Mindfulness is the state of being aware of the present moment, observing with detachment our thoughts, feelings and whatever is happening around us without judgement. From its ancient Buddhist roots, mindfulness is becoming popular in the West as a way to reduce stress, generate clear thinking and bring peace, calm and many other benefits to our busy lives. For more on what mindfulness is, and its many benefits CLICK HERE
I am thrilled to see that organizations are beginning to "embrace" mindfulness , as expounded on in this HBR article: "Why Google, Target, and General Mills Are Investing in Mindfulness." - CLICK HERE TO VIEW ARTICLE
To find it being introduced with gusto in the workplace is joy to my soul. I wonder, though, at the motivation behind it - the idea that mindfulness is something to be invested in, which indicates an expectation of a return. Indeed, the final paragraph of the article holds this statement:
"Perhaps most importantly from a management perspective, mindfulness gives employees permission to think."
"Permission to think." The word "mindfulness" has always struck me as being the opposite of what actually happens when you sit still and be mindful. In my humble opinion, and in my practice of mindfulness, when one is truly mindful, there is actually less mind and more, well, more no-thing. We become aware of the present because we do not have thoughts of the past or future cluttering our minds. In this awareness, our thoughts are not channeled or pigeonholed into "life", "work", "family" or any of the other discrete boxes which we use to define our lives. We simply become aware because the emptier our minds are, the more room there is for awareness. But maybe awareness is not a function of the mind. Using the mind implies thought and thinking. Awareness is simply observing. The more mindful we are, or actually the more mind-less, the more we are able to observe unfettered and unfiltered. Perhaps what we should practice is mindlessness.
Can we "practice" mindfulness, as exhorted by the corporate mindfulness programs, or should we simply BE mindful? Practice implies some quest for mastery, for an endgame or results. We master mindfulness just by being mindful, without the stress or concern about making it perfect.
My mother Daisy used to sit in quiet time each morning. I loved to watch her, her back straight, hands nestled in her lap like two feathers, eyelids not closed, but just resting together. She was the epitome of peace. Or so I thought. For she shared with me once her frustration, as her mind was so busy, she just couldn't quiet it. She sought counsel with Rev. Elma, her spiritual guide, who said, "Daisy. Just watch the thoughts passing by like clouds in the sky. Just watch them come and go. Don't hold on to them. Just observe."
Mindfulness in daily life as a state of BEING means just watching our thoughts, watching what's happening without being attached. At work, be mindful. Watch. In this state of less mind, we can become empty. No need to be full of anything, just the need to BE. The less we attach ourselves to the mind, the more we can be.
Whatever the motivation for this latest corporate bandwagon, I welcome it. For I am sure that when people actually practice mindfulness they will start to experience more presence in all aspects of their lives. And then they will realize that it's less about "permission to think" and more about "permission" from themselves to be present to who they truly are.
TAKE ONE ACTION
Today, sit quietly for 10 minutes, comfortably seated, eyes closed, no external distractions.