Although I’m not sure that this book will fit into my pocket (that’s what the tag line is: “Peace In Your Pocket”), it will certainly fit into my bag. And that is where it might be staying for a while. For anyone who has a hectic life, is going through a stressful time, or simply wants to slow down and drink up that little bit more of the world around them, this is the book you need.
So what is mindfulness? Basically, it is being present in this very moment. You don’t let niggling thoughts about the past or the future disrupt your present peace. Mindfulness exercises are designed to increase your awareness of where you are right this minute, usually via focusing your attention onto the breath, or the surroundings we currently exist in. Think living in the moment.
Mindfulness is something I’ve been aware of for a while now, but Padraig O’Morain really just cleared and polished up the little pot of facts I have gathered regarding mindfulness. As a writer his mindfulness book is easy to read (I couldn’t put it down), and his tone isn’t anything like the patronising drawl most self help books grace our lives with. As a book for people on the go it’s great: “in a nutshell” lines sum up the detailed reading if you don’t have time to sit down with a cuppa, and exercises are highlighted by the pages possessing a grey background. You can even skip straight to the chapters you feel have most relevance to you, as the book is clearly laid out and highly organised. Some of these exercises aren’t for me, but may work for you- the beautiful thing is that there are so many to choose from. Don’t try and tackle them all, just take a few (perhaps three) and try to implement them in your every day life. Once these become habits, then try some more. The book also has “A Month of Mindfulness” in the back, with 31 mindfulness exercises you can perform- I can’t wait to put this into practice myself. Chapter 13 also lists ten stratagies that O’Morain recommends for everyday mindfulness. I found that the “Bare Attention” exercise was the most useful as a student; giving my full attention to one task at a time meant I got through my work a lot faster, leaving me some time to relax.
Mindfulness on my walks to and from uni used to be something that I was very into, and unfortunately got out of the practice of- on busy mornings it was headphones in, ipod cranked right up, and a dash to the student union. I would then sit in front of my computer and work while thoughts about how much work I had to do, if I had time to do anything before I went out that evening etc buzzed around my head. Lunch meant sitting and desperately trying to draw my attention back to what I was eating while my mind wandered. This book reinforced and renewed my love of being mindful. My walks are now about listening to the sounds and noticing smells in particular, as senses we don’t always fully engage with. I sometimes purposely take a detour through the park to listen to the water of the lake, smell the cut grass, even listen to the frigging pigeons. And if I can’t go through the park? Noises of the city can add mindfulness to my day in just the same way: market traders, coffee being ground in my favourite coffee shop, laughing… I find breathing particularly helpful too; focusing on where the breath is coming from, and noticing the little pause at the end of the exhale. For those of you with minds that move a hundred miles and hour, like mine, I find it very helpful to label any thoughts that come into my head, feel the emotion that comes with them, and then let them drift away. Say I’m worrying about revising for my exam when I’m essay writing, and it’s distracting me. I let the physical feeling of worry come (e.g. tight throat), label the emotion “worry” and gently let it go. The physical feeling then fades, and I finish my essay in less time, and feeling less like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.
Those are just a few examples of what I’ve found useful in the book, there are plenty more. If you need a little head space, but aren’t quite ready to sign up to a monastery in the Alps, then this is the book for you- highly recommend it guys.