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Should we be mindful of mindfulness?

Hannah Peck2 Jun 2015Inside Hub Ventures

Marmalade is a platform for social change events that took place in April this year. Not only was it amazing weather but it was a chance to get out of the office for some reflection time (my favourite!). There were a huge number of interesting talks on different social issues to choose from, ranging from food waste to housing to volunteer engagement.

On the Wednesday afternoon of Marmalade, a group of work colleagues were discussing which session we were interested in going to in the afternoon slot, before our train home. We landed on ‘Change the world or change your mind’. The tagline was something along the lines of ‘Why should we be telling people how to live, when we still haven’t figured it out’.

I loved how casual the session was. It was in a room with loads of art surrounding us and hanging from the ceiling. It set a great atmosphere for a relaxed and informal time. There were four incredibly inspirational speakers on the panel. They started off by introducing themselves, saying where they worked and how they had got there. They were asked questions such as ‘how do you avoid working in the fast lane?’, ‘how do you create an atmosphere of wellbeing in your organisation?’, and ‘how do you deal with conflict in your work?’ (in a workplace context; although one of them had worked in conflict zones all over the world!).

The main focus of the session was mindfulness and how it can help people when they are working in such a busy and emotional environment. I find mindfulness an interesting topic as I am very interested in mental health and wellbeing. I am blessed to work in an organisation that really cares about its staff and is very open to allow people to express how they are feeling, whether that be tired, stressed or just a bit down. Having been in two jobs previously in the social impact sector, this is the first time I have heard mindfulness spoken about so regularly.

To me, mindfulness seems to be the buzzword of the moment. I have been in many training sessions where mindfulness is almost ‘preached’, as if it is the sole way to be happy and content. Whilst many other belief systems or practices claim to give you the truth about who you are might be approached with a pinch of salt, mindfulness seems to have slipped through the net. Mindfulness is usually received in a wholly trusting and positive way by everyone, even though many elements of mindfulness are similar to elements of a faith or worldview.

As someone with a faith, I sometimes feel quite sad that mindfulness is taken as the truth, and faith is discounted and not mentioned. For me, feeling content is all about giving everything over to God who carries my burdens for me. This gives me freedom to carry on with day to day life, knowing that my problems aren’t solely mine to deal with. I found the Marmalade session, although very interesting, hard to digest, as panel members spoke about mindfulness in a way as if to say ‘mindfulness IS the answer to our problems’.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against mindfulness or meditation. A lot of my friends practise it. I think that it’s great to spend some time reflecting and getting away from the noise of life. However, I do think that the way mindfulness is approached and talked about needs to be evaluated so as to not make the blanket assumption that everyone does, or should, approach wellbeing from a secular mindset.

Author: Hannah Peck

Hannah is Programmes Office for both Winchester Hub and Southampton Hub, working with and supporting students in both universities.