One of the most powerful tools we can use to increase our capacity for growth and more evolved states of being as leaders is mindfulness/awareness. It’s a practice we can integrate into our everyday lives that helps us turn the mirror on ourselves, not in a judgmental or critical way, but rather in a way that helps us see ourselves as ourselves so that we can discover which behaviors, patterns of thought, and ways of being serve us and which don’t. Its’ different than self-consciousness in that we are actually empowering ourselves to become more of ourselves, not less. Through practicing mindfulness and awareness, we begin to show up in a more authentic and integrated way.
Mindfulness and awareness are not quite the same thing but put together they are one practice. Mindfulness is our ability to hold our mind’s attention to an object. In meditation, we usually hold our mind’s attention to the breath, when our mind wanders, we simply bring it back to the breath. When we do the dishes or are in our everyday lives, mindfulness is our capacity to harness our mind’s attention to what we’re doing. It can be a challenging practice because the tendency of the mind is to wander and get distracted.
Awareness is our ability to know when our mind has wandered. It’s like expanding our minds reach so we can see more of ourselves. It’s different than self-consciousness in that we are not judging ourselves or dissociating; it feels softer and more integrated. Awareness is what allows us to reflect at the end of the day-how did I do? Were there times when I slipped and said something I wish I hadn’t? How can I show up in a way that feels better?
If we want to integrate the practice of mindfulness/awareness into our lives, we need to continually practice. Our mind’s capacity to be awake, attuned, and aware is not a given. Sure everyone has flashes of awareness, but to make it an effective tool we have to practice with intention. If the mind is left to its devices so to speak, it will continue behaving in a manner that is most habitual, comfortable, and familiar. Hence the neural pathways and genetic programming which follow familiar and predictable routes.
If we really want to grow and change, which is almost the definition of being a leader, we need to lean into the unfamiliar and mindfulness/awareness is the best tool (in my opinion) to do that. You don’t need anything but your body and your breath and you can immediately integrate it into your everyday life. It’s become a very popular concept these days, which is great because it’s more widely used and accepted, but on the other hand it can dilute the actual origins and essence of the practice.
In Buddhism, mindfulness/awareness is a practice which helps us dismantle the ego and see through the illusory self, created by thoughts and a sense of separateness, and gradually release into a greater sense of self that is interconnected with the universe. We use the practice of meditation to develop and strengthen the “muscle” of mindfulness and awareness so that we may apply it to the whole picture of our lives. One does not need to be religious to practice this skill but we should be aware that the origins of it are not pop-psychology but rather an ancient practice of self-actualization.
For a 5 minute practice on integrating the practice of mindfulness/awareness into your everyday life as a leader, click here.