, confident in where you’re heading in life and yet not so attached to the outcome that an unexpected obstacle or unfavorable outcome will result in heartbreak and loss. It is a subtle yet profound shift in perspective.
The need for headspace When was the last time you sat down, completely still, undistracted and undis- turbed, with no television, music, books, magazines, food, drink, phone, com- puter, friends, family, or something you needed to think about or resolve in your own mind? If you’ve never looked at anything like meditation before, then my guess is probably never. Because usually, even if we’re just lying in bed, we still tend to be involved in the thought process. So for many people, the idea of doing absolutely nothing sounds at best boring and at worst positively frightening. In fact, we’re so busy doing stuff the whole time that we no longer have any reference point for what it means to be still, simply resting the mind. We’ve become addicted to “doing stuff,” even if it’s just thinking. So it’s not surprising that sitting still without distractions can feel a little alien at first.
Exercise 1: not doing
Try it now. Without moving from where you’re sitting, just close the book and place it in your lap. You don’t need to sit in any particular way, but just gently close your eyes and sit for a minute or two. It’s no problem if lots of thoughts pop up, you can let them come and go for now, but see what it feels like to sit still, not doing anything, for just a minute or two. How was it? Perhaps it felt very relaxing to do nothing. Or perhaps you felt the need to “do” something, even if it was doing something within the exercise itself. Maybe you felt the urge to focus on something, to keep yourself occupied in some way. Don’t worry, it’s not a test, and there’ll be plenty to keep you occupied when we get on to the meditation in the next section. But I think there’s something bene- ficial, even at this early stage, in noticing the habit or desire to do something the whole time. If you didn’t experience the urge to do something, then you might like to try the exercise again, but this time for a few minutes longer. Now I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with watching television, lis- tening to music, having a drink, going shopping or hanging out with friends. On the contrary, these are all things to be enjoyed. It’s just useful to recognize that they facilitate a certain amount of temporary happiness, rather than a lasting sense of headspace. Have you ever finished work for the day feeling really strung out with a busy mind? Perhaps you decided to just “switch off” for the evening and watch a bit of television to make yourself feel better. If the program was really good and you were fully distracted, then it might have felt as though it gave you a break from all those thoughts. But if it was not very interesting, or had lots of ads, it will probably have created just enough space for those thoughts to arise every now and then. Ei- ther way, when the program finished, there’s a pretty good chance that all those thoughts and feelings will have flooded back again. Sure, they may not have come back with the same intensity, but they are likely to have been there in the back- ground none the less. And this is how most people live their lives, moving from one distraction to the next. When they’re at work they’re too busy, too distracted, to be aware of how they really feel, so when they get home they’re suddenly confronted by lots of thoughts. If they manage to keep themselves occupied during the evening, then they may not even become aware of these thoughts until they go to bed at night. You know how it goes, you put your head on the pillow and it appears as though the mind suddenly goes into overdrive. Of course, the thoughts have been there all along, it’s just that without any distractions you become aware of them. Or it can be the other way around. Some people have such busy social lives or family lives that it’s not until they get to work that they become aware of just how frazzled they feel, of all the thoughts racing around in the mind. All these distractions affect our ability to concentrate, perform and live at any- where near our optimum level. Needless to say, if the mind is always racing from one thought to the next, then our ability to focus will be seriously impaired.
Exercise 2: the senses
Take another two minutes to do this short exercise. As before, stay sitting exactly as you are right now. After putting the book down in your lap, gently focus on one of the physical senses, preferably sound or sight at this stage. I’d recom- mend using background sounds and closing your eyes, but as sounds can be a little unpredictable at times, you might prefer to keep your eyes open and gaze at a particular object in the room instead, or perhaps a point on the wall. Which- ever sense you choose, try focusing on it for as long as possible, but in a very light and easy way. If you get distracted by thoughts or other physical senses, simply bring your attention back to the object of focus and continue as before. How did you find it? Were you able to focus on it quite easily, or did you find your mind kept wandering off with other thoughts? How long did it take before you got distracted? Maybe you found you were able to maintain a vague sense of aware- ness but were thinking about other things at the same time. As unlikely as it may sound, for many people focusing on an object for even one minute is quite an achievement. When you think how long you need to focus on your work, or looking after your family, perhaps listening to a friend, or even driving a car, only being able to focus for such a short period of time can be quite a worry.
Hostage to technology As if we didn’t already have enough ways of avoiding what’s going on in our minds, we now have e-mails and social media routed to our phones so we can be truly distracted all day. As convenient as that may be, it means that now even the slight- est feeling of boredom or restlessness is a trigger to get online and keep busy. Take a moment to think about it. What’s the first thing you do each day? Is it checking your e-mails? Perhaps sending messages on Facebook, interacting with friends or work colleagues through Twitter? And what’s the last thing you do at night before going to sleep? If the research is accurate, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be doing at least one of these things at either end of the day, if not all of them. It’s pretty hard to switch off when you’re permanently plugged in. I read a story in the newspaper about a man who’d become so addicted to tech- nology, so terrified that he might miss something important or perhaps offend someone by not replying to them, that he’d taken to sleeping with his smartphone on his chest. Not only that, but he also took his laptop to bed with him and slept with it by his side—actually in the bed. This is a married man (at least at the time of writing) who shares the bed with his wife. The irony is that he had such a flood of electronic data flowing into his life, that despite taking his computer to bed, he still managed to somehow miss an e-mail in which he was offered $1.3 million for his company that he’d put up for sale. This may be an extreme example, but pretty much everyone I know complains of feeling overwhelmed by the amount of elec- tronic data in their life. When I was living as a monk I used to think “well just turn it off, don’t use it.” But living out in the world and having now to embrace all these things in my own work, I can see that it’s not as simple as just turning it off or ignoring it. So instead of trying to stop or change it, we need to look at how we can relate to it skillfully and not feel overwhelmed.
Fundamental principles of training the mind That idea brings us back to the fundamental principles of training the mind. Mind- fulness doesn’t require you to change anything. In becoming increasingly aware of your own mind you may find you choose to make some changes in your external life, but that’s entirely up to you. There’s no need to give everything up, or radically change your lifestyle in any way. Dramatic changes like this are rarely sustainable, which is what makes a mindful way of living so achievable. You can keep living as you always have done, if that’s what you want to do. Mindfulness is about learning how to change your experience of that lifestyle. It’s about finding a way to live as you are, but with an underlying sense of fulfillment. And then, if you feel as though you want to make some changes, then of course feel free. The difference is, any changes you make will be sustainable.
Stress The consequence of living such a busy life, with so many responsibilities and choices, is that our bodies and minds are constantly working overtime. Many peo- ple I know say that even when they’re asleep at night it feels as though the cogs just keep on turning. So it’s no coincidence that the rate of stress-related illness has increased at the same time as our lives have become more complicated. For example, the World Health Organization now confirms that depression—a poten- tial downstream complication of stress—is the leading cause of disability world- wide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. People came to the clinic where I worked for all kinds of different reasons, but the symptoms of stress were by far the most common. Sometimes people came along without prompting, at other times they may have gotten a nudge from their partner, family member or friend. Occasionally the symptoms were so bad that their doctor referred them. But mostly these were ordinary people looking to find a way to cope a bit better in life. Perhaps they felt under pressure at work, overwhelmed by family life, tired of obsessive thinking or consistently acting in a way that was causing themselves or others harm. Most of them were simply looking for a little more headspace in their lives. In fact, at the end of the book you’ll find case studies for some of these individuals, who’ve generously agreed to share their experiences. Stress can make us do all kinds of funny things. It can lead to us saying things we wish we hadn’t, doing things we wish we hadn’t. It affects the way we feel about ourselves and the way in which we interact with others. Of course, a certain kind of stress or challenge can leave us feeling fulfilled, having achieved an objective. But too often it tends to spill over into the other (not so useful) kind of stress, and we are left wondering what life is about. This is where the importance of training the mind, of maintaining contact with this underlying sense of fulfillment and happi- ness no matter what’s happening in our lives, can make such a profound differ- ence. This is what it means to have headspace.
Relationships Mindfulness will undoubtedly help you get some headspace and make a difference to your life. That’s probably why you are reading this book in the first place. But there’s another good reason for training in mindfulness. Because, whether we like it or not, we share the world in which we live with other people and, unless we want to live as a solitary yogi or hermit in the mountains, we’re always going to have to interact with others. So who benefits most from your increased sense of headspace? Is it you, or is it the people around you? It’s safe to assume that if you’re in a better place because you’re practicing mindfulness and doing your meditation each day, then you’re going to interact with others in a more positive way as well. This is perhaps the most neglected aspect of mind training. When meditation came from the East to the West, for some reason it quickly became about “me, myself and I.” While this was perhaps inevitable at first, it’s important that we now, as time goes by, have the intention to make it a more altruistic type of training. My guess is that you probably struggle most in life when you are focusing on your own problems, because that’s what we tend to do as humans. We like to obsess, rumi- nate and analyze endlessly. Okay, so we don’t actually like doing it, but it can sometimes feel impossible to stop it. But what happens when you think about someone else’s problems instead? The nature of the internal struggle changes, right? Sure, you might feel sad or upset when you think about their difficulties, but it feels very different from obsessing about your own problems. There’s a shift in perspective. And this is such an important part of training the mind. By focusing less on your own worries and more on the potential happiness of others you actually create more headspace for yourself. Not only that, but the mind becomes softer, more malleable, easier to work with. It tends to be quicker to settle on the object of meditation, less easily distracted by passing thoughts. It also tends to be clearer, more stable and less reactive to volatile emotions. So giving your practice an altruistic edge is about so much more than simply doing the right thing. It should come as no surprise that the impact this simple skill can have on your relationships with others is quite profound. In becoming more aware of everything and everyone, you inevitably become more aware of others. You start to notice how sometimes you might unintentionally (or even intentionally) push their buttons, or notice what causes them to push yours. You start to listen to what they’re actually saying, rather than thinking about what you’d like them to say or what you’re going to say next. And when these things begin to happen you’ll notice that your relation- ships with others really start to change. But so long as we’re immersed in our own thoughts the whole time, it’s very difficult to truly find time for others.
The three components of mind training Traditionally, meditation was never practiced alone. It was always part of a broader system of mind training. More specifically, meditation was just one part of three key aspects. The first part of the training would be understanding how to approach the technique. This means discovering the dynamics of the mind and how it’s likely to behave when you practice the technique. Only then would you be introduced to the actual meditation techniques. But there was a third aspect too. Having gained a sense of familiarity with the technique, the emphasis would be on the integration of that quality of mind into everyday life. In the rush to bring meditation to the West, two of these aspects have been largely neglected. And without those two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, the essence of meditation is lost. It becomes something isolated from its original context and therefore less effective. It also has considerably less impact on your everyday life. So perhaps it’s no surprise that people have struggled so much with meditation over the years. For meditation to really work, to get the very best from the techniques, it’s vital that all three components are present: how best to approach the techniques, how best to practice the techniques, and how best to integrate the techniques. No one aspect of this jigsaw is more, or less, important than the next. Imagine you’re given a beautiful classic car to look after. Now you’ve never driven a car be- fore, never had any lessons, and the car is so unusual, so rare, that you’re not even too sure what all the different pedals, levers and buttons do. The approach to meditation is like learning how to drive the car. You don’t need to understand all the mechanics under the hood, but you need to know how to operate the various pedals, levers and buttons. You’ll also need to get used to the power of the car, your positioning on the road, and of course to the unpredictability of all the other cars around you. This is the approach. But this is no ordinary car, it’s a classic car, and so it requires that the engine is turned over on a regular basis in order for it to remain healthy, and for it to work at its optimum capacity next time you want to take it for a drive. If you’re not familiar with classic cars then this might sound a little strange, but it’s just what these old engines need once in a while. That’s where the meditation comes in, sitting down each day and without actually taking the car for a ride, you sit there and allow the engine to tick over at its own comfortable pace while you listen to it chugging away, becoming more familiar with how it sounds and how it feels. This is the practice. But then what good is a car if you never take it anywhere? And it’s the same with meditation. The purpose of learning meditation is not so that you can spend your life sitting on your backside with your eyes closed, but to integrate that familiarity of awareness into other areas of your life. This is the integration. This means there are two different ways of using meditation. One is the “aspirin” approach, as I like to call it. We go out, lead busy lives, get stressed, need some- thing to make us feel better afterward, and so do some meditation. Feeling better, refreshed, we then go out again, lead busy lives again, get stressed again, until we once more need something to make us feel better. There’s nothing wrong with this approach—in fact, you may well get considerable headspace from it, but it’s limited when compared to the second approach, which works to integrate that same quality of mind into the remainder of your life. The amount of time most people are able to dedicate toward the practice of seated meditation is but a fraction of the day. The great thing about applying mindfulness to the rest of the day is that it doesn’t require you to take any more time out, or to change your schedule in some way. In fact, you can just keep on doing exactly what you had planned. The difference is not in the activity, but the way in which you di- rect your mind while doing those things.
Free ebook The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day
“For years, I was a skeptic about meditation. Now I do it as often as I can — three times a week, if time allows. Andy’s book and the app he created, Headspace, are what made me a convert,” Gates wrote on his blog.
As a former Buddhist monk with over 10 years of teaching experience, Andy Puddicombe has been acknowledged as the UK's foremost mindfulness meditation expert. Like his readers and students, he began his own meditation practice as a normal, busy person with everyday concerns, and he has since designed a program of mindfulness and guided meditation that fits neatly into a jam-packed daily routine-proving that just 10 minutes a day can make a world of difference. Simple exercises, stories and techniques culled from Andy's years of experience will help anyone calm the chatter in their minds. The result? More headspace, less stress.
Get Some Headspace
also brings us the extraordinary science behind this seemingly simple cure-all. This book and practice will help readers positively impact every area of their physical and mental health through mindfulness, from productivity and focus, to stress and anxiety relief, sleep, weight-loss, personal relationships...and the list goes on and on.
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