Over the past 15 years, I’ve been experimenting with different mindfulness practices and learning from others. I’ve spent quality time with myself – for example, journaling my thoughts and feelings, keeping a gratitude journal, frequently STOP!ing during the day (see Experimenting with Mindfulness), meditating for 5-20 minutes a day… I’ve read practical, theoretical, research-based, spiritual and other mindfulness-related books*. I’ve attended retreats and practiced with experts and strangers. I’ve attended and led online and in-person practice sessions inside and outside of work. I’ve found that I tend toward simple, practical ways that wake me up to life and support my staying awake for the journey.
The most important lesson I’ve learned from practicing mindfulness is that opportunities to practice are everywhere. Opportunities to drop into a moment of awareness are available any time anywhere in any of a variety of ways. Lying in bed, standing at the kitchen sink, brushing teeth or taking a shower, walking or exercising outside…at any of these times, it’s possible to pause, tune in, and see what’s really happening in our lives, rather than running on autopilot. There’s incredible power in noticing when I’m caught in some self-created melodrama, and bringing my attention to my breath, thus shifting my attention from the thoughts running through my mind to what’s happening in my body. When I am able to make that shift, I find I am at choice: proceed with the melodrama and the consequences, or consider what I would like to be creating in my life and act accordingly.
A key principle that sticks with me is that how we are in our body affects how we are in our minds. I learned this from practicing at a weekend retreat with Rolf Gates, author of Meditations on Intention and Being. I learned to awaken my mind by taking an ‘awake’ posture – that is, a posture at the balance point between effort and ease, whereby our ears, shoulders, and hips in alignment. Whenever I notice that I am slouched over my computer or sitting with my arms crossed over my chest, I take a deep belly breath and slowly straighten my spine, coming into an awake posture, and instantly I feel a shift.
Mindfulness has taught me to see opportunities in front of me that I might have otherwise missed – opportunities to shift my mindset or attitude so that how I am being aligns with who I want to be. It could be while fixing dinner with my husband or in meeting with my team. It could be opportunities to smile at a stranger or acknowledge something special about another person.
Because of my mindfulness practice, I’m better able to trust, respect, and care for myself and others. I’ve learned that when I trust, respect and care for myself, I’m able to better do that for others.
Through mindfulness practice, I have learned to take chances and learn new things by opening to curiosity through my practice. I’ve learned to better see when I am afraid and how I need to be to show up brave in the face of fear.
* Here’s a list of my favorite mindfulness books:
- Meditations on Intention and Being: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, Mindfulness, and Compassion by Rolf Gates (2016)
- Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself, and Inspiring Others by Maria Gonzalez (2012)
- Pause: 52 Ways to Shift Any Outcome in Less Than a Minute, Practical Mindfulness for Leaders by Jennifer Sellers, Sheri Boone, Kate Harper (2011)
- Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership by Janice Marturano (2014)
- Awake at Work: 35 Practical Buddhist Principles for Discovering Clarity and Balance in the Midst of Work’s Chaos by Michael Carroll (2006)
If you missed the Experimenting with Mindfulness series I shared in May, here are some quick links to the featured posts:
- Experimenting with Mindfulness
- Building Awareness Through the Breath
- Mini-Habits for Showing Up Mindfully
- Cultivating Mindfulness with Gratitude
A version of this blog was originally posted on IBM’s recruitment web site in December 2016.
Other Leading with Intention posts related to mindfulness:
- Have a little compassion, starting with you
- Mind Your Words – They Are Powerful Seeds of Change
- Catch Your Mind and Smile
* I took the lead-in photo in Sagres, Portugal and the other photo at Cala Boix, Ibiza, Spain.
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