Practical Mindfulness: What’s the Value?

The feedback from people who attended Practical Mindfulness in the first year has been overwhelmingly positive. One thing is clear: this is not just mindfulness schmindfulness. Almost every person has shared how they’ve been able to apply it, along with the coaching and CBT tools, to make a real difference to their personal effectiveness and their experience of life.

practical mindfulnessTHE PRACTICAL MINDFULNESS program was born out of a shared passion and understanding. We both agree that mindfulness is about so much more than just being chilled over lunch while eating raisins. Applied properly, it can really make a difference to your whole experience of life, no matter what your starting point.

We wanted to share that with the world. We also knew that people are pressed for time. It’s a struggle to make whole days available to attend courses—especially for those with families. Plus, you need time to practice—and thereby integrate—what you learn. Hence practical mindfulness.

With all that in mind, the idea of fortnightly two-hour modules came up and we decided to try it out. We also decided to take an iterative approach to both the format and the content. That means to develop and advance step by step according to the feedback we get.

 “The average score rating for the group of questions related to the impact that the course had on people’s lives and performance was 87%.”

It’s exactly only one year later and nearly 200 people have attended Module 1: Introduction to Practical Mindfulness. More than 60 of those have completed the full program of all six modules.

At the end of our last series, we asked for feedback and so far we’ve received 24 completed questionnaires. We asked 28 questions in the questionnaire, so we appreciate the investment of people’s time and effort. In addition, we’re delighted with the outcome!

Feedback on Practical Mindfulness Course Impact

One result that we’re particularly proud of is the response to the question, “What degree of improvement (if any) have you made in the area [of] general mood and attitude towards life?” A full 100% of responses gave us a smiley face for that one. And we didn’t just get smiley faces for everything; people were generally honest, so that means something.

In fact, the average score rating for the group of impact questions was 87%. This included a 94% rating for the course having a positive impact on, “My general level of motivation and enthusiasm and experience that life is not all struggle.” This one is particularly important because it’s one of the questions that points most directly to our stated mission, which is that people can “learn to manage themselves towards a different, better experience of life”. In addition, people gave a 90% rating for, “[Less] time spent thinking about past, worrying about future.”

“There was a 94% rating for the course having a positive impact on, ‘My general level of motivation and enthusiasm and experience that life is not all struggle.’ “

In response to the question, “Did the program make a material difference to your personal effectiveness?” there was an 88% average rating. This is exciting because it shows that mindfulness is not about being all shoo-wow, it’s about improving your ability to function effectively in the high-paced modern world. A similar 88% rating was given for, “Managing stressful situations and stress in my daily life.” It seems we really managed to put the practical into Practical Mindfulness.

Feedback on Practical Mindfulness Structure and Content

The average rating for the module content was 89% and we saw that the later modules delivered even more value than the earlier ones. Either way, all six modules were rated between 87% and 92%, so it was about as close as a Soccer World Cup knock-out game!

We were also delighted with the response we received to the Practical Mindfulness course structure. Everybody bar one loved the short, spaced modules and the mix between lecture, discussion and practice, as well as the use of slides to anchor your attention. (We got an average rating of 99% on that last one!) This was good to know because that’s one area where we differ from the norm. Unlike what’s expected from a mindfulness program, we don’t sit around in a garden and have huggy group chats. It’s much more business-like and suited to professionals.

 “People gave a 90% rating for, ‘[Less] time spent thinking about past, worrying about future.’ “

The feedback shows that the format favoured introverts—like us!—who don’t want to have to share their process with the whole world all the time. Some people wanted more discussion, but most were happy that it was kept within limits.

We heeded the feedback that the modules could probably be stretched to an extra half-hour with a short halfway break. We also took on board the request to not leave any gaps longer than a fortnight between modules. (We’ll have to find a way to deal with the pesky issue of April and its holidays in South Africa.)

More on Practical Mindfulness Structure and Content

There was appreciation for the notes that we provided, as well as the fact that people could download live recordings for playback after each module. Quite a few people asked for more homework and more accountability on the practices in between modules. These are all features that we’ll add to the Practical Mindfulness program in future.

The feedback on the progressive increase in the length of meditation time was very good—that gained an overall rating of 94%. Most people felt comfortable not being thrown in the deep end and yet being supported to progress to longer “sits”. Other positive feedback about our meditation teaching was that you don’t have to still the mind, simply observe it. That took a lot of pressure out of the meditation practice for a lot of people and they reported that it enhanced their results.

“There was appreciation for the notes that were provided, as well as the fact that people could download live recordings for playback after each module.”

The feedback to some general impact questions were also encouraging. An average rating of 88% was received in response to the question, “To what extent were your hopes and expectations met by this program?” For the question, “Did you feel supported and inspired by your trainers? Did they walk their talk?” we’re happy to report that 96% of people gave us full marks on this one and the average score was 99%. Finally, when we asked, “How much value would you place on this service for future users?” a grand 62% of people gave the program full marks and the average score was 93%.

Comments & Testimonials

Below are some comments that people shared.

 “I loved every part of this course. My favourite was the module on emotions. Really helped me! Loved the slides, easy to read and understand. The “psychology of behaviour” was very interesting—could have had more of that. I could have been more disciplined in practising what I learned. In my view the program has everything it needs to make a difference. I’ll definitely recommend it.” — Andrea S, Business Analyst

 “I got a clear understanding of what mindfulness is about but most importantly, how to use it in daily life. The breaks between modules were great and gave me time to practice and think in between. The course opened up an understanding of what authenticity is and how to get there in a simplified way. It also brought a constant awareness that I should organise my life more according to my priorities! Neil & Colinda showed great presentation skills and were very authentic! Please consider presenting it as a CPD course for psychologists.” — Ursula M, Psychologist

 “I really enjoyed Module 4 and enjoyed how the sessions led onto each other. The course definitely brought up a sense of awareness of being. I’m more aware of my thoughts, and more aware of them changing. This has helped me to be less reactive and with better decision-making.” — Danielle T, Counsellor

 “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the program exceeded my initial thoughts or beliefs about mindfulness and meditation. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to corporate and lay people—anyone who struggles with our hectic lives and how to re-focus and re-adjust when needed.” — Jessie P, Entrepreneur

 “You both really did exactly what you needed. I really liked the way you left us free to adapt the learnings in the way we wanted.” — Bruce L, Attorney

 “I valued the practical ways to embed the learning into daily life. Excellent collaborating between Neil and Colinda and 100% authenticity by both. I’m grateful for all the learning and aha’s.” — Devora M, Consultant

 “I loved the way you connected the practice and theory in such a safe, contained and effective way. I believe anyone can benefit from your Practical Mindfulness and it does change ‘everything’. My expectations have been met since the new information and practice has enriched my personal, family, social & professional life.” — Jackie L, Psychologist

Why Mindfulness, Why Now?

Mindfulness has reached a tipping point of awareness and people are asking why, what’s the fuss all about? Here is one important suggested reason.

practical mindfulness sensation meditation

MANY PEOPLE have asked the question that makes up the header of this article: Why mindfulness, why now? This post suggests one important reason: the state of the world right now.

Most people will agree that the world is a pretty topsy-turvy place at the moment. Election results are unexpected. Think Brexit, and Trump. Terrorist attacks are unpredictable. Think London, Paris, Ariana Grande. New companies can scale to global proportions in astonishingly short periods of time, while historical giants—whether they be companies, government dictators, or celebrities—can crash to zero within weeks. Think Bell Pottinger, Mugabe, Harvey Weinstein—and no complaints there. 

The world has always been a topsy-turvy place. As Winston Churchill said, “History is just one damn thing after another.” The difference now is the pace of change and the unpredictability. Even personal anchors, like having a steady career and a lifelong marriage, are becoming the exception rather than the norm.

The net effect of this is that the old reference points no longer apply. We can no longer be guided solely by firm, fixed and clear political ideologies, religious or corporate rules, or social norms. These have simply not kept up with the fragmentation of thought and the individuation of identity—in the age of social media every person can be their own broadcaster. In addition, the trust that people once placed in leaders has been massively eroded. So who do we turn to? We have to figure it out for ourselves.

Mindfulness is capable of providing that anchor.

Yeah, right, you might say, mindfulness is just a bunch of hippy crap that’s been packaged for the social media age. Or you may have a more positive view of mindfulness, but see it as merely a good way to deal with stress. Much like yoga, or Pilates.

Mindfulness is more than just hippy crap

That may be fair comment, and we’re here to say that mindfulness is also much more. We being myself and Dr Colinda Linde, who recently co-founded the Practical Mindfulness program. We like to say that mindfulness is the “salt in the mix”. In the way salt brings out the flavours in a dish, we say that mindfulness, applied correctly, can raise individual – and, ultimately, collective – human consciousness.

That’s a pretty lofty claim. Yet, the Guardian newspaper in the UK published a story in October 2017 about the founder of modern mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn. The gist of the article was his visit to the British House of Commons to make a case for exactly this. To quote the article: “Now, in 2017, Kabat-Zinn vibrates with an urgent belief that meditation is the ‘radical act of love and sanity’ we need in the age of Trump, accelerating climate change and disasters such as the Grenfell Tower fire.”

To stay with the analogy we used, what can we say about salt? It brings up the other flavours of the dish. It’s only needed in tiny proportions to make a big difference. It’s also incredibly abundant on earth, but not in its isolated form. For the most part, it has to be distilled from water.

Mindfulness is about becoming aware of the nature of one’s mind and using that awareness to consciously direct one’s mind, rather than be directed by it. As anyone who has practiced mindfulness will know, the mind is fairly unruly. We can say that “the mind has a mind of its own”, and we have little control over it. Yet we allow this out-of-control mind to run our lives and direct the world.

“We believe that everybody can learn to manage themselves to have a different, better experience of life.”

For people who claim to be rational, that’s not very rational. It’s a bit like being at the steering wheel of a bus, but having no direct connection to the wheels. The wheels do their own thing. As the global leader of Vipassana meditation, S N Goenka, says, “No wonder there’s so much of madness in the world!”

Mindfulness is gaining the support of science

Science has shown that certain forms of meditation can actually change the brain. The recently published book The Science of Meditation by Daniel Goleman (he of Emotional Intelligence fame) and Richard Davidson reports that seasoned Vipassana meditators actually grew more connections between the amygdala (which controls the fight-or-flight response) and the prefrontal cortex (which controls reason). These people proved to be much less reactive—their brains recovered much more quickly from a fight-or-flight response—than non-meditators.

In our bus-driving analogy, this is like connecting the steering wheel to the wheels. Things feel a whole lot safer and in control that way—for us and for other people—and that’s what mindfulness can do for your own life.

When you practice mindfulness—and the Practical Mindfulness program will show you how—you distill your own essential point of awareness from the sea of thinking and feeling that will have hitherto dominated and run your life. That tiny measure of awareness, like a tiny measure of salt, can infuse and transform your life. Mindfulness can be applied into every context of your life as well: dealing with emotions, handling stress, making decisions, and even such lofty themes as finding the state of flow and developing authentic leadership.  

We believe that everybody can benefit, and everybody can learn to manage themselves, to have a different, better experience of life. We also believe that if this reaches a tipping point, then humanity as a whole can benefit. If ever there was a time when people needed that, and society could benefit, it’s now.