Clear Confident Leader Weekly Observer, Issue #14
From the Greenbelt of Boise, Idaho, Frosty mornings
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness.
If you are attentive, you will see it.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
By developing mindful awareness, we enhance our ability to lead our own lives and engage other individuals toward achieving a common purpose as leaders of teams, groups or organizations.
Mindful Awareness or Mindfulness
Mindful Awareness consists of feeling, experiencing or noticing what is happening within ourselves and with the individuals and wider world around us (awareness), and considering its potential importance (mindful). The combination of the two is the subject of Mindfulness. Mindfulness has been developed and practiced for thousands of years, and has renewed value in our current always-on, internet-connected world, benefiting our health, well-being and leadership effectiveness. Mindfulness is the focus of new scientific discovery, has led to the creation of multi-disciplinary fields such as Interpersonal Neurobiology, and provides significant insights for leaders and practitioners in many fields. In the The Mindful Brain, Dr. Daniel Siegel states “Mindfulness in its most general sense is about waking up from a life on automatic, and being sensitive to novelty in our everyday experiences.”
Characteristics of Mindfulness
Jon Kabat-Zinn in Mindfulness for Beginners, describes mindfulness as “awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Siegel describes mindfulness as having several qualities including “reflection on the nature of one’s own mental processes, … having awareness of awareness,” and “approaching our here and now experience with curiosity, openness, acceptance and love”. By developing mindful awareness, we open access to a wider range of resources within ourselves, enhance our compassion and empathy for ourselves and others, and show up with greater skill in engaging and leading our teams, groups and organizations. By being open, curious, accepting and discerning in the present moment, we set the stage for the connection, collaboration and innovation that is vital to the health of people, organizations and society.
Developing mindful awareness consists of learning and practicing self-observation. Through history this has been done through a wide variety of reflective and meditative practices. By dedicating time to observe and reflect on how we show up in different situations we begin to distinguish our sensations, feelings, beliefs, opinions, judgments, habits and the narrative that is often running in our mind, from what is happening right now. For example, before I enter a meeting I find it useful to assess my current situation, including:
- what am I sensing, and where am I feeling tight and constricted vs. open and accepting,
- what is my energy level, mood and mental attitude,
- what story is running in my mind, and how might that be different from what is actually happening,
- how do I want to connect and relate to the people and world around me,
- what do I need and what do they need right now.
After the meeting or at the end of the day I find it useful to reflect on what I noticed before entering the meeting, what happened during the meeting, and what I notice now upon reflection. Doing this as regular self-observation practice will develop Mindful Awareness, and the capacity to lead growth and change for oneself and with others.
Let’s create a better future today!