Contemplative Tradition - In Plain Speak


I love the Tree of Contemplative Practices diagram and was glad to see it make the rounds on social media - it reminded me of the tree of yoga I discovered in a random yoga studio in Carmel decades ago.

Back then I was pleased to see my Iyengar yoga training in a wider framework.
I traded yoga tights for sensible workplace flats in 2010 when I moved into yoga based mindfulness for the workplace. Now, as a professional corporate mindfulness consultant, I share a variety of mindfulness techniques stemming from the movement branch of the tree.

But, much as I love the visual of that verdant tree, in sharing with workplace professionals in mind, I find myself wanting to overlay a garland of practicality atop the foliage. A gesture of collective softening of all our traditions, a bright banner of open mindedness.

I feel strongly that rich traditions of all kinds are best received with language and experience that meet people where they are. Jeremy Hunter has long warned of the "executive immune response" to contemplative language in the corporate world. Likewise, leading experts from Kristen Neff to Rick Hansen and John Kabot-Zinn continue to place increasing emphasis on the integration of core mindfulness skills into everyday, daily personal routine. If we want a more contemplative 9-5 workforce, we may want to start with small doses of intention, attention and awareness, and leave the activism, social justice and ritual for down the road.

When it comes to mindfulness at work, that means meeting people where they are with short bursts of meaningful practice. Integrating traditional skills into micro-practices to sustain after formal training or as a stand alone wellness offering.

The good news is the increased interest and research in mind body practices and the neuroscience of felt sense. We're only now exploring the power and practicality of leveraging the felt sense of the body - the foundational skills from the movement tradition - during the "average work day". Richard Miller, Kelly McGonnigal and others are exploring the neuroscience of interoreceptivity and the physical response, while the felt sense of presence is foundational to corporate programs like the Awake@Intel mindfulness training program.

Perhaps "Felt Sense Quotient" will become the new measurement for emotional resiliency. Perhaps the six second pause will be the new Leadership Excellence power tool.

The Tree of Contemplative Practices is a great resource in an ever evolving discussion about bringing traditional practices into the modern workplace. Much thanks to The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society for broadening community. May our tree continue to branch out in practical service to a more conscious and contemplative planet.