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Mindfulness and meditation for sceptics

Nov 23, 2022 | Insights

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Learning mindfulness and how to meditate away your thoughts and be present with your feelings can have powerful and positive results.
The other day I was due at a breakfast workshop in Harrogate. I called into the office briefly before continuing my journey, carelessly taking up two parking spaces and thinking that no one would mind at that hour of the morning. I returned to my car a few minutes later, only to find it blocked in by my next-door neighbour’s car.

Already running late, I stormed into his shop to ask him to move it, at which point he scolded me for selfish parking. So, late, ashamed and angry, I drove eight miles to Sutton Bank before realising I had no recollection of getting there. Instead, I was consumed with the emotions the incident had generated in me.

“Let the thoughts go; let the feelings be.”

I stopped at Sutton Bank and took a few deep breaths. Then, the words of my mentor George Kinder came back to me: “let the thoughts go; let the feelings be”.

I took his advice and spent a few minutes meditating on and embracing those feelings of anger, shame and humiliation. It worked. Not only did I regain my calm. I felt the energy of the emotions take hold. I realised I needed to talk to my neighbour on my return, which I did, successfully smoothing troubled waters for both of us.

I practice meditation and mindfulness, albeit with some scepticism. Nevertheless, through my experiences and explorations, I have come to conclusions about the effectiveness of each.

“Are you washing the dishes or washing the dishes?”

In my view, mindfulness is all about being present. The late Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh once wrote, “Are you washing the dishes, or washing the dishes?” by which he meant, are you truly present at the kitchen sink?

Or, as I was in the car that day, so full of thoughts and emotions, I was anything but present.

Mindfulness is being fully present in what you are doing. It is the antidote to regrets for the past and fear of the future.

And according to the founder of the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction programme (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zin, mindfulness helps people with stress and anxiety by accepting the present without judgement or criticism.

I argue that mindfulness is a necessary first step to meditation. Let go of the past, the future and the stories they precipitate. My story shows that meditating on your emotions without thoughts can be very effective.

Can mindfulness and meditation help you?

Yes, without a doubt. Even for sceptics, I recommend a few minutes each morning sitting or standing quietly, eyes closed, being present with your breath, the aches, pains and itches of your body and the sounds of the outside world. The practice grounds you in the present and helps you live in the here and now, free from regrets for the past and worries about the future.

And learning how to meditate away your thoughts and be present with your feelings can have powerful and positive results, as I found out at the top of Sutton Bank.


Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash


Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life. London, Piatkus, 2001

Thích-Nhất-Hạnh. The Miracle of Mindfulness : An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation. Boston, Mass., Beacon Press, 2013.

Take it further

I was introduced to MBSR by mindfulness coach Jane Brendan, who now runs Compassionate Cultures, dedicated to harnessing the power of authentic human connection for well-being and performance excellence in organisations. Mindfulness and compassion still lie at the heart of her work.

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The Serenity Prayer

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