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
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outdated Map which could result in mediocre or wrong outcomes.
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.
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])