by Janette Grant
(UK http://mindfulness4u.org )
Like many of us, I have to admit that when this buzz word Mindfulness first appeared on the scene a few years ago I thought ‘Here we go again…the next fad!’ I had images of spiritual monks and incense burning etc and dismissed it as something that I had no time nor energy for it to interest me.
How wrong could I be! When I finally got around to researching what it was all about I realised that in my own way I had been practising mindfulness for many years, which had led to my interest in emotional intelligence and the art of thinking and being positive.
Mindfulness is defined as focussing our attention in a non-judgmental way on the present moment and being aware of our emotions through various exercises of breathing, meditation etc., which can help us enormously in achieving higher emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to recognise our own and other people’s emotions, recognise different feelings and label them appropriately and manage and/or adjust our emotions to adapt to our surroundings or achieve our goals.
Sounds a little like Mindfulness too right? However, although mindfulness helps us to recognise our feelings, emotional intelligence is what helps us to manage them.
Without mindfulness : Stimulus = Reaction
With mindfulness : Stimulus + Mindfulness = Response with emotional intelligence
I believe my first experience of what I now recognise as mindfulness, was when I was pregnant and in labour with my first child in 1989. I discovered that I was able to focus my awareness on how my body was feeling, recognise what was happening and manage my emotions; I still felt the pain of labour, but because I understood why I was feeling it, I was somehow able to view the pain from a distance. I believe I was able to do this because I had attended various childbirth classes and had read many books about the process. I also strongly believed that my body was designed for the purpose and had a positive ‘can-do’ attitude. This all combined to help me through my four pregnancies; including one un-diagnosed breech delivery with the requisite emergency ambulance ride to the main hospital; another dash by ambulance with a six-day old baby whose little body was shutting down due to lack of nourishment (inexperienced breast-feeding by mother and baby!); and suffering from painful Pelvic Girdle Pain with my last pregnancy.
Then in 1995 I read Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ and I was convinced this was how I wanted to raise my children. I wanted them to be happy, confident, friendly children. My measure for how well they were doing in infant school was not what marks they were getting in maths…when I received their reports at the end of term I would turn straight to the Head of Year and Head of School comments about their well-being. When I read that they were happy, helpful and popular children, and a delight to teach, that was all I wanted to see.
I became more involved once I became a Governor at their senior school - becoming liaison between the school and the school council, where two children from each class would attend a meeting once a month to discuss various issues the pupils wanted to raise with the school. This led to volunteering to hold after-school classes for the older students teaching them how emotional intelligence could help them in all parts of their lives. It was very rewarding to have even a small effect on their ability to deal with their emotions and relationships.
I now have four of the most well-adjusted grown up children I could wish for - I know this because everyone who comes in contact with them tells me what a delight they are! I truly believe that endeavouring to be in the present moment with them as much as possible, showing them the importance of being mindful of their emotions and of being positive, has led to them all having high emotional intelligence.
You can probably recognise that I am now a complete convert to mindfulness and I now understand how we can only truly raise our emotional intelligence by being mindful of our emotions.
I believe that I have been unknowingly practising mindfulness for many years - even before it became the latest buzz word and I am so convinced of the many benefits that I have thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing this Mindfulness site - http://mindfulness4u.org to try to encourage others to practise it and raise their emotional intelligence. I am absolutely certain it could have an enormously positive effect if all our leaders in every country practised mindfulness and truly believe as the Dalai Lama says:
‘If every 8 year old in the world is taught mindful meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world in one generation’
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