Mindfulness is the training of awareness and attention.
About a decade ago, I was in training on NLP with a trainer from Denmark. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) was once highly popular in business sectors in western countries.
I asked the trainer how popular NLP in the west at the time was.
Though he was an NLP trainer, he replied honestly that NLP was no more popular. I further asked what was popular at that time. He said “Mindfulness” was sweeping the western world.
Oh, Mindfulness!? I have been a Buddhist monk for five years in my childhood. I am much familiar with mindfulness while I used to live in monasteries. In Buddhism, it is a practice that leads to inner peace and liberation. I wondered how mindfulness can be helpful in the business world!
I started to study mindfulness once again as a professional working as a manager. After some study, I found that it can be used for progress in spirituality, as well as effectiveness in personal and business life. Wherever you apply it, you become more efficient.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the training of awareness and attention. In Dhammadapa, the Buddha says,
pamado maccuno padam
appamatta na miyanti
ye pamatta yatha mata
It means mindfulness is the elixir of life. Unmindfulness is being dead. Those who are mindful are lively or full of life. On the contrary, those who are not mindful are as good as dead even while living.
Indeed, when we function without sufficient awareness, we act no more like a living being full of consciousness. Without awareness, we function like lifeless matter or a machine. To act like conscious beings, we need to be aware of our thoughts and emotions. We can call this self-awareness.
If we watch our daily life, our actions are mostly mechanized. It follows a pattern. Every one of us has a behavior pattern. The actions that come out of a pattern are actually a ‘reaction’ rather than an ‘action’. In science, ‘reaction’ is used for behaviors of lifeless matters. Matters are not capable of thinking and feeling. So, when chemical substances meet, they react in a certain way that is very predictable. It is because they have no consciousness. When we react in a certain way without much awareness, we too become like lifeless matter or we are taken over by chemical substances in our brains.
How to Be Mindful?
As living beings, we have awareness levels. We can train this awareness to make it more intensive. When we work, we focus the awareness where it is required. When awareness is focused, we call it ‘attention’.
Students, parents, managers, salespeople, and workers, all need to be attentive in order to become effective. Mindful meditation techniques are exercises to strengthen awareness, just like we strengthen physical muscles when we go to the gym.
In fact, sitting meditation techniques are exercises of awareness. These techniques are means to enhance mindfulness. The goal is to remain aware and attentive in daily life, personal or professional. So, when you go for mindfulness meditation, the teacher will teach you Iriyapath as well. …Iriyapath means practicing mindfulness in normal life. It is practiced throughout the day whether you are walking, working, or interacting with people.
To learn mindfulness, you can start with meditation techniques. There are techniques of mindfulness for breathing and different senses, like hearing or smelling. There are also meditation techniques for being mindful of the body and body movements, like walking or hand movements. These mindfulness practices are like you go for driving training. You need driving training to learn how to drive a car. But real driving happens on the road, in your daily life. Similarly, these meditation camps or classes are there to train yourself on mindfulness, so that you can be mindful in the daily routine of life.
Benefits of Mindfulness
What could be the reason, professionals, from executives to frontline workers, join mindfulness training? It is because while mindfulness increases peace of mind, it brings effectiveness in several aspects of professional life. Research, as well as personal experiences of people practicing mindfulness, have proven that mindfulness has brought effectiveness in communication, stress management, and teamwork. It can also be applied in decision-making, conflict management, and building resiliency.
It is because, with the practice of mindfulness, your mind becomes more peaceful and your senses more aware. So, we start to listen better, speak with awareness and act with conscience. With mindfulness, people see things better and feel deeper. They understand the emotions of themselves and others. So, they work better in a team and handle conflict with greater intelligence. In fact, mindfulness awakens intelligence within us. It could be emotional intelligence, adversity intelligence, and even physical intelligence. Our senses and the physical body have their own natural and primordial intelligence. We are cut off from intelligence because we rely too much on the thinking mind. Moreover, our thinking is very confused. Mindfulness bridges the thinking mind with the body, senses, and wisdom. Then you can think and act with intelligence and in a real sense respond to people and situations wisely.
One more benefit of practicing mindfulness while you are in your business is that when you become old and retired from work, you will not be bored being alone with yourself. You will be comfortable with yourself. You will not have to think about what to do when you are alone. You will be happy to find lots of time to practice mindfulness and dive deep into it. With dedication, you may achieve liberation in this lifetime.
Manandhar, as a child, has been a Buddhist monk for five years in Thailand. Later, having been a professional in senior management positions in international organizations for two decades, he can easily relate mindfulness to the practical world of business.