Mindfulness, a modern mind’s ally

Niall Breslin
By Niall Breslin
A retired professional rugby and inter county football player, a multi-platinum selling song writer and music producer, public speaker and documentary maker who comes from the midlands town of Mullingar in Co. Westmeath. Co-Founder of A Lust For Life

If I were to say to you, tomorrow morning, I want you to get out of bed at 7/8am, and I want you to put on some running gear and a pair of runners (button up cause it’s fecking freezing out at the moment), and commence a slow run or jog. Now, I want you to continue running throughout the morning, miss lunch, keep running, don’t stop now, keep going, maybe get a snack in at dinner time, but keep running, I know it hurts, keep going (if still alive), and tomorrow evening at 8 or 9pm stop running.

What do you think would happen? To be fair some of us would probably not be for this world, our knees, hips, ankles, our entire bodies would be on lock down. You wouldn’t be able to walk for days, you’d be dealing with injuries, blisters, incomprehensible exhaustion and pain.

The reality is most of us are asking our minds to do this every single day.

Get up, weld your face into your phone to see who text you at 3 or 4am in the morning, check Sky news to see how shite the world is today, then you pull yourself from the bed, shower, breakfast, drive to work, traffic, arrive in work, concentrate, focus, stress and tension, deadlines, reports, some arsey customer is giving you shit, you come home, weld your face back into an iPad, eat, watch some unrelentingly depressing soap (yes the world can be tough but fuck sake it’s not always a disaster), watch a bit more TV, go back on your iPad, drown in a sea of social media and Amazon (which I have an addiction to), then finally you are in bed and you turn to your loved one and say, “you know what, I find it very hard to switch off at night”………….. Course you do.

Your brain, your mind has been in the red zone (this is when the mind is in hyperactive mode and always ‘on’) from the minute you woke up and hasn’t stopped running until now and you expect it to just jump straight out of the red zone and let you fall asleep.

It took me many years and it seems fairly obvious now but I’m coming to understand that I don’t think our minds are evolving at the same pace as technology is. There is a latency here, where my mind is constantly trying to catch up with technology and the modern world, constantly trying to process phenomenal amounts of information. My mind cannot cope with the bombardment of data that reaches my senses at an unwavering rate. Before I even begin to process one thing, another is colliding into my mind and before you know it, your mind says, no more, fuck off, I can’t take this anymore as the vulture of burnout circles over your head.

It really is not rocket science and many are saying it. If we were all a little more honest with ourselves we could perhaps admit that maybe the modern world and the pace that we are often forced to travel at has become suffocating for many, too overwhelming.

People often ask me “Bressie, do you think there are higher rates of mental health issues now or are people just talking about them more?” Perhaps it’s a mixture of both but I certainly believe the modern world is slowly becoming kryptonite for our minds, but here is the thing – Modernity and the technological evolution that is occurring is like a juggernaut, if you don’t get on board with it, it will simply run you over. This isn’t an article telling you that you should avoid these aspects of the modern world, it’s to make a case for giving something back to your mind and brain so it can have a break every now and then, and chill out, put its feet up and breathe and give the two finger salute to the vultures overhead.

This is where mindfulness comes in.

I’ll be honest, I hated the idea of mindfulness and meditation for many years. Failing to grasp how it could curb and control my anxiety attacks and lift my mood, and the reality is at the start it didn’t. In fact as soon as I concentrated on my breathing, I bloody panicked. I remember saying to a friend who had been meditating for years that I was struggling with it. She said, “Long before Eason’s had books on mindfulness, it existed, there are many ways to engage with it and the key is to understand there is no right or wrong way, just your way, and don’t be so hard on yourself if some sessions are more difficult than others”.

She then said something that I needed to hear, she said “I wouldn’t ask you to run a marathon on one or two training sessions, you simply wouldn’t have the physical fitness, so don’t expect to be able to grasp the mental fitness required after one or two sessions of trying mindfulness, it takes time, it takes habitual commitment and over time it will impact you, if you respect it, give it a chance and be patient”.

I owe her a pint or two I can tell you that. You see for many of us in this struggle we want immediate solutions, but often immediate solutions are not sustainable – so do not be afraid to take the scenic route with mindfulness. Go at your own pace. Find your own path that works for you.

What mindfulness over time began to do for me was to train my mind to come out of its red zone and embrace calmness (the Holy Grail for someone with general anxiety disorder). It allowed me to comprehend the actual meaning of being present, something we hear about a lot, but you know the difference when you really experience it for yourself.

Practicing mindfulness is like getting a really good sports massage to ease the muscles after a tough day’s training. It’s okay to push yourself, challenge yourself, have those tough days but you need to allow yourself those mental sports massages, ease the mind, relax it, let it rest, cause sweet lord your mind does an awful lot for you. Give it some love back.

A Lust for Life is set to publish a 4 week mindfulness program created by Fiona O’Donnell of mindfulness.ie. Here is her introductory article and keep an eye on our site and social networks for Week 1 to Week 4 of her course which will come online every Sunday evening at 8pm for the coming 4 weeks. Hopefully this programme will help some of you engage with mindfulness, but unless you see WHY it’s an important part of your daily life, you probably won’t practise it habitually.

Also, before you decide you want to see what all the fuss is about, ask yourself do you think your mind gets the rest it deserves and absolutely requires?

I am not here as a mindfulness coach, health care professional or to explain the science and research behind mindfulness (which is immensely prevalent). I am simply making a case for why it could be something that could aid you to better deal with the occasional haze and bedlam that can often cloud our minds. The modern mind runs a marathon every day, perhaps see if mindfulness can help make this a little easier for you throughout your day, carry you over the line and then rub down the muscles at the end of it all. Good luck.

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