Instiute for Mindful Leadership Executive Director, Janice Marturano answers some of the most frequently asked questions about mindfulness:
How would you explain the concept of mindfulness?
Janice Marturano: Mindfulness is the innate capacity of your mind to be aware of this moment, just as it is. While that sounds simple, most of the time our mind is only partially aware of the moment we are living. We are distracted and/or busy worrying about the future or ruminating about the past.
What misconceptions do most people have when they hear the term mindfulness?
The most common one that we hear from the clients of the Institute for Mindful Leadership is that mindfulness means ‘having a blank or empty mind’. Or that if I am mindful, I will not experience stress. Neither is true. When we teach employees in organizations, or individuals on retreats, people quickly see that we are training our mind’s innate capacity to be with whatever arises in our lives, including those things that create stress. The difference is that we now begin to learn to see the ways we can respond to moments of our life, rather than react. And we begin to learn to see the ways we actually make things worse by imagining horrors of the future, or hang onto the replays of the past.
What are some beginner techniques for people looking to start a mindfulness practice?
Start with a cup of coffee-actually sit down and experience what it is like to really drink a cup of coffee. Smell the aroma, feel the warmth, experience the taste, etc AND every time your mind starts to worry about the upcoming day, or relives the conversation from yesterday, redirect your attention back to this moment…the only moment you can truly live, and the only moment you can truly affect. We call this an example of taking a Purposeful Pause.
When you feel ready to try something else, try sitting still for 5 minutes and just notice what your body is experiencing-warmth, coolness, feelings of the breath, touch of the chair against your body, etc. AND redirect your attention when the mind wanders away.
Notice the AND in both of the examples above-it is this redirection that is the beginning of our work in developing a mindfulness practice and a mindful leadership practice.
How can a mindfulness practice enhance our everyday lives?
It is a powerful way to develop our mind and learn something more about how we are choosing to live our lives. Just as we know that we can train our bodies to be stronger and more resilient and more flexible, we know that we can train our minds. At the Institute, we specifically teach a curricula that trains our mind and heart to be more focused, clear, creative and compassionate. These are the 4 Fundamentals of living and leading with excellence. They apply to everyone-whether we apply it to a large organization, or a small group, a classroom or a patient, or even if we apply it to the ways in which we are leading our own lives. Everyone has the capacity to lead with excellence.
What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a way to enhance your ability to be mindful, to be more present for your life and to make more conscious decisions.
Who in particular can benefit from mindfulness? Who needs it the most?
Everyone benefits from mindfulness training but be careful of the ‘shortcuts’ out there. Just as learning to train your body to play soccer, for example, requires dedication and someone to teach you the right fundamentals, training your mind is also something that should be taught by a skilled, experienced teacher.
Is there a proper way to breathe when speaking about mindfulness?
Mindfulness training is not about changing anything-including your breathing. The breath sensations can be used to train your mind but you need only pay attention to the sensations you feel as the breath enters and leaves your body. No need to change how you normally breath.
What ISN’T mindfulness?
Being on autopilot, choosing to send texts at dinner with family/friends, texting when in a meeting, making choices that are not truly aligned with who you are and what you value, etc.
Interested in mindfulness and Mindful Leadership training? Click here to find out about our upcoming workshops and retreats.