Being mindful through coronavirus

Ondy Willson is a mindfulness practitioner and will deliver webinars for ACEVO members in the next few weeks. Please keep an eye on ACEVO’s webinars page and upcoming Leader to Leader newsletters for more information.

“When life throws us lemons, make lemonade”. This sounds simplistic but it is the basic premise for mindfulness training – that we have a choice how to respond to anything. But before we can make lemonade, we need to know how. In the same way, if we want good mental health then mindfulness training provides the recipe and methodology.

To manage our minds we need to know its nature. If we understand that our minds are like streams flowing continually, collecting all kinds of muck and rubbish – bad habits that pollute us with negative and destructive attitudes – we can get a clearer idea of how to clean up our acts. Just like we can clean up the rivers before they become clogged up and poisoned we can apply mindfulness psychology to prevent burnout, break down and despair.

Let’s time-travel back to pre-virus living, a time when you weren’t thinking about imminent death or ruin. Remember that state of mind? It wasn’t so long ago that we were planning holidays, new jobs, relationships as if we had control over our lives. Even though we know that through experience we do not have control over anything. Yesterday’s mind seems like freedom now….another reality!

Without understanding how the mind operates and how crucial it is to our happiness, we will never have control over our wellbeing. Life will toss us around and without knowledge of our minds and mindfulness, our mental and emotional states will torture us. Not waving but drowning. When we understand this, there is an immediate experience of release because it just makes sense. There is a way out! It is not reliant on belief or even science, but on our own experience. We become our own therapists – guides to inner peace.

We can make changes to our mental continuums that could last us through the rest of our lives, while giving nature the break it has been begging for.

I frequently find with my work that people want mindfulness when there are problems. When they feel they have overcome their problems or they have gone away they return to their old ways of living, repeating the patterns that created their problems in the first place. They will say, “I’m all right now. Thanks!” And I won’t see them again. Maybe some time later they will reappear when another big problem arises.

There is an attitude to use Mindfulness like an Elastoplast, and ignore that its psychology gets to the root cause of our illness. Like children, we want our wounds licked better, and then we jump off the lap of our carer to play again, as carelessly as we did before.

Maybe this mega-lesson is about recognising that good psychology is much like a new puppy…it’s for life, not just for Christmas! Managing the mind takes perseverance and an honest relationship with ourselves. That needs sustained practice and support.

The root of Mindfulness Psychology is Buddhist teachings, of which there are said to be 84,000. I still listen to the basics and teach them after 40 years of first hearing them. That’s because I‘ve got an ego the size of an iceberg….before it started melting… and every time I hear them they chip another little bit of that cold self-centred rock away.

We can make a radical change to our minds and the way we live. Our amygdala will be lighting up inside our brains and sending it out to protect and benefit others. So let’s try to be healthier externally and, more importantly, internally.

Our streams of consciousness can become fertile rivers for wisdom and compassion to flow in and out to others.

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