The following is the full transcript of mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe’s TED Talk: All It Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes.
Andy Puddicombe – Mindfulness expert
We live in an incredibly busy world. The pace of life is often frantic, our minds are always busy, and we’re always doing something.
So with that in mind, I’d like you just to take a moment to think, when did you last take any time to do nothing? Just 10 minutes, undisturbed? And when I say nothing, I do mean nothing. So that’s no emailing, texting, no Internet, no TV, no chatting, no eating, no reading. Not even sitting there reminiscing about the past or planning for the future. Simply doing nothing. I see a lot of very blank faces.
You probably have to go a long way back. And this is an extraordinary thing, right? We’re talking about our mind. The mind, our most valuable and precious resource through which we experience every single moment of our life. The mind that we rely upon to be happy, content, emotionally stable as individuals, and at the same time, to be kind and thoughtful and considerate in our relationships with others.
This is the same mind that we depend upon to be focused, creative, spontaneous, and to perform at our very best in everything that we do. And yet, we don’t take any time out to look after it. In fact, we spend more time looking after our cars, our clothes and our hair than we — okay, maybe not our hair, but you see where I’m going.
The result, of course, is that we get stressed. You know, the mind whizzes away like a washing machine going round and round, lots of difficult, confusing emotions, and we don’t really know how to deal with that. And the sad fact is that we are so distracted that we’re no longer present in the world in which we live. We miss out on the things that are most important to us, and the crazy thing is that everybody just assumes, that’s the way life is, so we’ve just kind of got to get on with it. That’s really not how it has to be.
So I was about 11 when I went along to my first meditation class. And trust me, it had all the stereotypes that you can imagine, the sitting cross-legged on the floor, the incense, the herbal tea, the vegetarians, the whole deal, but my mom was going and I was intrigued, so I went along with her. I’d also seen a few kung fu movies, and secretly I kind of thought I might be able to learn how to fly, but I was very young at the time.
Now as I was there, I guess, like a lot of people, I assumed that it was just an aspirin for the mind. You get stressed, you do some meditation. I hadn’t really thought that it could be sort of preventative in nature, until I was about 20, when a number of things happened in my life in quite quick succession, really serious things which just flipped my life upside down and all of a sudden I was inundated with thoughts, inundated with difficult emotions that I didn’t know how to cope with. Every time I sort of pushed one down, another one would pop back up again. It was a really very stressful time.
I guess we all deal with stress in different ways. Some people will bury themselves in work, grateful for the distraction. Others will turn to their friends, their family, looking for support. Some people hit the bottle, start taking medication. My own way of dealing with it was to become a monk. So I quit my degree, I headed off to the Himalayas, I became a monk, and I started studying meditation.
People often ask me what I learned from that time. Well, obviously it changed things. Let’s face it, becoming a celibate monk is going to change a number of things. But it was more than that. It taught me — it gave me a greater appreciation, an understanding for the present moment. By that I mean not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions, but instead learning how to be in the here and now, how to be mindful, how to be present.
I think the present moment is so underrated. It sounds so ordinary, and yet we spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary. There was a research paper that came out of Harvard, just recently, that said on average, our minds are lost in thought almost 47% of the time. 47%. At the same time, this sort of constant mind-wandering is also a direct cause of unhappiness.
Now we’re not here for that long anyway, but to spend almost half of our life lost in thought and potentially quite unhappy, I don’t know, it just kind of seems tragic, actually, especially when there’s something we can do about it, when there’s a positive, practical, achievable, scientifically proven technique which allows our mind to be more healthy, to be more mindful and less distracted.