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Mindfulness is not the answer; now what’s the question?

September 29, 2015

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The rise of Mindfulness as a corporate strategy is odd. In analogous terms, using mindfulness in a corporate arena is a bit like hammering in nails with your shoe. The technique will work, but in the same way as a shoe is far better at helping you get to new, interesting places; a hammer is a far better tool for driving in nails.

So what is Mindfulness and what is a better tool for the corporate arena?

As a practice that helps achieve a state of non-judgmental awareness, you might describe mindfulness as being less about having a mind that is distracted and full, and more about having a mind that is empty enough to be aware and mindful.

From a corporate perspective the idea of emptying the mind and reaching a state of non-judgmental awareness may seem to be a dubious talent but there are some real benefits; among them:

  • Letting go of existing responses and expectations; freeing ourselves to be more innovative and creative.
  • Developing our ability to communicate in a more open, productive manner; building more collaborative and sustainable working relationships
  • Enhancing clarity of thought by training the mind to remain present and not succumb to distractions
  • Reducing the impact of stress on physical and emotional wellbeing thereby reducing the financial and personal impact of illness

These benefits are real and have obvious advantages, but this is not the purpose of mindfulness, these are just byproducts of what is ultimately a spiritual practice that leads to what Buddhists call enlightenment.

 

If mindfulness practices are not the ideal tool what is?

The truth of the matter is that the potential of mindfulness is vast, but with such a wide and varied list of benefits you should really be asking yourself ‘what am I looking for?’ A bit like the analogy of hammering in nails, you need to know what it is you are trying to achieve so that you can choose the best approach.

If your aim is spiritual enlightenment, then Mindfulness is a proven and trusted method. If you want to improve wellbeing in the workplace, a more focused and accessible method that supports the principles of mindfulness will be a better tool for your needs.

 

Ok, this is fine in principle, how does it work in practice?

There are obvious differences between the previously mentioned benefits, and to be most effective it’s best to focus on one specific idea; ideas such as:

  • Clearing the mind and gaining fresh perspective
  • Listening in order to understand instead of just responding
  • Keeping the mind in the present; being aware of the task in hand
  • Understanding how our thoughts can cause us to move into ‘fight or flight’ or ‘Relaxation’ response and having the ability to choose

You might say that this focus on the ideas that support the benefits helps to establish a foothold along the mindfulness journey. These footholds should be solid, trustworthy tools and techniques that easily integrated into everyday life and are accessible to everyone. It’s these footholds that provide maximum benefit in the corporate setting and as a result it’s these, and not pure mindfulness, that should be your focus.

The good news is that these tools and techniques already exist; they’ve been developed over millennia in many cultures and form the basis of the physical and spiritual practices that support mindfulness.

These tools are simple and accessible and will be familiar to practitioners of Yoga, Martial Arts and Qigong (to name just a few approaches). They offer the perspective and insight to create real change for you and your business; it’s just a question of finding the right tool and someone who is able to make it accessible, relevant and effective within your organisation.

To conclude this rant about semantics

Pure Mindfulness is a powerful tool with which to gain spiritual enlightenment. As such it’s something that continues to develop over long periods of time, some say multiple lifetimes, but it’s certainly not something you can master in a one-day workshop.

If you are looking to gain the benefits that mindfulness can bring to our busy modern world, your aim needs to be clearly defined, the techniques need to be appropriate and the really good news is that you can see real change after a one-day workshop. Not only that, these benefits will only increase with practice and experience.

So, next time you put your shoes on, remember that they’re better used to help you on the journey, if you want to create a strong foothold, use a hammer…