The emerging fad in health and wellness is mindfulness. The fact that it has become faddish is unfortunate because consumers are cautious about fads. As with all fads, claims are made about the ‘body of evidence’ supporting it’s efficacy. Testimonials abound, and everybody is an expert. So what makes the EAP approach different? Our understanding of mindfulness.
At EAP we understand that when you are being mindful you remember that you have a choice between the programming and habits that sees you function 95% of the time subconsciously and being aware of the other options that exist, which foster wellbeing. From that you can deduct that enhanced awareness is a precursor to actually being mindful. Without new awareness you resort to your habits and programming. That means that you keep getting the same outcomes, which invariably result in some form of dis-ease in how you experience relationships, employment and health.
For many of us when the dis-ease coalesces into disease, which equates to emotional, physical and psychological pain, we then, and only then look for a remedy. Since our Western approach to finding a cure is highly influenced by the ‘medical model’, we naturally find ourselves resorting to drugs and surgery as the means for easing our pain. The reliance on this approach has contributed to health care costs and social welfare costs (the knock-on effect of relying on the ‘medical model’) becoming so exorbitant that global economies are struggling to balance their budgets. Here in Australia, these two budget items alone are responsible for the deficits that are blowing out the national debt.
Getting back to mindfulness – having become aware of an alternative approach and having developed strategies that make it possible to implement that approach, your are now in a position to make a choice; habits and programming or the new strategies. Of course having a choice requires more information, that being what the impact of the alternatives are and how they serve you and others, both short term and long term.
When I use the words ‘how it serves’ I am really saying, ‘How is this loving to myself and to others?” “How will this thought, these words, this action benefit me and others?” This, and the development of strategies that emerged from the new awareness are the pragmatic part of mindfulness. In terms of neural plasticity you are beginning to develop a new neural pathway. Each time you stay mindful by remembering your choices, you justify the existence of the new neural pathway.
This is how mindfulness is beneficial. It takes the new awareness and strengthens the neural pathway. Of course as it strengthens, the old pathway, the habits and programming from your formative years, weakens and through synaptic pruning, the pathway deteriorates. Over time, the need for choice becomes obsolete since the new neural pathway is all that exists. This would suggest that there is no longer a role for mindfulness, however, to maintain the awareness of how to be loving to myself and others brings a new level of choice, which is deciding how to approach being benevolent. Benevolence is acting in a loving way that serves you, others and the planet. More about that in the next blog.
I am saying that there is a time in the practice of being mindful where your default awareness has shifted from your story and its associated habits and programs, to how your choices best serve yourself and others. This sees the emergence of compassion. In this place, your default awareness is compassion and benevolence. This level of awareness means that you can see the suffering of others as well as yourself and are moved by compassion to act benevolently. Check out this delightful link about where compassion comes from. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4a66aFaIME
In my next blog in this series I will be exploring how gratitude helps to shift the default in mindfulness from our story to compassion. This sustained compassionate awareness results in a life devoted to benevolence.
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