Research Paper By Alexandra Lopez-McLean
(Transformational Life, FRANCE)
So what is mindfulness?
The Shakespeare quote used in the title of this article lends itself beautifully to asking the question, “So what is mindfulness?” In the “History of Mindfulness,” Bhikkhu Sujato, suggests that the origins of mindfulness are rooted and have been practiced by Hindus and Buddhists as part of their philosophies, right from the start.
Shamash Alidina puts forward the origin of the word mindfulness is a translation from an ancient Sati word that means “awareness, attention and remembering.” Awareness is being conscious of your experience in a specific way. Attention is about focusing and sustaining awareness as and when we choose.
Mindfulness is about noticing thoughts as they arise. Practicing mindfulness has the potential to cultivate a garden of patience, kindness, trust, non-striving, curiosity, non-judging, letting-go and acceptance. Everything within this garden grows towards an attitude of gratitude, that profound heart based sensing and knowing that we are truly thankful and appreciative of where we are in life, just as we are.
Mindfulness is a point which we are able to connect to the present moment and being aware of something such as our thoughts or our emotions. Mindfulness invites us to be connected, whole and in harmony inwardly and outwardly.
When we continually replay negative thoughts from our past or let our thoughts become anxious over an unknown future we rob ourselves of being connected to the beauty, power and unity that mindfulness can offer. It is freedom in its purest essence.
Our life is what our thoughts make it. … Marcus Aurelius
Can mindfulness be connected to coaching?
According to an article entitled “Tips for Behaviour Change” dated 6th August 2015 on the International Coach Federation’s (ICF) website; it states that
mindfulness has been receiving wide attention lately in countless books, published research papers and mainstream business literature.
Back in 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn created and founded MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). He demonstrated through research that mindfulness reduces stress in the short and long term and it increases happiness.
Furthermore, a qualitative study in 2012 supports Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR with regard to mindfulness based coaching intervention for perception shifts and emotional regulation around workplace stressors and the quality of work life by R. A. Linger.
Linger posits those taking part in the research “experienced shifts related to enhancing the quality of their work life and their ability to see challenges and stressors from a more positive orientation.” Mindfulness can therefore be seen as a potentially useful technique to aid a client to move out of a negative perspective and step into a more positive perspective.
Within the ICF competencies communicating effectively has great value and importance stating that “active listening – the ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support client self-expression.” Therefore, engaging in active listening goes deeper than just listening with our ears, we also need to let go of our thoughts, ideas, beliefs, judgments and opinions. Active listening comes from deep within and nurtures and nourishes true communication and taps into that fundamental need to be listened to more than anything else, as a validation of who we are and that we matter.
The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. … Ralph Nicols
When we disengage from mindfulness, we disconnect ourselves from being fully conscious and present with another person. Within the ICF core competencies, cocreating the unique relationship between coach and client is integral to the purpose and process of coaching.
A coach’s coaching presence is seen as having the “ability to be fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.” Coaching presence is the stage that embraces, encourages and empowers intuition, trust, taking risks, humour, exploration, lightness, energy, possibilities and confidence to make an appearance.
Life is about fun, being light hearted and playful too. Susan Gillis Chapman brings to our attention a point which connects to the ICF Core Competency for “Cocreating the Relationship”.
Chapman states “The wisdom of our spontaneity is similar to this play of elements in the natural world. Like air, water, sunlight and earth, we realise that our relationships with other people are not solid predicable things. They are fluid experiences that are always interacting and emerging in the present moment … Mindful responsiveness dances in the moment.”
How can mindfulness be considered in conjunction with coaching?
Mindfulness is about staying open to experience and connecting to the joy of experiencing things anew. A mindful state inspires intuition and energises creativity whether it is artistic or lateral thinking. Mindfulness has the potential to expand upon a client’s learning styles, creativity and imagination. Mindfulness has the potential to open the client up to the possibility of solving problems with innovate solutions as he/she alone has the answer within him/her.
Mindfulness is an open state of mind that can touch upon our own behaviour. This call to action opens us up the real tangible possibility of change and transformation if so desired.
Mindfulness has the potential to help a client reframe his/her perspectives for example moving from reacting to stress to responding to stress. Mindfulness calls us to be human beings first. To switch off the autopilot of doing and invites us to be the one at the controls and guide our own life by being open to multiple perspectives offering new information. This permits a client to have more choices and therefore is able to make a more informed decision.
A possible action step for a client to consider could be to commit to letting go and allowing themselves to schedule some quiet time to meditate every day as a sign of compassion, self-love, nurturing and nourishment.
Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr Lilian Cheung offer a plethora of practical meditations that can be applied in daily life to engage mindful movement and mindful breathing, such as:
- Waking-up and sunrise mediation
- Greeting our negative emotions mediation
- Internet / e-mail mediation
- Multitasking mediation
- Walking mediation
- Cooking meditation
- Eating meditation
- Sunset mediation
A deep sense of gratitude allows us to be strong enough to be vulnerable and opens the door to forgiveness. A mindful meditation has the potential to help a client gently forgive self and / or others to let go of a past hurt and move on, over time with compassion wholeheartedly. Keeping a gratitude journal could also empower the client to be aware of the many positive things in his/her life.
Last thoughts …
Mindfulness is a choice it can become part of our life or a lifestyle. Either way it is a skill that can be acquired by either a coach or a client.
Living a meaningful life is about contributing to humankind be it one person at a time, to a small group or a large audience. Living a meaningful life is about being authentic, knowing your values, talents and strengths and sharing them with others so as to mutually uplift one another by giving and growing.
Coaching has the potential to be a win-win situation as there is an innate satisfaction and joy as the people we help feel better, and we in turn feel better for helping them.
Quotes sourced from http://www.brainyquote.com/
Sujato, B. (2012). “The History of Mindfulness.” http://santifm.org/santipada/wpcontent/uploads/2012/08/A_History_of_Mindfulness_Bhikkhu_Sujato.pdf
Alidina, S. (2010). “Mindfulness for Dummies.” John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Linger, R.A. (2014). “A qualitative study of a mindfulness-based coaching intervention for perception shifts and emotional regulation around workplace stressors and quality of work life.” SAYBROOK UNIVERSITY. http://media.proquest.com/media/pq/classic/doc/3604749931/fmt/ai/rep/NPDF?_s =TX6HsEGnjRKydnYmm2GRDrsJjNw%3D
Centre for Mindfulness … http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/
Chapman, S.G. (2012). “The Five Keys to Mindful Communication.” Shambhala Publications Inc.
Hanh, T. N. & Cheung, L. (2008). “Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.” Hay House.
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