Last week I attended a Master class with Jon Kabat-Zinn on Mindfulness-Based Interventions from the Inside: A Day-Long Laboratory of Practice, Inquiry, and Fine-Tuning. I make it sound as if I had a one on one session with him! Actually there was 350 of us MBSR ( Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Teachers and MBCT ( Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Teachers) in the lecture hall at The Imperial College London. It’s a rarity to have so many teachers together, it's only happened once before and that alone shows how mindfulness is growing at pace and how important it is that the quality of the teaching is at the least maintained and aspired to be continually enhanced.
My interest as co-author of “The Mindful Approach to Working Life” and director of Mindclouds – Mindfulness at Work- is in mindfulness at work, so here are my take aways:
- A one word answer to what is mindfulness? AWARENESS. Simple.
- But what is AWARENESS? It’s freedom from being imprisoned by our own thinking, our beliefs, our emotional and physical pain. When we have awareness about what is happening in ourselves and around us then we have choices in how to respond. Awareness gives us new perspectives on reality. How often have you spoken your thoughts in reaction to a comment, or regretted sending that email!
- One way to awareness if through paying attention to our breathing. Follow the path of your breath for ten breaths. If it’s hard for you to follow your breath for ten breaths then try paying full attention to half a breath. The in breath, or the out breath. That is still mindfulness. And then once you have achieved full attention for half a breath you can focus on the other half a breath. It doesn’t have to be a marathon session in fact all marathons are run one step at a time.
- You are the instrument. Whatever your goals, aspirations, dreams are, you are the instrument. You show up at work as the instrument and the full catastrophe of life impacts on your effectiveness. Mindfulness helps with the fine tuning so you can be the best version of yourself.
- Opportunity to meditate is all around us and the world offers itself to your imagination. We simply need to pause, observe, breath and it’s all here for us. Always has been. What can you choose as your focus to be present, right now?
- Habits are not formed over night! If you want the next moment to be different try waking up in this one and not being lost in the emotional disturbance. Mindfulness is a practice and there are all sorts of evidence as to why it makes a difference that you can google about in neuroscience. For now, just treat it like going to the gym. First you have to go, second you have to exercise and thirdly, repeat.
- When we are unhappy we default to the star in our own movie – I. We default to being self centred. How much of the narrative in your mind is I, me, mine? Is that working for you? How much of the narrative is about what you have or haven’t done or got? How much is about what you want? Try letting go. It will all happen anyway!
- How many change programs fail because we have an attachment to a precise outcome. Trust in emergence. Change is about endings and new beginnings, not process, but behaviours, our own and those of others and we need to get out of our own way.
- (This one might be a bit woo woo for some of you, but I like it). We are flowers and the world needs every one of us to be us, as each one of us is unique and the garden needs all of us in order to look beautiful. Great one to hold in mind for your team.
- Ask yourself “What is my intention today?” Ask it first thing in the morning; before starting a meeting; send an email; talking to a report, customer, stakeholder. Perhaps your day will be more focused, have less conflict and be more enjoyable.
Remember, thoughts are not facts. Pause and notice what thoughts are in your mind tight now? What are you feeling in your emotions and in your physical body? It’s all information for you to access and use. I’m interested. Look forward to hearing your take on my takeaways.