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Mindfulness Basics for Busy Leaders

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Patrick Kozakiewicz

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In this post you will learn about the origins of mindfulness, what mindfulness is not and how to do 4 basic practices that can help you better connect with others and stay more aware.

Parts of this post were originally published by Maciej Ostaszewski and myself on LinkedIn.

Mindfulness meditation has been practiced for millennia – and today is a billion-dollar business. Meditation from its eastern roots means “to cultivate” (in Sanskrit) or “to become familiar with” (in Tibetan). In other words, people have been getting familiar with or cultivating themselves, their minds and emotions for probably as long as we have been conscious. And now, with the advancements in technology and science, the ancient practices of getting familiar with are finding their ways into classrooms, board rooms and military trainings. Therefore, it is important for a leader to know what this mindfulness topic is all about and be ready for some tough questions that can accompany it.

Mindfulness practices are tools, and they help us learn what the mindfulness state is. By the persistent practice of mindfulness, by repetition, we learn the difference between mindfulness and the “normal” brain’s mode of operations. It helps us get a taste of calmness, joy and “understanding”, associated with that state. When we get to know the benefits of meditation well and we learn to enter the state of mindfulness quickly, we will discover that we can easily reach that state in every situation. We can do it while working, while interacting with others, in action and idleness. We can find it reading (easier) and watching movies (more difficult but still possible), preparing food, driving, surfing the Internet or scanning through posts on social media. Watch the video below to learn 4 simple practices you can do at any moment.

Close up of businessman holding digital image of brain in palm

 

Mindfulness comes from the East. It is true that meditation practices have been known in India, China and Japan for ages with Buddhism existing in multiple varieties for more than 2 millenia. However, mindfulness is not meditation. It draws from earlier religious systems in India and has spread initially further east and then, relatively recently, to the west. Many mindfulness practices stem back as late as 4500 years. However, mindfulness is not a religion. To find out more about what mindfulness is not, watch the series of videos below.

 

 

Our mind is continuously running. It is executing conscious and subconscious targets and programs. We respond to external stimuli, process them through emotions and belief systems. We react and act. We are recalling “important” events from the past and creating scenarios for the future. We categorize and judge. We get involved, have opinions, make decisions, and act consciously or compulsively. We rest, play, watch and read. We like or dislike, we are bored, and we sleep.

Mindfulness is stepping back from the level of the “standard” mode of the mind’s operations to a level of observation. We observe how thoughts flow through, how our body works, what reality looks like. Instead of reaching to the past or the future, we focus on the current moment. We do not judge, we notice. We do not react, but we observe our physical and emotional reactions. We concentrate, but we don’t “lose consciousness”. Standardly mindfulness is being associated with certain positions, sitting, often for a long time, in immobility, in an uncomfortable pose or focusing the mind on breathing or trying to breathe in a particular way. But there are many tools and practices to get you to be more mindful. Mindfulness helps us discover the difference between Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” and plain and powerful “I am”. 

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What is its practical use and why it can be applied? Once we learn how to observe our mind and emotions mindfully, we will discover that our reactions can be inadequate to external stimuli. That arising emotions push us into “areas” we don’t really want to be in, that we are repeating old patterns and often mindlessly or even against our conscious will, we start some activity which as a matter of fact we would prefer to avoid. We will notice, that we are sticking labels, gossiping, judging and automatically assuming the intentions of people and events, which turn out to be only made up by ourselves. We start to notice how little we were able to see in people, nature, objects and events. As soon as we start noticing all of that, we are only one step away from beginning to change it. We can have a better understanding of what is going on around us. We can make decisions and take actions more consciously. We will open ourselves to the value of contacts with others, even those most onerous and we will make space in our heads for new concepts and ideas.

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