This is a third party post that was originally published on alumniUBC's blog. See the original post here
Last night a group of 45 UBC alumni gathered in Vancouver’s historic gas town community to engage in learning and discussion about mindfulness and how the simple act of paying attention can transform your life. The event featured Anita Cheung, a proud UBC alumna and registered yoga therapist and Hiroko Demichelis, a registered Clinical Counsellor and expert in neuro-psycho-physiology. Anita and Hiroko are co-owners of Moment, a mediation and mindfulness company. Moment is shifting the way we view meditation and mindfulness by making it accessible and relevant to modern day.
The event was held at the Kit and Ace flagship store as part of the alumni UBC Your Next Step career development series. Interactive and engaging, this session certainly gave us pause. The presenters used a blend of storytelling, metaphor, experiential learning and science to help participants understand the value of being mindful.
Anita began by encouraging the group to interact and led us in a simple activity which helped us power down. Everyone was given a pencil and a card with a large circle. The instruction was to draw as many circles as we could inside the bigger circle, focusing intently on the act of drawing the circle and the feeling of pencil to paper. Afterwards we were led in a short breathing meditation. In the debrief that followed, many participants shared about feeling relaxed and aware despite being distracted by their own thinking.
So what’s an aspiring meditator to do about the innumerable thoughts constantly racing across our neurological landscape?
Hiroko explained how our thoughts impact us, and how negative thought patterns manufacture stress. Our fears of what might occur, the anxiety of impending doom, these psychological states actually produce the same response as if the perceived disaster had already occurred. The result is that our prefrontal cortex, the place where rational decision making happens, is inhibited, which not only hinders our performance but also robs us of our wellbeing.
The aim of mindfulness is not to fear our thoughts or to try to avoid negative thinking. Mindfulness, Hiroko explained, allows us optimal allocation of brain resources. In our career, this translates to increased productivity and performance. In all areas of our lives, it produces calm, happiness, and focus.
But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. Press pause and get curious about what happens next. And don’t worry about getting it “wrong.” Anita and Hiroko were very clear on this point. Meditation is not about getting it right, it’s about willingness, engagement, and being with what is. In this way, we cultivate the ability to “not run after each negative thought,” to remain grounded and empowered, even in the face of adversity. This is a vital skill, both in work and in life.