Mindful Science – Mindfulness
What happens when Psychologist interviews Mindfulness Expert?
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Interviewer – Beata Justkowiak, Psychologist and Life Coach
Mindfulness Expert – Pierre Gagnon, Mind Trainer at Thanyapura, Phuket
Beata: I was reading a lot about mindfulness and how helpful this practice is. Pierre, could you tell me what does mindfulness mean to you?
Pierre: Mindfulness is the capacity to come back to the moment. We are mindful whenever we are aware of what is happening in the mind, whether it is a sound, a sight, a body sensation or a thought. We stop being mindful when we are engaged in compulsory thinking. Then we are not the observer of our thoughts but instead, we become our thoughts.
B: So it’s not a way to stop thinking or in other words having a quiet mind where you focus on deep breathing all the time, is it?
P: Mindfulness is not about achieving a state of perfection where thinking is totally absent. It is not about living in a cave where you experience a pure state of bliss all the time. It is about knowing what is happening in the moment. If it is anxiety, so be it, observe anxiety in the moment. Observe it from the perspective of the body. Not observing A-N-X-I-E-T-Y as a word or a thinking phenomena but as a sensation lived in the moment. What is anxiety in the moment, it is a tension in the jaw, shoulders are up, the body gets warmer, the heart beat increases, the breath gets shorter… These are all interesting phenomena to observe. The thinking process traps us in rigidity. Yesterday I was anxious, I am anxious today and I will be tomorrow. I am trapped. From a perspective of mindfulness of the body experience, anxiety is unproblematic and allows me to get interested in this very fascinating experience lived in the moment.
B: What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation? Is it a very passive practice?
P: Mindfulness is included in meditation but we think that we have to sit on a cushion crossed legged to be mindful or to experience the benefit of mindfulness. It can’t be further from the truth. Mindfulness can be a very active process. It is like becoming the observer of this beautiful dance that life puts in front of our eyes all the time. Instead of being numbed by concepts or thinking that we believe in, we become an interested and active observer of the miracle happening in front of us all the time.
B: In many conversations I often hear ‘just suppress what you feel and deal with it’. For me, from a psychological perspective, it sounds unhealthy. What would you say about it?
P: One of the most damaging perception when it comes to mindfulness meditation is that we should suppress what we feel. Suppression is disastrous and can have catastrophic consequences in life. Mindfulness meditation wants us to be totally aware of our emotions, feelings and body sensations without reacting to them but observing them and choosing how to act. Mindfulness gives us these few seconds before we act, think or talk. It makes us really aware of the situation and allows us to acknowledge what is happening and then come up with the best action available. It’s a world of difference compare to reacting to a situation that often repeats old behavioral patterns. When mindful we become free to act, talk or think differently. We are far from a world of suppression.
B: I would love to hear how you apply mindfulness in your daily life. You practice so much, you probably never get angry any more, do you?
P: The path of mindfulness meditation is not a path of perfection but more a path that allows us to live without anxiety with our imperfections. Life is not always a cakewalk and anger, sadness, guilt will cross our life, it’s unavoidable. When faced with these difficult emotions, I do my best in the moment to observe them from a physiological perspective instead of falling into a world of concepts and thoughts. I observe them in my body. I find it gives me a great flexibility on how I am going to react to them. I am not obliged to be what I was yesterday anymore. I can act in a more creative way to what is happening to me. In a way I allow myself to change. I am not anymore caught in a dictatorship of thoughts but instead experience what is happening to me in the moment. It’s for me a very freeing experience that allows all of us to change. We can live in the body instead of our thoughts. The body is more than a bag of meat, it has a lot of wisdom, we should come back to it more often.
B: What are the best ways to start being more mindful? Do we need to attend monthly classes or a few week training would be enough? What’s the best approach?
P: To be mindful is not difficult, what is difficult is to remember to be mindful. Classes, seminars, short retreats have the possibility to create new habits in a reasonable amount of time. Through discussions, people can experience insights that will allow them to realize the importance of coming back to the moment. Once we know why we do something, it becomes important and we integrate it in our life.
B: Thanks Pierre for being here and introducing us to your passion! What would be one sentence you’d like to send to our readers?
P: To be mindful allows us to feel happiness in the little things that we too often ignore in our daily life. Mindfulness is the ultimate root of happiness.
Pierre Gagnon, repentant economist, passionate mindfulness meditation teacher. Craves endorphins generated by boot camps and tennis. Enjoys smiling at people. Loves to see people’s lives transformed by mindfulness practice. Meet him at Thanyapura
Beata Justkowiak, ex athlete, qualified psychologist and passionate Life Coach. Addicted to colourful smoothies and dark chocolate. She lives to make the change happen, and helps others find their own way of managing life’s challenges. Always full of energy, always active 😉 Living healthy lifestyle, she’s a big fan of a long walks (with Fury – the beagle), kitesurfing, and smiling to everyone.