Our mindfulness mission in the Balkans by Original Magazin!

Super cool a couple of weeks ago we were contacted by Anja Stanišić from Original Magazin to write a three-page article about our mindfulness mission in the Balkans. For the ones who don’t speak Serbian, here the whole article translated into English... Enjoy the read 🙂

We are faced with stress every day, because of work, money, and now especially, due to the well-known situation around the world. How can a mindfulness approach help us deal with this?

Many people when they first hear about Mindfulness they see it as a set of techniques and exercises or tools that can help them cope more easily with today’s challenges. That’s fine, but what we’re actually working on is for people to see that the Mindfulness approach, that “being” here and now, becomes a way of life over time. And it is this way of life that helps us to cope more easily with everything that is happening in us and around us.

Mindfulness practice is in fact training our conscious attention or our mind to be present here and now. These skills and inner resources that we build by practising Mindfulness help us better control stress, recognize and accept emotions, and build more compassionate relationships with ourselves and others. All this affects the development of our capacity or resilience, as probably familiar to many. 

What is less known to people is that as part of nurturing Mindfulness in our lives we also learn how to nurture the 9 attitudes of this practice. These attitudes represent the values ​​we adopt during the practice of Mindfulness. These are: not judging, accepting, letting go, believing or having trust, patience, not striving, beginner’s mind, gratitude and generosity.  

These attitudes actually tell us that Mindfulness is much more than just a set of techniques and exercises, and it is these values ​​that help us cope with today’s challenges.

What are all the benefits of this approach?

With this approach, we learn to better control our own negative thoughts, that is, to see the moment when we “wander” in a swirl of some worries, thoughts, to stop and pay attention to what is happening here and now…

This helps us stay focused and focused on what we are currently doing, so this practice is very useful for developing and improving attention and concentration. 

Mindfulness is often used in order to reduce stress and our impulsive reactions, awareness, acceptance and better control of our unpleasant feelings, awareness of what is happening in the body, and in fact we acquire the skills of self-pacification and self-regulation.  

When we learn how to be in contact with our thoughts, feelings and body, then we are actually working on the development of self-awareness (that is why Mindfulness programs are very popular in working with children). Three years ago, we conducted a study in which we examined how Mindfulness affects the development of self-esteem in young people and came to the conclusion that their self-esteem after Mindfulness training is no longer conditioned by external factors such as other people’s opinions, social networks, good grades. ..they have just developed internal self-esteem without the need to confirm other, external factors and circumstances.

As part of this practice, we work a lot on the development of compassionate relationships with others because the focus is in the Mindfulness program and on the development of empathy and social-emotional skills.

All of this affects the improvement of our quality of life and the relationships we build with ourselves and others

We cannot always control what happens in life, but we can the way we react to them. How much does the quality of our lives actually change by changing our approach to life?

Many of us are unaware of what is happening inside us because we live on autopilot. We are constantly under stress, we are rushing from one obligation to another, and especially now because of everything that has happened around us, we are facing numerous other new challenges. 

The first step towards a change is first of all a person’s openness and readiness to change and to have the courage to choose for himself a different view of life. This may be the first step towards a change in quality of life. I am not for the fact that we should have an unrealistic picture of life, nor for the fact that we should be constantly happy and smiling, but we can cultivate a healthier and more compassionate relationship with ourselves and others, and thus live a more authentic and meaningful life. 

The last decades have marked us all in some way, especially the people in our area, and that has had a special impact on our mental health. I believe that many of us on the path of changing our approach in life often need the support of a professional in order to take better care of our mental health, and that is something that should become normal, natural and healthy. The balance between taking care of our mental and physical health is something that needs to be talked about more and more.

Bring us a little closer to your Mindfulness corner. Who is the team behind this corner, when was it created and what is your mission?

My husband and I work together within our NGO Mindfulness corner and organisation Shiftmindful. Within our Mindfulness corner, we’re focusing on bringing a wider understanding of Mindfulness-based approaches to the Balkans. Our mission is to make our Mindfulness-based knowledge accessible to everyone everywhere in the Balkans by using our holistic education approach. At the beginning of the COVID outbreak, we organised webinars, 8 weeks mindfulness training, 5 weeks compassion training and a compassion support group for the people in need.

If you like to join or support us on this mission you can always contact us.

Because at the moment our NGO Mindfulness corner is primarily privately financed by the profit share of our organisation Shiftmindful.

You’ve probably heard about mindfulness in the workplace but you may be surprised to learn just how many businesses associate positive outcomes, to the mindfulness discipline being implemented at businesses all over the world. This is why we’re focusing with Shiftmindful on the bigger picture, by bringing Mindfulness-based approaches to the workplace. This is where we bring our holistic education approach to the next level, by presenting in-house, online, virtual and blended learning for teams and leaders to build skills to feel better. In order to deepen relationships, reduce stress and maintain a clear focus for their team. 

To support the adaptation of the individual change and to let the change stick in the organisation my husband also focused on developing Mindfulness-based and compassion-driven company cultures. Because we realised that if the environment stays the same and not becomes a part of the change, the individuals feels not save or motivated to express their change.

In your approach, you combine two worlds – online and offline – and thus erase boundaries. What are all the programs you offer?

Yes, this is the really where our personal passions and power are merging together 🙂 André is already more than 10 years active in the online world. He was the owner of a successful digital agency in the Netherlands, fully focused on creating the best user experience for customized e-commerce solutions. I by myself as a pedagogist and master in education, am already my whole life inspired by all the different forms of education and ways to engage people in their learning experience. By merging those two powers and passions together, real magic started to happen. 

Last year we re-launched our 8 weeks Mindfulness program completely supported by our online education platform. We don’t believe in just online learning, we believe in holistic learning – “characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole”. By using our online education platform in the right way to share all the theoretical knowledge, tasks and exercises, we’re able to fully focus on the process and personal experience during our weekly life sessions.

Drumroll… Soon we will also launch our new monthly subscription-based program for organisations “Mind your own Business”, a program to support your HR-team to bring Mindfulness-based approaches to your own workplace.

Do you believe that a mindfulness approach can make us fundamentally more successful – at work, in family life …?

Uhmmm… yes and no. 

I deeply believe, and I have seen this in the example of many of my participants, that if a person is willing and open to work on himself, he can get great benefits from Mindfulness. 

Not only to have better attention and concentration and to better control stress, but also to change his attitudes towards others, to make the person more aware of himself, his needs and desires, the directions in which he wants to progress further, and this has an impact. of her entire life.

On the other hand, what my practice has shown me is that many people view Mindfulness as a quick fix and something that can temporarily fix their problems, and it doesn’t work that way. If you want to have lasting change, then you need to train your conscious attention again and again every day, build your resilience and learn from your own mistakes. All the good things in life require work, effort and perseverance and dedication and it is the same with Mindfulness practice. 

And finally, what do you think is the biggest obstacle that stands in the way between us and our great desires?

We alone. 🙂 I work a lot with people and I often hear other people’s stories in which they sabotage themselves in all ways. 

I do not exclude myself from these tendencies either, and Mindfulness and the practice of Self-compassion have helped me many times to see how I make traps and obstacles for myself on the way to fulfilling some of my own desires. 

I think that the most important thing is to have the courage and willingness to look inside ourselves, to realize who we are, what we are and where we want to go and what are our great desires that we have.

Vesna van Kempen Lakovic

Are these desires imposed on us by society, family, partners or are they really authentically ours.

When we see this, practices such as Mindfulness and Self-Compassion can help us find the strength and resources to deal with all the unpredictability of today’s world and life.

We should also learn how to rise after the defeat and move on, how to develop trust not only in ourselves, but also other people and life, but also cultivate patience and acceptance for everything that happens in us and around us.

On the other hand, and if on the way to our desires we realize that they are not really ours, it is important that we have the courage to start from the beginning with conscious attention and enjoy the process more than just the destination and the ultimate goal.

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What to have in mind when teaching Mindfulness to teenagers

Recently I was a guest speaker in one high-school on which I was supposed to introduce teaching Mindfulness. Since I usually teach about Mindfulness to youth who are familiar and motivated to learn about it and most of the time in small groups, I didn’t prepare anything special. I just do my usual talk and few simple exercises. After a few minutes, I’ve noticed that most of the class in which there were more than 30 pupils aged around 17, were completely unaware of my existence.

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