Mindful leadership: the practice14
Let me start by first of all highlighting the difference between mindfulness & meditation:
- Mindfulness: is the willingness to rest the mind in a natural state of clear awareness, resisting the temptation to judge whatever emotion comes up, and therefore neither opposing nor getting carried away with a feeling. It is an active intervention in the neural network to maintain presence in the moment and alter everyday patterns of thought and action.
- Meditation: is simply the exercise that is going to give you the best conditions to practice being mindful of these emotions & judgements.
- Clear awareness: is the "space in your head" you want to achieve, a place where you are at ease with whatever emotion/situation is present.
In order to start meditating (the exercise to get to mindfulness), you have to keep the ABCD of mindfulness in mind:
- Anatomy: Find a conducive body posture of dignity, keeping the 90 degree angles of your body in mind while being seated. In this position gravity has the least impact on our bodies in this posture.
- Breath: Our attention needs to be fixed on an object in order not to wander. The breath is a very helpful anchor for the attention, because we always have it with us, as long as we live and wherever we go. Place your attention on the breath by observing the sensation of the belly rising and falling. This is our main task during the practice. Do not engage actively with the breath by trying to make it deep, slow, fast or shallow, but simply observe it neutrally like you would observe waves on the beach.
- Counting: As a support for the concentration to keep observing the breath, it is helpful to count. Starting at one, count every out-breath up to ten. When you reach ten, count backwards again to one. If you lose track of the counting, simply start over by counting from one again. At some point (ideally after 6 months of practice), you might no longer need to count to stay with the breath. In that case, leave the counting aside and merely observe the breath as described.
- Distractions: After a while you will find that you are not observing the breath anymore, but are engaged in distractions of some kind: thoughts, emotions, sounds, smells, etc. This is completely natural; do not condemn yourself! Whatever the distraction is, it is not the object of your training. Without suppressing or pushing away the distraction, relax, release and simply return your attention to your breath and start counting again. Another way of dealing with distractions more neutrally is labelling them with "thinking".
In the beginning the training will be a constant shift between observing the breath and finding yourself engaged in distractions. However, if you train daily (10 minutes a day, ideally in the morning), you will find yourself less and less distracted and more and more focused. The time span between being distracted and actually discovering your distraction will decrease. At some point you will be able to notice an oncoming thought even before it arises in conscious awareness. At that point, your attention span and ability to focus will have a great impact on your daily productivity, health, and well-being.
Source: The Potential Project Singapore