Extract from the first few pages:
I worked for many years as a consultant, first in environmental planning then as a business advisor in food supply chains. Like many people, I was anxious about getting the work done on time and well enough, and keeping a steady flow of income. There were often difficulties in relationships with managers or staff, and I often felt under-valued and unmotivated.
Whilst I made a living, life was just not satisfying and the dissatisfaction was spilling over into my social life. I blamed everything but myself for how I felt. Then I was made redundant from a senior position. It was a real shock, and I realised that I needed to re-evaluate my whole approach to work. I became self-employed and started to get creative.
At about this time, I started meditating. The more I practised, the more I realised that my stress at work was easing off. It was not that the external stress factors were any less; I just took it less personally, kept a wider perspective, and was more tolerant. As a result, I became more at ease, more confident, and more resilient. My work improved, and so did my interactions with colleagues and clients.
With more confidence in my values, and feeling more enlivened, I helped establish several ethical enterprises and have now advised over 150 businesses, government agencies, third sector organisations and local authorities.
At home, my practice has been a critical support for some very challenging family issues, teaching me how to bring tolerance and love into personal difficulties; and of course, I’m still learning!
After about 12 years of personal practice I trained, and started to teach, mindfulness.
So I’ve now brought together these two strands – the business advice and mindfulness, into my training company, Mindful Work. I help organisations to reduce employee stress, thus improving productivity and workplace happiness.
Whilst my training delivery is secular, practical and business-focused, it has solid foundations. I have over 20 years meditation training in the Buddhist tradition, and in 2017 I was ordained in the lineage of Namgyal Rinpoché. This ordination is in effect a life-long commitment to work for the benefit all beings, and to follow a code of ethical conduct.
I meditate every day and attend regular long retreats, including teachings from Tibetan masters such as Mingur Rinpoché, and I try my best to integrate my values and kindness into everyday actions.
So, my personal journey in mindfulness has taken a route I did not expect. It has helped me though difficult times, enriched my daily life enormously and put everything into perspective. I want to share that with as many people as possible.
How to use this book
This book is a collection of essays, many of which first appeared as blog articles on my website or in the Huffington Post.
They progress from generic reflections to more focused ways to apply the wisdom of mindfulness in daily life. Towards the end are some simple practice guides.
Feel free to dip in to the articles in any order, and take the time to reflect on them in terms of your own life.
However, don’t think that by reading, watching videos and dipping into mindfulness apps in a random way you will make a real and lasting difference. It may be interesting and informative, but real and lasting change comes only with regular, sustained practise.
Start with an 8-week course, and then find a way to keep the practice going. There are some ‘techniques’ around that will be useful, but you’ve spent decades creating the edifice that you call ‘me’ and it will take years to permanently reshape it. Don’t expect a quick fix.
But it is worth the effort. The prize is enjoying and finding more meaning in life, in each moment, rather than waiting and striving for it all to come together at some point in the future.
There are two things I want to say before you read on.
The first is that mindfulness practice is, and should be, simple. Don’t overcomplicate it or try to think your way into it. Just allow yourself to be informed by direct (especially sensory) experience.
The second point I want to make is that all of us, without exception, have a clear, calm, spacious baseline nature of mind. Okay, there may be a lot of junk in there obscuring this truth. But you will discover your own sense of calm spaciousness at some point, and when you get even the smallest glimpse of it, you will be inspired to seek more.
The path leads here
Whatever paths and spiritual journeys we may take, the only destination is right here, right now. The answer to our quest for understanding is right in front of our face, if only we could see it.
This is the great secret. It’s so simple that we don’t notice it. It’s like the story of the fish:
One day, a fish was swimming around, much like every other day. He did his chores, ate, swam with the shoal, cheekily dipped a fin at an attractive she-fish, and opened his gills to catch the oxygen, as usual. This day, everything was calm, and his mind was still and open. Quite suddenly he noticed something that changed everything – yet changed nothing at all. He noticed the water.
In the same way, there comes a point in meditation practice when we realise that Awareness exists beyond ‘my’ awareness, and that it is has always been present. When this insight comes, life transforms. Nothing changes. We still have to get up, deal with family, work, breathe, eat, go to the loo, sleep. There are still bad times and good times, life and death, mediocre and amazing coffees. At the same time our perspective alters, and that changes everything. We know that we are no longer, and never have been, separate from Existence itself – an unchanging field of infinite possibility.
When this becomes apparent, we understand that everything we perceive, feel and think is no more than a temporary appearance in the mind. And that our mind has a space-like, infinite, non-judging and timeless quality.
Happily, this realisation is not difficult to come by. We just have to create the right conditions and one day, the truth quite unexpectedly appears. The core conditions for its discovery are to be in a relaxed, yet alert state and to take the approach that it’s not about ‘me’.