Friday, February 5, 2016


Guest blogger and author: Alister Gray.

I recently attended the Mind & Matter conference in London at the beginning of December 2015. What an amazing event! It was incredibly well run and the amount of people and businesses attending was extremely encouraging. Mindfulness has arrived, it has captured the attention of business leaders, the media and the general public—and that is truly fantastic.

The conference was a defining moment for me personally and also for my business as it left me asking so many questions about mindfulness and how the journey continues.

The term ‘Look out for the mindfulness cowboys’ was said on a number of occasions. It was mentioned by Juliet Adams [pictured above left], Mindfulness at Work conference organiser and author, in her introductory remarks and the phrase punctuated the first day at several points. The phrase never sat well with me at the time and it never has, to be honest. It felt somewhat judgemental to me but I know that Ms Adams did not intend that. She was simply offering some helpful advice and a warning.

What is a ‘mindfulness cowboy’?

After meditating on the subject a number of times and speaking to some close friends and mentors I reached a conclusion. My good friend and mentor is Lorraine Murray [pictured right], who is the founder and owner of the accredited teaching program Connected Kids™ which empowers parents, educators and other professionals with the skills to teach children of all ages meditation and mindfulness. Lorraine is also the internationally celebrated author of the books Calm Kids and Connected Kids. She said to me ‘I interpret the term “mindfulness cowboy” as someone who delivers mindfulness from the mind and not from the heart.’ Wow! What an insight! Wise words from a wise woman. Lorraine’s interpretation makes complete sense to me.

Last year, Lorraine taught me how to teach children meditation, and it is the most amazing course. I would highly recommend it to anyone who delivers meditation. You learn how to connect from a heart space, the most effective way to engage a child. Unlike adults, the attention span of children is still developing and therefore can’t self-regulate or pretend to be engaged. They simply won’t engage if you teach from the mind.

The Mind & Matter conference ended on a question I asked, namely, ‘Does a certification or accreditation mean that the person is authentic to deliver mindfulness?’ Unfortunately, there was not enough time left for an answer, so I will ask the question again, ‘Does a certification or accreditation mean that a person is authentic to deliver mindfulness?’

It surprised me the number of times meditation was described as a form of mindfulness. That is not so. Mindfulness is in fact a form of meditation. It is meditation applied throughout the whole of one’s day—and life.

Mindfulness is now becoming a ‘brand’, a ‘product’, and we have to be very wary of this development. Now brands and products are necessary in the commercial world, so that we can distinguish one product from another, but you simply cannot brand or make a product out of truth, also known as reality, and also known as life---and mindfulness is all about … life! 

The renowned spiritual author and teacher J. Krishnamurti [pictured left], who railed against brands, products, methods and techniques all of his life, would tell this story:

You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organise it."

The moment you turn truth into a ‘brand’, a ‘product’, you have destroyed it.

I recently read an article written by Dawn Foster in The Guardian, ‘Is mindfulness making us ill’, in which mindfulness was described as the relaxation technique of choice. Unfortunately, the experience that the author had was not pleasant because mindfulness is not a relaxation technique at all. It is meditation in which you come to see things as they really are—the good, the bad and the ugly—except that you adopt a non-judgmental approach to your observation and experience. Mindfulness helps you to choicelessly observe thoughts and often provides a clear window to your subconscious, and once you open the window to your subconscious many other thoughts, feelings, memories and fears may present themselves and rise up into your conscious mind. We have to prepare people for this experience otherwise we risk 'turning people off’. We need to ensure that people feel ‘safe’ and understand the potential side-effects.

Mindfulness the ‘brand’ and ‘product’ is at risk of being misunderstood. An 8-week programme will not ‘fix’ everyone and there has to be support to help people on their journey. The yoga world is facing many challenges with authenticity. We do not want to lose the authenticity of the practice or forget that it has to be delivered from a heart space.

I [the guest author—ed] am not formally accredited in mindfulness. I do not hold a certificate or have letters after my name. However, I practise daily and live mindfully. I meditate on decisions and on my thoughts and feelings. Tapping into my deeper wisdom each and every day, I try to understand myself on a deeper level. At the Mind & Matter conference, did I feel like a cowboy without my certificate or accreditation? The answer is--no.

I encourage the mindfulness community, including myself, to stay true to the practice of mindfulness. Remember the fundamentals. Mindfulness without right intention and all the other ‘rights’ is an abomination. Only once at the conference was the word ‘compassion’ mentioned. Maybe twice. Instead, we choose to use ‘pro-social behaviour’ to make it more palatable to business leaders. I ask why? It’s all about mindfulness and the bottom line, mindfulness will make your business more profitable, and so on. Where is the heart in all of this?

If this post has stirred up any emotions, thoughts or feelings in you, then I encourage you to meditate on it first. Then feel free to contact me to discuss.

Editor’s note.
The author of this post, my good friend Alister Gray [pictured left], is a director of Mindful Talent Limited, an innovative and right-minded firm which provides executive coaching and recruitment solutions to sustainable businesses and projects. The company's contact details are as follows: 
t +44 (0) 131 668 3783    e


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