When a person becomes motivated to improve their physical strength, they often adopt a fairly logical course of action. They usually go to a local gym, begin a strength training routine, and – based on how rigorously they maintain their regimen – eventually witness physical change throughout their body. They will typically see the most change in the areas to which they’re applying the most training stimulus, assuming they have sufficiently recovered from each workout afterward. This is all part of something called General Adaptation Syndrome.
What does a person do when they want to improve their mental strength? How can they augment their attention span? Can they heighten their overall emotional control? Is it possible to smooth out our reactions to all of life’s wacky and wild events?
Can the mind be trained just like the body? It appears that the answer is yes.
Earlier this week I received a mass e-mail from one of my colleagues who teaches math, coaches football and is of similar age to me. A gentle giant of a man, Mr. M. went out on a limb and founded a new and very intriguing social group: the Mindfulness Club. Among the hot topics of our current school year (one which I hope remains at least fairly prominent in the years to come), mindfulness has been addressed and readdressed by a number of prominent faculty members, including our Headmaster.
While it’s important that the “top end” of an organization’s leadership remains sharp and adaptable, I feel that it’s equally crucial that the grassroots level of the team has its own chances to contribute to institutional culture. Mr. M.’s initiative is a perfect example of this kind of this approach and (for what it’s worth), he gets my full kudos for it!
His idea is straightforward enough – the club meets three times a week for fifteen minutes at a time and does one thing: meditates. That’s all it does. In a nice quiet room just off our incredible library, the group (which is still in its early formative stages) eases everyone’s mind into a peaceful silence and away from the chaos of everyday school life. We sit, we breath, we sort out thoughts in our heads, we get up, and finally, we return to the chaos.
Sadly my schedule only permits me to attend the Wednesday sessions; however I’ve already inputted these valuable appointments into my calendar. This is purely an anecdotal observation, but I unquestionably follow through on commitments much more efficiently when they are written down somewhere. I delay less, miss less, and do more this way. It’s a habit that I highly recommend!
This past Wednesday I attended the inaugural meetup of the Club. It was the first time that I’d attempted to meditate in years. Ten minutes of quiet sitting and breathing was ten minutes very well-spent indeed! I walked out of the library in a state of calm and focus. Although the rest of my day proved to be quite challenging, I was encouraged by the immediate effects of my meditation and am looking forward to next Wednesday’s session. Regular engagement (i.e. repetition) is a key ingredient in the general learning process though, thus my goal is to continue to meditate every day until at least the end of the school year so that I can continue to explore the advantages of building a stronger mind.
The more that I read up on the subject, the more logical the decision to commit myself to meditation becomes. As it turns out, there has been a considerable amount of scientific research done on meditation, some of which has been widely profiled in the media. However, it also appears that there are still some improvements that can be made by the scientific community to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that meditation is as beneficial as it seems. I’m optimistic that this will eventually happen!
In the closing lines of his e-mail, Mr. M. left us with a link to a very light, entertaining, and educational TED talk on the topic of mindfulness and meditation – I think it’s worth sharing with you too.
Lastly, for anyone looking for a book that ties in nicely with the idea of becoming more mindful, I can’t recommend this book enough.
Where might this roughly eight week challenge take me? Are you a veteran of meditation? What are your thoughts (slight pun?)…