Mike’s note: What follows is a powerful portion of Mind Your Life: How Mindfulness Can Build Resilience and Reveal Your Extraordinary, by Meg Salter. It’s a Speakeasy book selection this month. Do you review books? Apply here!
I never thought I would feel this comfortable in my own skin. What happened that transformed a stammering child into an adult who makes her living, as a coach and consultant, by talking? How did a timid person learn to enjoy challenge and change? Sure, I anticipated becoming hard working, studious and competent. But to experience moments of random joy, flashes of wicked humour, ease with uncertainty, the ability to meet total strangers without quivering? I never even imagined those possibilities.
Mindfulness is the difference that has made a difference. By now, I have been practicing meditation for over twenty years, and unlike other teachers, I earned my stripes not by going away for periods of intensive study, but in the midst of work and family life. So I know that you, too, can develop remarkable capacities while living your regular life.
My book, Mind Your Life, demonstrates how simple ways of altering how you pay attention can, with time and practice, change your life. But simple isn’t always easy. Integrating a new habit in meaningful ways is a small but significant personal change in your life. I bring my background as an Integral Master Coach to help you make this change, turning your curiosity or intentions with regard to meditation into sustainable skills that will lead to personal flourishing. Why am I confident that you can do this? Because I have seen it in myself and others. Throughout this book, you will meet eighteen people who have been practicing meditation for at least three years, some up to forty. By finding ways to persist in their practice, they all made themselves more resilient to challenges and more adaptable to change. Their stories attest to the deep capacities that mindful awareness unleashes, enabling ordinary people to live extraordinary lives.
A hot topic of research, mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, improve overall well-being, re-wire the brain for focus, and foster empathy and positive relationships. Mindfulness may prove to be for mental health what jogging was to physical health in the 1970’s: an accessible way to improve well-being and vitality. Mindfulness is worth cultivating.
If you are finding that your ways of addressing persistent challenges don’t seem to be working, you may be ready for a custom fit. How do you prevent constant stress from becoming distress? How do you connect to your own inner voice in the midst of demands for 24/7 availability? How do you find restoration when Sundays (or Saturdays, or Fridays) are no longer days of rest? How do you pass on hope to your children in an era of low growth and tectonic global shifts? How do you meet your emotional, social or spiritual needs when your survival needs are sated?
This book is part of the second generation approach to mindfulness. Many of the methods and concepts are based on the Unified Mindfulness system of Shinzen Young, a fifty-year meditation teacher, author and science research consultant who has been a leading voice in the dialogues between east and west, science and spirituality.
Shinzen Young’s Unified Mindfulness is a meta-system that is both contemporary and classic. As a contemporary system it is secular, requires no particular belief background, and is evidence-based, being tested in research labs such as Harvard Medical School and Carnegie Mellon. Yet the contemporary approach is grounded in classic wisdom traditions both east and west. An umbrella framework like Unified Mindfulness has only become possible very recently, with the advent of global communications and sharing of cultural traditions from around the world.
Mind Your Life is for all levels of experience. If you are inspired by wisdom literature, this will make it real in your life. If you want to try mindfulness—or have tried but been unable to keep it up—this will help you through the early learning curve. If you’ve been meditating for a while but plateaued, it will give you new ways to revitalize your practice. Developing mindful awareness is a permanent change, but not a quick fix. With the right tools, support and some commitment on your part, you can do it. This book is here to help you. You can read it sequentially from beginning to end, dip into the parts that interest you, or refer to it later as a learning aid. I will tell you my own story of resilience and change in Chapter 1, then in Chapter 2 introduce you to seven ordinary heroes: people who credit mindfulness practice for extraordinary outcomes in their lives, from coping with the emotional pain of PTSD or the physical pain of icepick headaches, to navigating business setbacks or moving beyond compassion fatigue. Chapter 3 gives a brief overview of the physical impacts of mindfulness on brain and body. Chapter 4 looks at the psychological impacts of mindfulness on resilience. (Mindfulness practice can act like a resilience vaccine, activating the mental muscles that aid recovery, adaptation and change.) Then we move onto the nitty gritty practicalities. In Chapter 5, we will look at mindfulness as a capacity to train attention. You’ll meet DAN—your default attentional network— and MoMo, the moment by moment sensory awareness that helps you unhook from DAN. I will give you a heads up on the five main challenges in developing a sustainable mindfulness practice, and a worksheet to help you anchor your motivation for practice. In Chapter 6, we’ll review the Unified Mindfulness System with its three fundamental attentional skills of concentration, sensory clarity and equanimity. Chapters 7, 8 and 9 give you a range of mindfulness practices, with clear instructions and examples of what the resulting experiences might look like ‘inside your head’. While I will give you many options to choose from, don’t get overwhelmed. You only need one method for an effective mindfulness practice. In Chapters 10 and 11 you’ll meet more ordinary heroes, develop a customized roadmap for integrating mindfulness into your life and learn how to gauge progress in your own journey to personal flourishing.
I cannot promise you miracles; but I will say that if you mind your life—Life has a way of minding you back.
Meg Salter offers mindfulness coaching and executive coaching to those who want to create positive change in their world. Based in Toronto, Canada, she provides distance coaching globally to individuals or groups.
All coaching is founded on a customized, integral approach that helps clients develop sustainable skills, allowing them to decrease frustrations, boost resilience and turn aspirations into reality. A professionally certified coach, Meg also has an extensive business background and deep experience in meditation.
Meg has been meditating since 1995, gaining profound experience while pursuing a career and raising children. Teaching since 2002, she has witnessed the enhanced resilience and personal flourishing in those who develop mindfulness skills, with beneficial effects on their colleagues, friends and families.
Meg holds an MBA from Boston University Brussels, and is accredited as an Integral Master Coach®, a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation, and a Certified Senior Organization Development Professional. She has a thirty-year professional background, working as a senior business manager and, through MegaSpace Consulting, providing change management consulting and executive coaching. She has lived in the UK and Belgium, consulted to multinational corporations, and distance-coached individuals across North America, and from Europe to Dubai. A committed volunteer, Meg’s board and pro-bono work focus on newcomer integration, community building and individual empowerment.