Mindfulness in Practice

Posted on | March 30, 2010 | No Comments

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Many of us who are coaches, consultants, and facilitators have been taught the importance of being aware of who we are and how we impact a room. We have been told about the difference between “being” and “doing.” The notion of “use of self” has been a central tenant of our respective professions.

Though we have learned about these concepts and may cognitively be very aware of them and their importance, however, the practice of these concepts is not typically imbedded in our schooling. The ability to bring ourselves totally present and be an instrument of change is an ongoing journey and one that requires commitment and regular practice. Often we find alternative routes to discover ourselves and the practice of mindfulness, such as meditation, yoga, spiritual paths, therapy or even religious practices.

As someone who consults and coaches in organizations I am struck by two seemingly incongruent dynamics within organizations. One is the lack of “mindfulness”—meaning the ability to be fully awake to the present moment. Most of us, if we look closely, will find our minds in the past or in the future, not focused on the here and now. We also more often than not are operating on unconscious emotional reactions. To be mindful, in my definition, is to be fully present to this moment and aware of what is arising without being attached or hooked by it.

The other dynamic I see in organizations is the longing for meaning, appreciation and a sense of community. People are starved for mindfulness, for balanced lives, for making a difference—and yet our organizations foster fast paces, information overload, stress, long hours and suffering.

After spending a hard but glorious week with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli as a participant in their “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Health Care Professionals” training, I am committed to bringing the practice of mindfulness to my work and to my clients in a more direct way. I want to dedicate portions of my blog to support my own journey and to share that experience in hopes that it may support others on their journeys.

To start, I’d like to share my learning from the program that I found most impactful:

1. Defining “presence” or mindfulness as being awake or focused on this moment. It’s not something to achieve in the future, it’s not a journey to be an enlightened soul or any other spiritual aspiration. It’s simply attending to this moment. And it’s available to you now. Now is all you really have anyway.
2. Allowing whatever is arising to simply be. Emotions and thoughts will arise; it’s the nature of the human being. There’s no right or wrong about it, it simply is. Allow them to be without judgment.
3. Noticing that we cling to or resist emotions and thoughts. We tend to want to keep emotions or experiences we see as positive and to get rid of the ones that we don’t want. Holding on or trying to change is what causes our suffering. The reactions to what’s arising are the source of pain. If you can just observe and be—without judgment about what is arising within you—you will find that more ease, more clarity and more choice is available to you.
4. Invoking curiosity and kindness toward yourself. Be an observer to yourself and your habits of mind and body.
5. Creating a regular practice of mindfulness and being fully committed to it; doing so will build and strengthen new muscles. Welcome the time and give it to yourself as a gift. Make friends with the practice.

Since returning from my week with Jon and Saki (as well as a wonderful group of fellow participants) I have made mindfulness practice the “bones” of my day. I have shifted the way I schedule my time. I put on my calendar the “practices” I want to commit to before I put anything else.

We all have work requirements that are non-negotiable, so you may want to put those in as well. I have coaching appointments and teaching and facilitation commitments already made. Many are not movable for a variety of reasons, or I choose not to move them.

I put on each day 30 minutes in the morning to sit quietly and just be with myself. Some people name that practice “meditating.” You can call it anything you like. I do that once in the morning and once at night. I also added in physical exercise. I like to do yoga at least twice each week and aerobic and strength training three times. I put them on my calendar. Everything else now has to fit around those events.

I also make a point during my day to stop and check in with myself. What do I notice, how am I feeling, what am I doing, thinking?? Observing with curiosity has brought new information, clarity, and spaciousness to my day. I can now very quickly recognize when I am no longer in the room (mentally or emotionally) and can readily bring myself back. This facility promotes my ability to be with my clients and myself fully.

Though I am not sure if any of my work or general life responsibilities have declined, I feel my pace has slowed and my anxiety has significantly decreased while enjoyment and ease have grown.

For those of you reading this who would like to join in the dialogue, you are most welcome.

I would love to hear your thoughts, learnings and questions.

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