Mindfulness–we see the word attached to many commercial and educational products. It’s all the rage these days! How long can this last? Is there a risk that “mindfulness” will end up in a heap of passing fancies alongside lava lamps?
Mindfulness practices are anchored in 2,500 years of mostly Asian spiritual traditions. Practices in mindful awareness and meditation have benefited people in reducing stress, in managing pain and chronic illnesses, in treating depression and anxiety, and in developing overall well-being and productivity. Research in neuroscience over the last 20 years has shown the benefits of mindfulness practices in a range of applications from medicine to athletic performance to increased productivity in the workplace.
Jon Kabat Zinn, a leading researcher and founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine at the University of Massachusetts writes, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”*
In my work with clients, I focus on mindfulness techniques that help us to pay attention to our bodies’ response patterns under stress or pressure. It doesn’t take much stress for our bodies to activate “fight, flight, or freeze” responses and for our brain’s higher functioning capacities to shut down. In less than a second stress activated responses hinder our abilities to process information and to access confidence and connection in relationships.
A practice in mindful awareness can help us get ahead of the stress induced responses and recover our more creative, confident and compassionate selves in the moment. We value leaders who can show up strong, compassionate and connected to the people and causes they lead, especially when under pressure.
Clients and workshop participants tell me that learning the aikido inspired centering practice of Leadership Embodiment has been a game changer for them in becoming more skillful communicators and problem solvers in their most challenging leadership moments.
Try this streamlined centering practice and re-connect throughout the day:
- Find extension in your posture and lengthen your spine.
- Inhale up. Imagine your breath going out the top of your head. And slowly exhale, down, softening your chest and bringing to mind something or someone that makes you smile.
- Imagine the four corners of the room and expand into that space all around you.
- Relax your jaw, relax your shoulders.
Repeat early and often! You can never over-center!
*Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.