In a recent Huffington Post article, Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and former Google.org director Larry Brilliant are described as “business leaders who advocate mindfulness.” The article then goes on to list ten executives who meditate regularly. It’s easy to assume mindfulness and meditation are the same. No wonder there’s confusion.
With the increased interest in mindfulness in the workplace, many companies now offer classes in yoga, meditation, and stress reduction, and endorse activities such as spending 5 minutes each day doing nothing and taking time out for reflective reading.
These are all excellent activities, but they will not automatically create mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a way of being, not an activity.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present with the experience of each moment.
Meditation, reflection, and yoga are activities that help you experience being present – like helping you develop a muscle. But you need to use the muscle for it to make a difference.
For the real value of mindfulness to work for you, you need to develop an orientation of being mindful in each moment.
3 ways to experience mindfulness in each moment.
1. Pay attention to what’s happening. Slow down. Did you ever finish a meal and realize you never tasted it? Chances are there’s something delightful that you’re missing out on if you are busy multi-tasking or preoccupied. What’s actually going on right now? What do you see? What sounds do you hear? What do you taste or smell? Simply notice what is happening, without jumping into your analytic judging mind.
When someone is talking, give them your undivided attention. Really listen, instead of thinking about your response.
It’s impossible to be mindful when you are rushing from activity to activity. In his new book Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, Scott Eblin explains how to meet the challenges of creating a lifestyle that supports being mindful in a world that asks you to do more with less and provides tools, like smartphones, so can can be always connected to your work.
2. Pay attention to your experience. Your mind can live in the future but your body can’t.
Pay attention to your physical experience. Be aware of your breathing. Is it shallow? Be aware of how it feels when your lungs expand. What are your physical sensations? Does breathing feel pleasurable?
Be aware of your feelings. Where is that sensation located in your body? Notice your experience without judging it.
3. Be intensely curious. A good question can take you a lot farther than a quick answer.
As you notice what’s happening and what you are experiencing, are you making assumptions about what it means? Suspend judgment, and be willing to live with “not knowing.”
Quick answers and short-term solutions will relieve immediate pressure, but will not necessarily get you where you want to go over the long-term.
If you are feeling angry, be curious. What story are you telling yourself? Do you think you’re being judged by your teammate? Question it. Are you sure that’s true? Maybe he’s frowning because he has indigestion. Were you really slighted by Alice when she walked past and didn’t smile? Maybe she was preoccupied and didn’t notice you. Maybe she’s shy. If you remain curious, if you don’t make snap judgments and if you are willing to live without knowing, you won’t get trapped by the wrong answer.
Mindfulness allows you to discover the truth of each moment.
As you develop an orientation of mindfulness, you will become a wiser, kinder and more effective leader. And you will experience more pleasure in your life.
Each moment has its own inherent beauty and possibility for joy. You don’t have to hike to the top of a mountain to experience it. You can find it in a board room or simply walking down the hall.