Information about mindfulness seems to be everywhere. When I first heard the term, I had a general sense for what it meant; however, it wasn’t until I started practicing and connecting with some trained practitioners that I appreciated the nuances.**
So, what is mindfulness? Well, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines it as “”paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”
“Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”
Mindfulness is both a way of being, as defined by Kabat-Zinn, and any practice that brings about greater mindfulness. Meditation is one of a variety of ways to practice mindfulness. Sometimes mindfulness is perceived as having a religious affiliation – which it may, although that is not a required element. You can practice mindfulness regardless of any religious affiliation, and mindfulness can be an integrated part of a religious practice.
What draws people and organizations to mindfulness? Quite simply, because it is transformational. Organizations might invite a more mindful workplace because mindfulness can cultivate greater focus and clarity, which can lead to better outcomes and improved efficiency – and employees feel good about themselves and their work when they experience this focus and clarity and create the outcomes needed in the most effective way.
The biggest reason I’m drawn to mindfulness is that it can create greater awareness – about ourselves, others, and what’s happening around us. When we have deeper self-understanding, we can be more intentional and make more active choices about our actions. Basically, we are in a stronger place for creating what we want in our lives. With greater self-awareness often comes greater awareness of others – and that is the foundation for building lasting relationships with just about everyone, including our peers and clients.
And, of course, there are myriad articles about how mindfulness can help us manage stress – and that’s a big bonus in this fast-moving, 24X7 world we live in. Imagine being calm amidst the chaos of your day. Centered, confident. Ah, now wouldn’t that be nice?
Experimenting with mindfulness is a great way to discover what it is and how it affects you.
The best way to learn about mindfulness is to experience it. People are different and may be supported in very different ways. Experimenting with mindfulness is a great way to discover what it is and how it affects you. Here’s a practice you can try right away to explore your experience. It’s called STOP!. a practice I learned from Dr. Elisha Goldstein.
Take a breath
Observe your thoughts, emotions, physical state
Find a small space in your day to pause and tune into what you are experiencing. You can do it any time of day, multiple times a day. To get started, pick a time to regularly give it a try (consistency of practice is key to finding the most value). You might do it in the morning before you get out of bed, when beginning a meal, when your device alerts you, when you start or end your daily fitness activity, or as you are going to sleep. If you already practice mindfulness in some way, perhaps there’s a new place you can incorporate a STOP!
The pause doesn’t have to be long, even a single cleansing breath that refocuses you can work wonders. As you pause, you might ask yourself a single question or run through a series of questions, such as “What’s on my mind right now?”, “What emotions am I experiencing?” or “What physical sensations am I having?” Then, just notice. There is nothing you need to do. Just observe without judging or making a story about what you find. This whole process might take a few seconds (e.g., if it’s before you pick up the phone) or it might take 30 seconds (e.g., if you are lying in bed about to get up). The golden core of mindfulness is in the noticing, in being a witness to our experience in the moment.
The golden core of mindfulness is the noticing, in being a witness to our experience in the moment.
For more guidance on STOP!, check out Dr. Elisha Goldstein’s short practice video HERE.
I invite you to share your experience in the comments.
** I am not certified to teach mindfulness. My mindfulness training is non-traditional, supported by curiosity to know myself better, by openness to new ways of being my best, and by exploration with a variety of experts through reading, virtual practices, and in-person sessions, workshops, and retreats. I see mindfulness as a personal experience that one experiences to understand and that is manifest through a wide variety of practices.
Join me each week in May as I celebrate mindfulness. Upcoming posts will focus on using your breath to center your awareness, building mindful mini-habits, and mindful appreciation.
A version of this blog was originally posted on IBM’s recruitment web site in January 2016 and was a collaborative endeavor with Megan Moyer.
Other Leading with Intention posts related to mindfulness:
* I took the opening photo in San Agustinillo, Mexico.
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