Wherever you look these days, mindfulness and meditation are being hailed as cure-alls, from reducing stress and anxiety to reducing blood pressure and even managing chronic pain. According to the Health and Safety Executive, stress accounted for 37% of all work-related ill health cases in 2015/16.
‘You work in a museum!’ I can hear you cry – ‘what on earth have you got to be stressed about?’ Whilst we work in an undeniably lovely environment, it’s still a normal workplace with all the ebbs and flows of office life. And as the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Rather than waiting until you crash and burn, surely it’s better to find out how to manage stress in the first place?
Luckily, we’ve got a forward thinking Senior Management Team who value the wellbeing of their staff. For the past six weeks, we’ve been attending a weekly, one-hour class at the museum run by Mick Timpson, founder of Be and Do.
An architect by trade, Mick is also a yoga teacher and has been practicing yoga and meditation for over 20 years. Be and Do run meditation and mindfulness workshops for businesses and schools, unlocking creativity through meditation, reducing stress and increasing output and productivity.
I went along with an open mind, but I was still a bit dubious at first. Could regular meditation really result in random burst of joy at unexpected moments? Why was this man in a polo neck getting us to take our shoes off and close our eyes? And why did he smile all the time?
Knowing next to nothing about meditation, I was relieved to hear that we didn’t have to do anything too out of the ordinary. Meditation isn’t about changing your beliefs or your lifestyle. Put simply, meditation is the art of ‘looking in a special way’.
The six-week course is designed to gently ease you into meditation, so that by the end of it you’re meditating like a true yogi. Each session was an hour long, which was a welcome break in the middle of a busy day. As Mick is keen to stress, meditation isn’t about stopping your thoughts – that’s impossible. It’s more about learning to slow down your thoughts and not react to them when you’re meditating. To simply let them ‘be’. The amount of time you spend meditating is slowly built up too, so by the end of the course you’re meditating for 15 minutes at a time, and it feels effortless.
So, have I been smiling more at strangers? Is my enemy now my friend? Have I also started wearing black polo necks like Mick?
I can honestly say that these sessions have had a hugely positive impact on my daily life. I’m someone who reacts quickly to most things, which is great for delivering a killer one-liner or for winning a game of Articulate, but less ideal when I lose my temper or get upset over a trivial matter. The sessions with Mick have inspired me to start incorporating short meditation sessions into my daily life, which have definitely helped to reduce my overall stress levels and, I think, made me a happier person.
Now, where’s my polo neck?