I was listening to a lecture the other day given by a counselor who practices and teaches mindfulness. She spoke on the power of slowing down, of focusing on one task, of recognizing pain/distractions/annoyances and allowing them to just ‘be’ rather than trying to push them away. She talked about incorporating the act of handwashing dishes into her everyday routine; as a child she hated washing dishes (hence the fact she chose it for her mindfulness practice) but she has since learned to focus on the warmth of the water, the beauty of the bubble, and the satisfaction of having cleaned a dish well. When she is done with her practice, she is more focused, more still, more ready to take on other tasks.
It was some touchy-feely stuff.
Others in the audience didn’t get the point; we are supposed to be developing our leadership skills after all. My argument for my peers: Leaders are human and they get triggered like all humans. We need to develop the capacity to stop ourselves from reacting rashly when triggered (which sounds obvious, but can be quite difficult when we are triggered).
It won’t be soap bubbles for everyone.
I told the other participant about the time I wanted to send off a nasty email and just as I went to press “send,” a picture of Abraham Lincoln popped up in my head. According to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, Abe would write dozens of hotheaded letters but rarely send them. So rather than send that email, I kept repeating over and over in my head (yes, like a mantra): “Be Like Abe.” I kept my attention there. I focused on that. I acknowledged the annoyance of the original situation and let it go. Yes, it’s stupid. However, yes, it worked and I dealt with the issue successfully in a face-to-face setting. I did the right thing.
Mindfulness – whatever your approach to it – works. Staying in the moment is important for squashing impulsive behavior. It is also important for self-rejuvenation after a day of multitasking.
However, it is oppositional to strategic thinking, which requires us to step out and up to see the big picture. The constant movement between mindful practice and strategic thinking reminds me of some of Donald Schon’s work on reflection-in-practice.
I was just talking about this with Lawrie Phipps too. There is an entire conversation to be had about the relationship between linear thinking, strategic (big picture) thinking, and single-point (mindfulness) thinking.
I feel an infographic coming on 🙂
Featured Image: my own