The concept of ‘mindfulness’ has become a hot topic in the mass media of the past few years. We see on just about every business related website or blog a mention of how mindfulness can benefit your health. But the proliferation and recent popularity of the concept of mindfulness has been met with some scepticism of late.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review titled, “There are Risks To Mindfulness at Work” career consultant David Brendel suggests that some executives are “escaping” their responsibilities by retreating into what he describes as mindfulness. Brendel outlines one particular example where mindfulness practices had been forced upon a staff by their manager.
So is ‘mindfulness’ just another “woo-woo” idea of the new-age movement?
I have practiced it for over 30 years and I have taught it for 7 years to clients with tailored practices designed for their particular place on their own journey.
Having practiced “witness consciousness” – the yogic term for mindfulness – for over 3 decades, I have noticed how the recent growth in interest in this tool has led to many misunderstandings and myths about the practice and its impact.
I use mindfulness to “get real” about what is happening to me right now and I use it to make a conscious choice about how to respond, rather than getting caught up in wishing that my experience was different.
It takes considerable and conscious effort, particularly when I’m experiencing strong emotions and overpowering thoughts, but the personal growth and impact has been well worth it.
What Does It Mean To Be Mindful?
You’ll come across many descriptions of mindfulness, but here are the 3 main components of mindful living:
- Consciously choosing to pay attention to the present moment.
- Noticing your thoughts, emotions/feelings, body sensations, and experiencing them fully.
- Releasing judgement of yourself and your experience, without labelling it “right” or “wrong” or choosing “for” or “against”.
Kripalu Yoga & Mindfulness
The Kripalu Yoga definition of mindfulness also adds the element of “self-compassion”, to create a self-nurturing container for powerful thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness originated in the yoga tradition as “witnesses conscious” and has become very popular recently through the application of Buddhist teachings. There are many different mindfulness practices aimed at different results, and studies have shown the many benefits.
Two important benefits include:
- Improved well-being, positive emotion and enhanced behaviour regulation.
- Increased grey matter in the parts of the brain relating to memory, learning, empathy, emotion regulation and perspective.
In this way, mindfulness is about full engagement with the situation you are experiencing, both externally and internally. As a leader, it serves you as a powerful tool to live with intention and conscious choice.
In the words of the Zen master, Thich Nhat Hahn “meditation is not evasion, it is a serene encounter with reality.”
If you would like to see more articles based on the concept of mindfulness or if you have tried some of your own, I’d love to hear your thoughts via my contact page.
A Grounding Mindfulness Technique.
Next time you are feeling challenged by your circumstances, rather than wishing it was different, try this mindfulness technique, which is based on Kripalu Yoga’s Breathe… Relax… Feel… Watch… Allow approach to life, on and off the yoga mat.
Step 1: Pause to reconnect with your breath, breathe fully and deeply.
Step 2: With each exhale, consciously relax your body.
Step 3: Notice what you are feeling in your body and mind.
Step 4: Watch what is happening with the curiosity of a “witness”, allowing your experience to be just as it is, without wishing it were different.
Step 5: Then make a conscious choice about how you will respond.
If you would like to ask a question about how to cultivate mindfulness in your working life, you are welcome to contact me here. Please feel to share this article with colleagues and friends who would be interested in the benefits of mindfulness.