Last month, Noella attended a mindfulness retreat. Here, she shares with us what she learnt.
“I have to be honest, I approached my weekend away with scepticism.
But as I arrived for the opening on Friday night surrounded by fellow businessmen and women there was the realisation that actually, this was going to be a wholesome weekend amongst like-minded people. I suddenly began to be excited about the next few days, feeling that this was going to be quite an awakening really, because everything that was said in our sessions was very tangible and applicable to my day-to-day. We weren’t all sitting cross-legged and chanting but we were all looking for answers to how mindfulness and conscious awareness can change our day-to-day, both in how we react to what we encounter and how we interact with people.
The first thing that we were all made aware of was our breathing, focusing on the inhale and the exhale of the breath. For me that’s a rhythm that we all have, it’s the same rhythm: the inhale breath, and the exhale breath. So we can all stop and just focus on that rhythm which immediately brings a certain calm and stillness. My swimming ritual which I spoke about last month reconnects me with the breath because you can’t swim unless you breathe properly – you’ll drown. Swimming helps me drop my breath deep into the belly and is part of me refocusing before I start my day, in other words my meditation! Meditation is a very difficult thing to do in its pure form so for some people it can be a walk, it can be a cycle, a swim, a stretch in the park, whatever it is for you, it is about reconnecting with the breath and ultimately reconnecting with you. I saw a great parallel with that because I integrate that into my day anyway.
Mindfulness, that focusing on the breath, clears your mind of the clutter and the noise in your own head so that you can really hear what people are saying, and respond without your agenda involved, which is very important. It is also a powerful tool when managing people, and my days - as for many people who were in the room - involve constantly working with people, managing people, so we were all coming from the same place.
Ultimately, in being mindful, I am asking myself, “What do I want from this day?” and listening to my inner voice’s response so that I feel full and complete and my day feels whole. For me, running a business, the common turn of phrase for this is “job satisfaction”. Often, we spin that phrase off very easily, but a lot of people do a day’s work and they don’t get job satisfaction. My weekend that I dreaded so much, has helped me be more real, true to myself, a better listener to others and ultimately better at listening to myself, all of which leads to a deeper sense of fulfilment.
From initially anticipating a weekend of clock-watching, came a wonderful lightness. The retreat was a merging of lovely people and wonderful conversation. People had come from all over the world, so it was a real melting pot of different cultures, different backgrounds, different agendas. To add to this, I think the environment lent itself well: we were on a cliff looking over the Atlantic Ocean, in the depths of West Cork, which brought its own stimulus. All in all, it was mind-blowing. I find myself recalling my learnings from the weekend at different moments during the week and am able to apply them to my everyday, something that I hope to explore further in future posts.”