--BY TAMISH GIRI
Ishwar Pokharel, Deputy CEO of Nepal Insurance, reaches his office at 9:30 in the morning every day and juggles deadlines, various demands and team management until 7:30 in the evening. The daily grind that spans 10 hours leaves him completely drained by the end of the day, making him wonder whether he is losing connection with the present moment.
Like Pokharel, Sumed Bhattarai, Deputy CEO of Laxmi Bank, also finds himself in a similar situation at the end of every working day. “As my current job demands lots of energy both mentally and physically, I am usually exhausted at the end of the day," says Bhattarai.
Both Pokharel and Bhattarai know that complaining about hectic work schedules will not solve their problems. If they fail to withstand these daily onslaughts, others will step in their shoes.
Many white-collar workers like Pokharel and Bhattarai are faced with this predicament, as they navigate through the maze of the corporate sector to reach the upper echelons of the business world. To find a sense of balance amidst the chaos, many visit gyms or go hiking during weekends. There are others who overcome this problem by practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is all about living in the moment, without allowing your thoughts, including pain or sorrow, to control you. You can start practicing mindfulness by simply breathing in and out. Remember, the focus should not be on anything but on how the air is being pumped in and out. If this sounds like a form of meditation, you are right. But mindfulness is more than meditation. Generally, one meditates for a specific amount of time. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is more about being in the present moment and can be practiced anywhere throughout the day. This helps one to remain focused and reduces stress.
Pokharel and Bhattarai have been practicing this for quite some time and they are quite impressed with the results.
"All jobs become stressful if one takes it that way. If people can erase the phrase 'stressful job' from their dictionary and enjoy the work, everything will be fine," says Bhattarai, who wakes up at around 6 in the morning and spends at least two hours walking or cycling, mediating, and performing breathing exercises. "Meditation, light exercise and awareness [about the present] help me remain focused throughout the day," he says.
Remaining focused in the present is one of the most difficult things to do in this modern world.
People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or may never happen at all, according to a research conducted by psychologists of Harvard University.
This mind-wandering makes people unhappy. This causes stress, which has emerged as the leading cause of hypertension and diabetic disorders, and affects both physical and psychological conditions. Those who fail to handle these situations properly even end up in hospitals. This is why it is important to train the brain to focus in the present moment, or, in simple words, to remain mindful. Mindfulness helps people to become more active, imaginative and less resistant to change and is important to all age groups in this competitive and changing world.
Ajit Shrestha, a mindfulness teacher at Dhamma Shringha Vipassana Centre, defines mindfulness as the awareness of mind and accepting the fact as it is.
"One should train one's mind to observe the flow of natural breathing. It's not a breathing exercise,but mere acceptance of things as they are," says Shrestha.
Shrestha has often seen people trying to regulate their breathing while practicing mindfulness. "This is one common mistake that people make. People need to relax, take deep breaths and observe the flow of breathing," he says. He suggests that those interested in mindfulness should join a 10-day course at the Vipassana Centre to understand its essence.
In recent decades, public interest in mindfulness has grown steadily. Vipassana, which established its first centre in Nepal in 1981, today runs 10 outlets across the country.
In the past it used to accept applications from 120 people, including 60 men and 60 women, per session. Today 10 centres accept 180 applicants per session. "There are generally around 60-80 applicants in the waiting list as well," says Shrestha, who undertook a Vipassana in 1999. Each centre conducts 10 days of mindfulness sessions twice a month.
Currently, around 50 centres provide mindfulness sessions on a regular basis across the country. Most of their clients are working professionals, university students, elderly citizens and tourists.
Studies have shown that mindfulness helps in fighting an array of conditions, both physical and mental, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of these findings, however, have been called into question because of their sample size or problematic experimental design. Still, well-designed and well-executed studies have shown that the effects of mindfulness in tackling some of the conditions like depression, chronic pain, and anxiety are as effective as other existing treatments. This may be because mindfulness works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences—including painful emotions—rather than by reacting to them with aversion and avoidance.
"Mindfulness brings a positive vibe to life by releasing unwanted stress. When one starts cleansing and purifying one's mind, there will be harmony within and around. The whole atmosphere gets charged with such vibration," says Pokharel, who starts his day at 5:30 in the morning with some yoga, breathing exercises and body stretching to keep himself mentally fit to withstand the hectic and stressful office hours.
Mindfulness has helped Pokharel to respond to different environments differently. "It has helped me to take correct executive decisions and become friendlier with staff and friends. I am always pro-active and almost calm in adverse situations too," Pokhrel says.