Reflections & Writings

Targeted Mindfulness

Targeted Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a concept widely used in popular and business cultures, however its meaning and practices vary, sometimes sacrificing the essence. I’ve begun to use the term “Targeted Mindfulness” to recover some of that essence. Targeted Mindfulness includes direction and intentionality, making it a tool, an experience, and a pathway for developing “Presence.” Presence is the state of being intentional, where body, mind and emotion are aligned and keen to seize opportunity, as illustrated in the poem Mindful by Mary Oliver.

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less
kills me
with delight…

excerpt from Mindful by Mary Oliver

The poet relates how the simple act of being attentive to her senses opens her to surprise. Similarly, by “coming to our senses,” gateways of attention and learning, we gain the ability to open, learn and grow. Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch are our links to what’s happening right now, where choice is possible, where action is taken, and where relief is found. What gets in the way is “mindlessness.”

In her book Mindfulness, published originally in 1989, Ellen Langer, Ph.D, Prof of Psychology at Harvard, presents her research on “mindless” and “mindful” states and concludes that we are most often mindless! We make “premature cognitive commitments” that skew our perspective and distance us from Oliver’s “delight”. Langer says, “One of the ways we become mindless is that we create categories and then become trapped by them.” The mindless state is inflexible. The mindful state is curious.

Langer instructs that to shift to a mindful state, “novelty must be introduced.” We must become curious: “What else is true? What else can I see, hear, etc. about this situation?” A question invites discovery. And, Oliver continues:

Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

except from Mindful by Mary Oliver

Perhaps you’re becoming curious, “What’s the relevance, the meeting point, of poet, scientist, and executive?” It is in our intention to discover and learn. This is the application of Targeted Mindfulness, with it we can consciously shift assumptions, interrupt disruptive behaviors and focus our intentions; we save time, build relationships, and lead with presence – we express integrity.

Oliver introduces us to a glimmer of possibility with her poetry, a sense of delight that explodes from a moment of attention. Langer provides simple, research based, perspectives and practices for how to gain that attention.

Here’s a simple practice you can try for a taste of Targeted Mindfulness

Sit back, feel your feet on the floor, let your body settle any amount, and take 3 full breaths. Now, look at a familiar object close by and notice 3 things about it (use all of your senses). Now, notice three more. And, again, three more. It’s not a test, it’s an invitation. That’s a start 😉

The photograph is of a common phenomenon in northern climes at this time of year 😉 “What else can you notice?”

If you’re curious how Targeted Mindfulness can help you achieve your next level of learning and advancement, please be in touch. Initial consults are free.

Resilience like “The Guest House”

Resilience like “The Guest House”

I’d like to explore the topic of resilience in the context of The Guest House, a poem by the 13th century Sufi mystic Jellaludin Rumi (translation by Coleman Barks). The Guest House is an audacious encouragement to embrace our difficult selves and messy lives. Rumi begins,

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

excerpt from The Guest House by Rumi

To this laundry list of emotion, Rumi exclaims – “Welcome and entertain them all!” Imagine, befriend them all! As inspiring as it sounds, this fearless welcome also seems risky.

Discussions of resilience speak of toughness and flexibility; one dictionary definition is: “the ability to recover quickly from difficulty”. In her TED talk Angela Duckworth describes the quality of “grit” (synonymous with resilience) as “passion and perseverance for very long term goals.” Still, there is more in what Rumi is saying, he enjoins:

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

excerpt from The Guest House by Rumi

It is the quality of “honor” that surprises; to honor even that which is painful. To honor is to hold deep respect within. In respect there is trust, we are not closed off, we are open. It is here, I think, that the seed of resilience germinates.

“How am I resilient? How is resilience already within me, my life, my work, my relationships?” It is perhaps in our willingness to consider this question that we begin to honor ourselves, we begin to know the strength between what feels broken.

A few years ago I decided to explore a new profession in executive and life coaching. I was in my mid 50s and cognizant of the impending limits of age (alongside the positives, including the wisdom of experience, I hope 😉 I experienced the vulnerability and satisfaction of starting fresh. Taking the risk was important. And, still there have been no guarantees. It is in this landscape of uncertainty that I feel the essence of Rumi’s message most personally. Each new challenge awakens voices of limitation.

The photo above is of a painting by Theodore Clement Steele entitled “The Boatman” from the collection at the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University. I see in this man qualities of resilience: determination, strength, and honor – an expression of living life fully. What’s an image of resilience for you?

My initial consults are free. Contact me if you’re considering stepping into an uncertain and fertile next chapter of leadership!