A Coaching Power Tool Created by Bogdan Vizitiu
(Leadership & Youth Coach, ROMANIA)
Whatever an enemy might do to an enemy, or a foe to a foe, the ill-directed mind can do to you even worse. – Buddha
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Most religions include some type of prayer or meditation technique that helps shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a wider perspective on life.
The capacity to be mindful provides a wholesome way to attend to our experiences and helps us overcome the unskilful habits of mind that cause us to suffer needlessly.
In recent years, mindfulness has become an especially prominent concept in contemporary psychology, coaching, and medicine, where it is frequently used in connection with stress reduction and wellness.
Mindfulness is the process of closely observing our experience as it unfolds. Mindfulness allows us to better observe ourselves and gradually transform the way our minds react. With daily practice, mindfulness can make us more perceptive to our experience and less captive to the impulses that drive our minds around.
The process of being mindful is clear of the comparing and evaluations or judgments that ordinarily occupy our mental functioning. When we’re being mindful, we are simply being mentally alert without the overlay of our usual commentary and conceptualizing.
Because we’re not judging our experiences as right or wrong or good or bad, mindfulness is also characterized by a high degree of openness, receptivity, and inquisitiveness. With this open and alert attitude, we can see ourselves more clearly, observing the dynamics and details that often escape our notice.
Mindfulness is not about removing thoughts from our minds—even judgmental thoughts. It is about knowing when we are thinking and recognizing thoughts as momentary events that pass through our minds.
Because mindfulness is based on awareness, we have all had experienced it very close to it. There were certainly times in our lives when we were especially perceptive, perhaps so aware of what was happening, that our usual internal dialogue was suspended as we became fully present, aware of our experience.
Benefits of Mindfulness
The main goal of mindfulness, as its definition implies, is increased awareness. Its other benefits, while considerable and of immense value, are essential of secondary importance. What one might gain from mindfulness practice is strengthening the faculty of awareness.
Although it is used for these purposes, mindfulness is not fundamentally about relaxation, stress reduction, or even self-improvement. It is about knowing yourself and your world better and more clearly—the kind of knowing that comes only with experience, with seeing things for yourself.
With mindfulness, you can see how your mind operates and responds to its world.
Focusing attention on what is happening within ourselves and our environment as it is, helps us to be consciously present for our life.
We learn in the mindfulness disciplines that there is a lot in the world over which we have no control. Mindfulness teaches that one of the things that we can change is the operation of our own minds.
Ordinarily, our responses to the elements of life that are out of our control are determined by our conditioning (neuroplasticity). When we act out of habit, without much thought, we are unaware of how freely we allow events beyond our power to affect us.
Practicing mindfulness can give us that mental space that Viktor Frankl was talking about in his book “Man’s search for meaning”, that space that offers us the freedom to shape the response we give to the stimuli and also shape the kind of person we will become.
Mental spaciousness is of immense value in helping us manage the seemingly incessant amount of judgments and inner chatter that constitutes the mindless state. It allows us to recognize the patterns of thinking that are detrimental to the well-being of ourselves and
people around us and enables us to let go of these patterns and make them harmless.
Likewise, mindfulness helps us work with difficult emotional states such as anger, greed, and fear, providing us with the resources to act on these states in ways that are beneficial rather than damaging.
With practice we can learn how to handle our emotions, to want less, to be courageous or compassionate.
Questions to consider:
- Can you remember moments when you were fully aware of your experience without judgments or other thoughts?
Try to notice the times when you suddenly become aware of what is going on around you. It may feel as if you have been pulled out of a dream into an awakening moment.
- How could mindfulness training help you as an individual?
- How would you expect mindfulness to help you the most in your life?
Mindlessness (the default setting)
A mental state in which the mind generates remarks and judgments that create a barrier of words and images that separate people from their lives. This condition makes it difficult to be mindful or aware of life’s experiences.
We’ll learn to use mindfulness meditations and exercises to enhance our awareness of everyday experiences—such as breathing, eating, and walking—and to help us cope with the more challenging aspects of life—such as pain, grief, and anger.
By understanding how our minds work, we can learn to shape our mental functions in ways that will remove the agitated, distracted, semiconscious qualities from our lives.
What leads us to mindlessness and all of the dynamics, can be gently redirected through the meditation practice, to cultivate the quality of mindfulness, and to develop the mind in ways that will be beneficial to our happiness and the happiness of others.
Routine is what we do in our daily lives and we do it on repeat. These habits free our minds and we do other things and we do them without having to waste energy trying to make up our minds.
But, the freedom these routines afford the mind is not used very well. If they find a moment when complete attentiveness to the present is not demanded, our minds tend to gravitate to one of two places: the past or the future.
Our thoughts tend to avoid the present as much as possible, and they switch between past or future. If you pay attention to your ordinary thought processes, you will discover that you probably spend little time living in the present.
Most of the time we are making instantaneous judgments about what we experience. If you allow these trains of thought to continue, you may find them leading to other thoughts and judgments that do not have any real substance.
Although we might think that we are in control of our mind, most of the time we are not. We can’t turn them off, and we can’t always make them do what we want. Emotions, thoughts, and judgments seem to arise from nowhere and are often unwelcome. Most of the time it seems our minds control us—compelling us, driving us, urging us in the directions deems fit.
Mindlessness comes at a remarkably high cost: Living with a mind that we don’t know very well, that is often out of control and semiconscious much of the time, causes us and others to suffer greatly—probably far more than we realize.
Is it any wonder we so frequently attempt to silence or alter our minds with drugs, amusements, and other forms of distraction?
We find ourselves entertaining thoughts that no longer serve us or our lives. Our snap judgments about individuals are based on the smallest and most trivial of evidence. Our mind starts to weave a web of lies that we start to believe. We are comparing ourselves to others, which inevitably leads to pain. All of this, and more, drives us to lead hectic lives—often on the verge of misery.
The beliefs that push us to look somewhere else for something that brings us relief are so common that we rarely consider that it might be time to try another approach. Rather than seek happiness through the usual ineffective and often counterproductive means, it is possible to cultivate a wholesome mind that will produce thoughts that contribute to our well-being and the well-being of the whole world.
We can shape our mental functions in ways that will remove the distressed, resolute, distracted, semiconscious qualities from our lives—but it will not be easy.
Neuroplasticity is good news for mind conditioning. It is especially useful for describing this process. Thinking routinely and inhabits, significantly determines what we think, feel, and perceive. The more we focus on a particular kind of thought, the more our minds are inclined to generate thoughts of that nature.
We have a small but extremely important capacity to tame and redirect our minds in ways that allow us to recondition them.
Questions to consider:
- How is your relationship with your mind?
- Is the mind something you possess, something you are, or something else?
Throughout your day, pay attention to your internal dialogue:
- What am I thinking?
- Are there patterns of thought that correlate to the state of mindlessness?
The acceptance of loss helps us relax and be less anxious. Most of our actions suggest that we believe acquiring and holding on to the people and things that give us pleasure will put our lives at ease. However, it is only by relinquishing our attachment to everything we think will make us happy that we can be happy. Mindfulness allows us to see this truth and empowers us to act on it.
One simple realization is the acknowledgment that our control over life, like our knowledge of it, is limited indeed. Mindfulnesspermits us to see clearly how little control we really have over the events that profoundly affect us.
Much of our suffering, we realize, is caused by our dogged efforts to try to command these things over which we have no authority, but the coaching and mindfulness practice allows us to recognize that we can shape our minds in ways that are wholesome for us and others.
With the training that mindfulness practice provides, we can learn to develop our minds in ways that allow us to relinquish the need to control and to accept reality as it is in this very moment.
The practice of not knowing in coaching:
What we know or “knowledge” is perhaps better portraited as “belief”.
Not-knowing and the application of it mean finding the courage to be at ease with uncertainty, variability, unpredictability, and so on. We get past the fear of the unknown by becoming more familiar with it. And this is where meditation helps us.
In our coaching practice, all manner of thoughts and feelings arise, and we are encouraged simply to be with them.
Mindfulness practice does not answer all of our questions but invites us to become free from attachment to security, free from the agitated state where we need to know, and free from the ego’s desire to appear knowledgeable.
Mark W.Muesse– “The Great Courses: Practicing Mindfulness: An introduction to mindfulness”