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Mindfulness Goes Mainstream

September 5, 2013

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The topic of mindfulness is popping up everywhere. While these somewhat militant monks seem the antithesis of the quiet, calm imagery associated with all things mindful, the message speaks to a larger wish for more awareness and sanity in a culture that often feels chaotic and confusing.

From the pioneering program started by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979 to the corporate tech giant Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” program, mindfulness is as they say – trending.

Is it a fad? Well it could be, but I am hopeful that once discovered – and practiced – the benefits of mindfulness will create converts.  For those, like me, who have regularly practiced mindfulness for years, it is a place that offers so much comfort and renewal that it becomes one of life’s great pleasures.

Corporations may sign on simply to improve their bottom-line and while that’s fine, more mindful employees will make more mindful decisions that may shake the status-quo mindset. Exhausted employees looking for new coping strategies and ways to “get-ahead, “ will hopefully discover that being and acting more mindfully can be life-altering. Mindfulness has a way of opening the” doors of perception” and your original intention for practicing may be eclipsed by deeper awareness.

Many will find that the essence of mindfulness is the bliss, and for some, anxiety, of being agenda-less. Yes, it will help you focus.  But don’t expect that mindfulness will delete the thoughts you don’t want – it will help you to be less reactive to them. Mindfulness is the great letting-go process, which must be practiced again and again to reinforce its many benefits.

Studies show that mindfulness can help us to be more empathetic and compassionate towards others. My hunch is that the morality of mindfulness is the result of our experience of greater self-acceptance and self-compassion. These empirical findings are consistent with other research that shows that to turn on compassion, we need to learn to turn-off anxieties.  This ability to get more control of the great on/off switch of our limbic arousal system, is one of the most compelling benefits that invites us to sit down and get quiet.

Mindfulness Articles Round-Up 

There’s no question about it – the articles I’ve posted on this blog focusing on mindfulness are my most popular. Here they are:

10 Ways to Bring More Mindfulness to Your Work Day - In the top 5 of articles – everyday. 10 simple and not-so-simple practices that come from and contribute to your mindfulness practice. But don’t just practice at work – practice everywhere you go – with friends, family and strangers.

5 Practices for More Mindful Communication –   Solitude is one thing, but taking our mindfulness practice on the road, is quite another. Our beliefs, emotional triggers and judgments are filters on our experience with others and it takes a routine practice to see others (and ourselves in the process) with greater clarity. 

The Neurobiology of Mindfulness – Reshaping Your Brain -  The term “neuroplasticity” is getting a lot of air-time these days. Essentially, everything we do creates changes in the brain and we’re only in the early stages of understanding how this works. One of the great a-ha findings from neuroscience is discovering that we can make changes that can literally re-shape our brains.

Mindful FeedbackSome of us can be as hard on others as we are on ourselves. Giving other’s our “feedback” should be a conscious and delicate act bringing our most mindful awareness to bear.  Recent neuroscience has shown that our brains are social – we act in the world in response to our environment, generating either threat or reward responses. How we talk to others is predicated on how mindful we are in any moment.

11 Ways to Be More Mindful in Your Work Relationships - This is a tough one. I meet many people in the workplace who do not even like their colleagues. While being more mindful does not require that you transform your feelings towards others, it does help to understand more clearly what and why you get emotionally triggered by them. A more mindful approach with co-workers helps you to see your own reactivity and creates some space to generate different and hopefully, more resourceful responses.

Mindfulness is a Whole Body Experience -  Mindfulness is not a neck-up experience.  The effective practice of mindfulness cannot be confined solely to the mind. The greater your knowledge of your mind-body interaction, the deeper your mindfulness practice becomes.

Mindful Work – AM to PM -  If you limit your mindfulness practice to the “cushion,” you will deprive yourself of the endless opportunities to deepen your awareness. Mindfulness practice is very much about seeing, feeling and understanding yourself in the world. Inspired by the wonderful work of Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, this article takes you step by step into your day to practice.

Even 5 Minutes of Meditation a Day Can Change the Way You Work -  I know, I know you don’t have time…right?  But research shows that even very brief mindfulness respites can positively impact your physiology.  Often people don’t meditate because they don’t know how to get started. Here’s a few pointers and resources and look for more of these ideas in these pages in the near future. 

If you practice (and the good news is that it’s possible to realize some benefits in a relatively short time) you’ll become a better parent. a more resilient leader  and improve your health in the process.  The mystery and the beauty is in the personal, internal journey. Mindfulness is not an exercise program or sport. It is about choosing another way to be in the world.

And if our excited monks in the graphic get what they want, maybe we’ll all get more of what we want – a kinder, more considerate and healthier society. 

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, subscribe, share, like and tweet this article. It’s appreciated.

Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2013 8:17 am

    Thanks, Louise. Lovely article. I was inspired to start daily mindfulness meditation – even just five minutes – from a previous post of yours. As you tell us, I found that even a small amount can make a big difference. And your points about the workplace (and how mindfulness might help us better tune into our own triggers and therefore help us respond with more emotional intelligence) are so valuable!

    • September 5, 2013 10:38 am

      Hi Ronnie,

      Yes, it is amazing how just stopping and sitting with the intention to just release and relax for 5 minutes helps. What I found after a period of doing this (and increasing the amount of time I would sit) was that being more mindful and in the most simple way I see that as just witnessing what is allowed me to create the space I refer to in the article throughout the day. And recent research is supporting that the benefits of meditation/mindfulness practice are experienced well afterwards.

      Naturally, there’s a lot of hype and misunderstanding of what mindfulness is and what it does, but my guess is that the more people try it (and stick with it for awhile) the more they will sing its praises!

      Thanks
      ~Louise

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