Meditation coach Maggie Richards on how awareness gives us the edge in decision making

maggie richards

Everyone reacts. To respond to work/life’s ups and downs is a choice – and one we can all make, armed the right tools and perspective. Neuroscience has revealed that it is human to be negative.

The oldest part of the triune human brain, the ‘reptilian brain’, has a negativity bias. Its role is to protect us from a perceived threat to our lives by triggering the fight/flight or stress response, which it does even when we have a negative thought.

Left unchecked the lower mind fast-generates thoughts rooted in fear, often tricking us into believing that the first ones it throws up – ‘I don’t like this. I don’t want this. I can’t do this, etc.’ – are ‘real’. But thoughts are not facts.


And yet more recently in our evolution we’ve become aware of another aspect to our brain, which includes the prefrontal cortex, that we can collectively call the ‘higher mind’. The higher mind is rooted in awareness, clarity, calm, connection, open-mindedness and many more success-based attributes.

When we are aware, we can respond. We can begin to direct our lives and relationships in a positive direction rather than be dragged along by our fears. And all it takes is a decision, here and now, to stay with our experience as it is.


Put simply, the lower mind is rooted in fear; the higher mind in focus and faith. Mindfulness/meditation is a universal path to living life from our higher mind. In learning to relax and observe our present moment experience – to be in it, yet not of it – we become empowered to choose our thoughts, to overcome our negativity and reap the limitless rewards.

These include a quiet, confidence-boosting sense of self-control, pure happiness, more energy, better sleep, tolerance, inspiring ideas, creativity and a wonderful sense of “coming Home”. Meditation is a simple, practical and proven way of strengthening all that is good in us. Every part of us – physical, mental or spiritual  – and thus every part of our life has the potential to be bettered by this transformative discipline.


For optimum results, start a home practice. Even 10 minutes of simply sitting still and seeking inner peace can begin to have a balancing effect on the rest of your day. Start your work, an email or a meeting with the decision to be aware.

Be in what you’re doing, with all of your senses, and you’ll find yourself doing your best more often. At work, little and often works well – e.g. before logging on to your computer, take a moment to get present. Sense your body on the chair. Check in with your breath. Notice whether you’re on autopilot or not.


When walking to work, between desks or even to the office kitchen, become – and stay – aware of the sensation of each step on the ground. 

Enjoy how it calms both body and mind. Explore short moments of self-care every day – check in with your breath or stomach; could they soften a little given the opportunity? Both body parts tend to be the first to tense in reaction to a negative thought or something perceived as negative situation.


Look out of the window and find a patch of sky or a tree that your eyes find soothing to look at. Or get a plant for your desk and ponder its silent peacefulness. Become your own gentle observer. Be curious about the automatic script in your head. What are you saying to yourself day by day? Be honest.


Give thanks. One of the easiest ways of expanding out of stress is to focus on the good in any situation. Look and you’ll find it. Be kind. There will be days when you believe you’re too busy to practice. Each time you slip off, just get back on track. Try not to judge yourself. If you still find you’re struggling, remember that meditation and any mindful thought is an act of self-kindness.

In a speeding, distracting world, meditation connects us with our inner goodness. Happily, the kinder we are to ourselves, the more kindness and goodness we may draw upon to uplift others. And so, thank you in advance for being mindful.


Meditation teacher Maggie Richards ( is the author of A Guide to Being a Better Being and has worked with corporate teams at Deloitte, Leon, John Lewis Partnership and Urban Rituals to cultivate calm at work.


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