It happens every time. Whenever I present on mindfulness to a group or team for the first time, I encounter at least one cynic in the crowd.
Typically, they won’t articulate their disdain for my subject matter out loud. I pick it up in their body language. Their arms are crossed, or their feet are shaking, or perhaps they are rolling their eyes in disgust. Their body language is screaming to me that they do not believe what I am saying.
I love when this happens. It gives me an opportunity to demystify mindfulness. I don’t get bent out of shape because I once thought, much like some of these cynics, that mindfulness is some esoteric, fringe activity that was solely for hippies and new age groupies. I remember telling my wife when she dragged me to my first meditation class years ago, “I don’t need this.”
Now, years later, after seeing what a profound positive impact a daily mindfulness practice has had on my life, I see how wrong I was about this. Everyone needs mindfulness.
In the past decade, there has been a ton of burgeoning research about how mindfulness improves our mental, physical, psychological and emotional states. In my talks, I implore individuals to dig into some of these studies. I also like to challenge the cynics by saying that the only alternative to mindfulness is “mindlessness.”
We are either mindful and intentional about our thoughts and actions or we are not. There is no in-between. We can either let our thoughts and emotions control us and everything we do, or we can learn to be more proactive and responsive to them. When we learn to choose the latter, we are making a conscious decision to be more open and responsive, instead of acting out in a knee-jerk reactive manner to everything we experience.
If for some reason the term “mindfulness” turns you off, see the concept through a similar lens using different names. See it as “emotional regulation,” “impulse control,” “compassion for self and others,” and/ or “emotional intelligence.” These are all by-products of a mindfulness practice.
It has been my experience that people who resist mindfulness the most are the folks who are in need of it the most. However, I never try to force it upon anyone. I realize that dealing with our thoughts and emotions is not always easy. As the old saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
The next time you have a strong urge to resist something that you are not sure about and you find yourself thinking, “I don’t need this,” try asking yourself if you are resisting it for the right reasons, or are you just resisting it because you are afraid to open up to it.
As Alan Watts said, “Both of what we are trying to escape and what we are trying to find are inside ourselves.”
A long-time educator, Greg Graber, teaches mindfulness and meditation to sports teams, schools and various organizations around the world. He has worked with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, LSU, VCU, the University of Memphis, and Mount Saint Mary’s University. He’s been contracted by organizations like the Hilton Worldwide Hotels, Shamrock Foods and the Virginia Department of Corrections. His work has been featured in the New York Times and on ESPN, and he has presented at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.