Can you lead with mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of placing your attention where you'd like it to go and cultivating the ability to hold it there. This placement of attention is quite a skill because in today’s world anything can take your attention. It’s constantly scanning for new stimuli and creates a jumpy habit. It makes you busy but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are productive. This jumpy habit also promotes fear and doubt – says Susan Piver. How can leaders become better by practicing mindfulness?
Un-splitting mind and body
Susan Piver is a mindfulness expert and long-time meditation teacher. She authored "How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life" and edited "Quiet Mind-A Beginner's Guide to Meditation." Fear and doubt prevent us from giving our full heart to what we're doing and the people we're with. Fear and doubt arise when our mind and body split – when our body is doing something but our mind is thinking of something else. According to Susan: “Mindfulness has nothing to do with being calm or thinking happy thoughts or being undisturbed. It is the synchronization of mind and body. It gives you a sense of open relaxation and confidence.”
Mindfulness enables you to communicate clearly based on what's actually happening in front of you rather than your thoughts about what's happening in front of you. Being present in the moment helps to remove fear and doubt and therefore opens the floodgate of caring. Caring about what you do, the people you work with, the people you work for. Your success is based on your ability to communicate warmly with your team and customers. It also depends on your ability to be present and respond to what happens – instead of to your own thoughts.
Observe your thoughts
The common misconception about mindfulness is that in order to meditate or practice mindfulness, you have to stop thinking. “The truth is you don't have to stop thinking, and you don't have to change yourself to practice mindfulness. Your mind exists to make thoughts and breaking off thought is abnormal.” According to Susan, there are three things you have to be mindful of: your body, your breath, and your mind.
Susan’s method of mindfulness is done with open eyes. The key is being with yourself: being aware of your own body, seeing and hearing yourself breathe, and thinking thoughts about what you see in front of you.
Open your eyes
Practicing mindfulness with your eyes open creates a sense of wakefulness—a good combination of “relaxed and activated”. You will not seem busy but you will be productive. You will have inner calm and alertness at the same time. With this calm alertness, you will have a clear understanding of your wishes, you’ll be aware of your tasks at hand, and lead with a mind that is not empty but focused and organized. You’ll be able to pay attention—which is what leadership is all about. Susan Piver: “You will not be perfect at mindfulness but you will get better at being yourself.” I’d like to see how leaders and teams improve when people would practice true mindfulness. Being present and aware of what happens in the room (instead of thinking, judging, projecting)...
- How can you pay attention to the present?
by Marcella Bremer
Editor, author & change facilitator Co-founder of Leadership & Change magazine and OCAI-online.com.