Ian Rigg is a Mindfulness tutor and holds a Master of Science in Studies in Mindfulness. A friend of mine knows Ian and mentioned to him that I wrote a blog and was interested in the subject. I wanted to ask him some questions so decided to turn it into a feature and share it with you all.
Hope you enjoy…
What is Mindfulness?
The Mindfulness Association describe mindfulness as a skill we can develop over time, which can deepen our sense of well-being and fulfilment. “It involves paying attention to what is occurring in our present moment experience, with an attitude of openness and non-judgemental acceptance. It is about coming back to our senses, being in touch with ourselves, with others and our surroundings.” It promotes a way of being that helps us to take better care of ourselves and lead healthier lives. It also enables us to access inner resources for coping effectively with stress, difficulty and illness.
How did you become interested in mindfulness?
I have been practicing martial arts (TaeKwon-Do) for over 25 years and I wanted to learn how to meditate to compliment my physical practice and learn how to work with the mind (as well as being a Jedi one day). A friend of mine who was into meditation, gave me a book called Tranquil Mind by Rob Nairn and I liked the concepts Rob was introducing. Soon after that (around 2003 or 2004) I booked onto a retreat up at Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Scotland and then began attending courses and retreats ran by Rob Nairn.
Can mindfulness be taught?
Mindfulness is something that we already know how to do, however, because of the fast pace of life and the habit of the mind to remain engaged in distraction, we have forgotten to pause, breath and pay attention to our lives as they unfold around us in each moment. Mindfulness is now taught all over the world in secular and non-secular settings.
Where did you study mindfulness and what qualification do you hold?
Academically I completed a Studies in Mindfulness MSc with the University of Aberdeen. I have also attended many retreats (about 9 month’s worth) and attended many courses ran by the Mindfulness Association. I have studied at Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Scotland and in South Africa.
What are the key benefits of being more mindful?
Most of the research on mindfulness will list the following benefits, which I would agree with based on my own experience:
Reduced tension, anxiety, stress, reactivity, improved communication, decision making, increase the ability to manage conflict, enhance clarity and creative thinking, achieve balance and develop resilience at home and at work, increase concentration, improve energy levels, promote physical and mental well-being.
Do you have to meditate to be mindful?
No, but it helps. You can practice very simply pausing and noticing your own body and breath and then open up the rest of your senses to engage more with the present moment. You could also start with bringing your attention to a small task such as making a cup of tea or brushing your teeth, noticing smells, sensations, tastes, sounds etc.
Is there any evidence to support mindfulness as a way of helping people with anxiety and depression for example?
There have been many studies carried out with people who struggle with anxiety and depression, just do an internet search for mindfulness and the issue you want to study and you will likely find a book, course or research paper on it.
How long does it take before a person sees results?
This is a great question from the impatient mind that wants a quick fix. You can see results almost immediately, however, the more regularly you practice the easier it will be for you to remain mindful.
How can a person remain mindful when, for example, their kids won’t get ready for school and you need to be out the door? Real life example! Haha
Go back to the basics of dropping into the body and breathing more deeply than normal, then ask yourself the question what is my experience in my thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Notice if you are running a story and drop the story and attempt to remain connected to the present and then tell the kids to get a move on!
How has being mindful helped you on a day to day basis?
Many people are now moving a frenetic pace, constantly on the go and always contactable or immersed in online activity. We are constantly striving, worrying and bombarded by information in the media and popular culture that tells us that the world is a scary place and that we are not good enough as we are. Our minds are very busy and distracted, have difficulty settling down and we are driven by habit and constantly on the lookout. Although mindfulness practice is very beneficial, it takes the mind a while to begin to settle down, therefore the more time you can devote practicing mindfulness the better. In my experience, I can gain a lot from attending courses and practicing mindfulness every day, but my mind really begins to settle when I give it more space. After day three of a retreat, my mind begins to slow down, after about a week my body has adjusted to the demands of sitting upright in meditation posture and begins to settle down and my mind follows suit. Then from then on my mind becomes more familiar to me and a deeper resting occurs. When my mind feels more rested and spacious I pause and notice more, my mind is more settled and I can handle the everyday demands of life in a calmer and more receptive way.
How can someone who is interested in the subject begin to incorporate mindfulness into their lives?
You could start by reading a book, using online audio practices or ideally by attending a course, so that you understand the concepts and become familiar with a few basic practices that may be helpful.
If you could give one piece of advice to help someone become more mindful, what would it be?
Stop, pause, breath, engage your senses, drop your self-limiting stories (you’re bigger than that), wake up to your own life and notice more of the small pleasant things that happen often.
Are you mindful 100 percent of the time or do you get caught out from time to time?
No, I get distracted just like everyone else and also the business of life carries me away sometimes, however, I’m more likely to spot this and take action.
Can you describe your ideal day?
I’m not into words life perfect or ideal because then I may set myself up to be disappointed. I try to view life in a very simple way and gain as much enjoyment as I can from being around like minded people who care about others.
Who inspires you?
Rob Nairn, the Dalai Lama, Donal Creedon, Billy Connolly. People who live with difficulty, but still remain, humble and appreciate life with a smile on their face.
What makes you happy?
Travelling, music, eating, going on adventures to faraway places, yoga, interesting people who live life to the full, my family and friends.