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Living Mindfully with Aruna Manathunge:

Mindfulness in the Business World- Part 2

We have had two articles about Mindfulness in this column. So, what is Mindfulness? It is not easy or correct to explain Mindfulness using a simple statement or formula as it is multifaceted even as a non-religious practice.

In our current context, Mindfulness is the ability to see what's going on in the present moment in our minds, bodies and in the outside world without getting carried away with that. It is the capacity to feel sensations - even painful mental or physical ones - without letting them control us. Mindfulness means being aware of our experiences, observing them without judgement, and responding from a place of clarity rather than through fear, insecurity or greed.

However, such ability has to be developed through a systematic practice. Over many years of documented evidence prove that the best and the easiest way to cultivate Mindfulness is through a combination of regular practice of formal meditation and carefully selected exercises. As these practices in turn develop the concentration and memory of the practitioners as additional benefits, we start to notice and appreciate the multifaceted nature of Mindfulness.

Return to Attention

Let us now look into some of the selected exercises designed to develop the Mindfulness among the corporate employees. One is called 'Return to Attention' and is a basic meditation practice in which we bring back the wandering mind again and again back to the object of meditation. What is interesting is that this could be applied in the daily life of an employee. If you are at an important meeting or a discussion and you notice that your mind is starting to wander thinking about the dinner or that report you have to finish by the evening, you bring it back to the person who is speaking.

Reset of Attention

Another valuable exercise is called the 'Reset of Attention'. It is similar to the 'Beginner's Mind' explained by the late Japanese Zen Master, Shunryu Suzuki. This exercise develops perception and seeing. Perceiving and seeing clearly is essential in a world which is rapidly changing. In a changing world we may be unwittingly working based on an outdated Map which could result in mediocre or wrong outcomes.

During Mindfulness training the practitioners are guided by the Coach to practice the 'Reset of Attention'. The instructions are given to them to consider a person, an activity or a place that they encounter every day and then to look at - to live - in that encounter as if it is the first time they see that person, activity or the location. They are also told not to take their mother or spouse as an example, as people could take it too literally. It is just to shift the attention. So you walk into your office or your home and look and live in that encounter freshly as it is the first time you are seeing it. What they sometimes see and notice is totally mind boggling.

Many discoveries

There was an Executive who drove his car to his home driveway in the evening and did the Reset of Attention exercise.

He realized to his amazement, that there is a tree blooming with flowers in his front yard which he had not seen during the many years he had lived in that house! There are many similar 'discoveries' made by those practicing the exercise. It shows that the untrained mind has a tendency to develop an attention which is self-sealing and incomplete. So if we don't know that our perception of the world could become static and self -sealing, it is very easy to shift into a rigid fixation about our perception of the world. In contrast, we had a fresh, ever learning perception of the world as children.

Once we start to notice the tree and the flowers in the front yard of our home after many years, it creates a humility and openness to the fact that what we see and perceive is not complete and also what one see may be different to what another see.

Properly directed, it can change how employees communicate and tackle their lives within the company.

We will further inquire next week as to how this Reset of Attention can benefit the Organization directly - at the bottom line.

(Aruna Manathunge has practiced Mindfulness for over 42 years and has closely followed the development of Mind Science in the Western world for the past 7 years.

He has had a long career as the Country Head of Sri Lanka and the Head of the Indian Sub-Continent of an American Pharmaceutical Multinational company. Presently Aruna conducts Coaching in Mindfulness to Schools and Companies. Aruna can be contacted at [email protected])

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