Thursday, 12 November 2015

Mind Filling

With Rugby World Cup fervor on the wane, I find my attention turning to matters of the minds -- of those rugby players.

I did a quick check on the average individual and pack weights for rugby players between 1971 and today . The players on these international squads are clearly on the big side of the big guys. Average weights have gone from 14 stone 1 (197 pounds) in 1971 to 17 stone 9 (247 pounds) and total "pack weights" from 246 stone 6 (3,450 pounds) to 268 stone 9 (3,761 pounds) in 2015. That's a lot of weight to be throwing around, literally and the last time I checked, brains and bone mass in skulls haven't grown proportionally. Mind numbing.

And that got me thinking about mindfulness and how mainstream our modern pursuit of achieving such a state has gone. After bumping along in the hands of New Age devotees from the '60s and into the '90s, mindful/meditative interventions were next to be found popping up in prisons, the military and sports world before seeping into corporate "wellness" programs. Today, things have morphed into a vastly secular and commercial bonanza. If you put meditation into your search box, Amazon showcases some 1,427,395 items and over 38,000 for mindfulness.
Mindfulness "R" Us. Being so commonplace makes it feel squishier than the brains that hold our thoughts.
The fact that we still have such a limited grasp on the actual workings of the brain makes this clever transfer of Eastern meditation, as a health intervention, more interesting. It has obviously scooped up scores of converts and these people report higher self reported levels of happiness. But when you stop and and think about it, being mindful can also carry a negative connotation -- implying a need to pause for cautious reflection or a "hey you, watch out" kind of feeling.

Conversely, mind fullness is something completely different. Mind fullness is meant to help return us to our humanness, a mutually beneficial symmetry between mind and body. It can last for a moment, the length of a yoga practice or the duration of some course laid on courtesy of your employer. Neuro-physiological gaps notwithstanding, the goal is to find happier, in a space reserved for stripped down, calm introspection. It may not be full-on-self-actualized-nirvana but a little shot of enlightenment does seem to go a long way.

If your goal stretches from enlightenment to personal excellence. there is a concept and methodology called Integral Coaching. It offers a process for ordinary and extraordinary people to bring personal excellence within reach. I recently attended a session with Justin Wise. Justin is the founder of Third Space coaching and writes On Living and Working. His work opens up pathways to stretch people in order to to cultivate curiosity and connections. Notably, he starts with your own heart; otherwise it is impossible to understand what might be going on in someone else's. By asking "What does it mean, to you, to be human?" he starts to unpick. This not so simple question demands that you reach deeply into your personal soundtrack, explore your standards, identify your values and drill down to what truly matters. That's a big ask.

And it seems that everybody is asking these days.

Financial services giant UBS is currently running a campaign called Good Father. One glossy magazine spread shows a pensive, obviously, successful man in his top floor corner-office. The ad asks: "Am I a good father? Do I spend too much time at work? Can I have it all?" Talk about your successful-male-executive-parent-conundrum. Apparently UBS can tell you, provided you will give them all your money.

Or what about Arianna Huffington's epiphany after her total collapse in 2007. She now admits to accepting incompletion in herself, meditates, does yoga and tries to thrive. Thrive happens to be the title of her 2014 book where she looks at our quest for money and power as two legs of a three legged stool. Without the third leg, it will collapse -- like she did so she outlines a third metric for redefining success and creating a happier life.

Even Sir Richard Branson is promoting work-life balance to young entrepreneurs.

Modern life, in our Western context, has programmed us to demand more and better constantly. And short of perfection, we fail to ascribe any value to it. This thwarts our ability to wonder afresh about what might bring each of us to excellence. The best mindfulness, then, is the symmetry of mind and body that can interrupts "normalness." That means looking at places and in directions we're not usually looking. Mind fullness is only possible if you are being a disruption to yourself.

If I were Arne Duncan in the U.S. or Nicky Morgan in the U.K., I would find a way to make tapping into mind fullness a mandatory part of both national curricula. In the here and now, a time of new longevity and the age of no retirement, a mindful path becomes even more essential, across our entire life course.

Returning to sport momentarily, the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research reports that there have been 11 American high school football deaths in the past four months, seven of which were directly related to football trauma. Undeniably tragic but top neuroscientist and groundbreaking inventor, David Eagleman, has developed an app to help high school coaches determine whether one of their players in concussed. Braincheck runs on any tablet and takes 5 minutes to check 12 aspects of brain function and even better, he's offering it for free. Keep that in mind.

And in a study by the Harvard School of Public Health and Alzheimer Europe, Alzheimer's is second to cancer on the list of most most feared diagnosis. Something else to be mindful of.

It still rings true today, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." So go ahead, fill up your mind and feed your head -- in good ways.

A version of this post originally appeared on the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-gale/mind-filling_b_8538146.html - The Blog and is republished with permission.

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