Mindfulness is everywhere. I don’t mean that everyone IS mindful but that the concept has become very popular in the fields of business, coaching, psychology. But what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness could best be described as paying attention to ones experiences in the present moment. This is done in an attitude of compassion and non-judgement. This is a radical departure from not only how individuals think but also organisations. Although it seems a simple concept it takes training and practice to increase mindfulness.
The biggest problem with being mindful is distraction. This comes in the following forms:
- Being distracted by external stimulation. The phone, Twitter, Facebook, emails, TV, food, other people and music.
- Being distracted by internal stimulation. There are two forms of internal stimulation that are massive blocks to remaining mindful
- Stress. This is the fear that history will repeat itself. If things have gone wrong or even been traumatic in the past for an individual or an organisation this can lead to stress that it might happen again.
- Anxiety. This is the fear of what might happen in the future. People can play out many scenarios of how catastrophic their future could be
Whether internal or external distraction is the biggest roadblock to mindfulness. How can we deal with these distractions? By practicing mindfulness.
Two forms of mindfulness
As a psychotherapist and coach I am familiar with using the traditional form of mindfulness advocated by Jon Kabat-Zinn as well as Segal, Williams and Teasdale in their groundbreaking book Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (MBSR)
This approach raises consciousness of what is happening in ones body and felt experience in the present moment. Thoughts and feelings will of course come to mind often in the form of distractions, stress and anxiety. The advice sometimes given is to notice these thoughts and feelings and seeing them rather like sailing boats passing by as they float down a river. We can notice them but not jump on board and float away with them! There are various exercises like the full body scan which are used to achieve greater awareness and stillness.
This is a version of mindfulness that I have developed in my work with creatives, organisations and individual clients.
As with standard mindfulness time is taken to still down and be quiet. Awareness of the present moment is raised. Once again distractions, fears, feelings and images will come to mind. As in standard mindfulness I would encourage clients to notice these things with a compassionate mindfulness. However I believe that as is the case with dreams these distracting thoughts contain valuable information. So instead of just letting thoughts ‘pass through’ you could gently look at these thoughts, feelings and images and see where they lead. The trick is to do this without getting stuck on them but just following where they lead. It is important to maintain calm through this process as initially it can be anxiety provoking. We spend so much effort avoiding our feelings that this can feel somewhat strange.
I will talk more on mindfulness in future blogs.