WHAT IS MINDFULNESS AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT IN THE DIGITAL AGE?
Do you know the following moments: You are having breakfast and meanwhile have the urge to grab your phone? You have just finished a meeting and as you get up, you need to check our latest emails?
Being aware of these impulses, can already be considered a small and mindful achievement. Eventually being able to say “no” to these impulses, is a chance to cultivate mindfulness during your day.
Mindfulness is presence with what is, without judgement. It contributes to your focus, empathy, creativity, and self-confidence. Mindful practices help us to connect with ourselves and others. They open up ways to connect with our bodies and minds and helps us to be aware of our emotions and physical sensations. That sounds great in theory and is supported by innumerable studies these days. But at the end of the day, mindfulness is an experience only you can make.
THE SILENT RETREAT
Only recently, I went to a silence retreat in order to fully connect with the present moment and to find a little more stillness amidst the buzz of a founder’s life. Our retreat was mostly about eating, drinking, sitting, walking, sleeping in silence – and repeating all those activities again and again. That sounds pretty simple, right?
However, if doing all those activities fully present is so simple, why do we actually go to a monastery?
Since most of our days are filled with many actions of which we are not aware at all. Our days pass by dictated by long to do lists, vibrating phones, notifications on our screens. We are constantly surrounded by noise, which fills our heads and muffles our awareness of the present moment. No matter where we go, we hear voices, street noise, music. Our world is not a world of calm and silence. It is therefore not very astonishing that we find it hard to connect with the silence within us. Sometimes, we are not even aware of its existence.
MOMENTS OF PRESENCE
During my silent retreat, I got to enjoy many moments of full presence. I felt my feet on the ground as I walked. I heard the first birds greeting spring, and well yes, I heard other participants sneezing a lot, too. In addition, I heard this light voice of intuition chirping to me about contentment and lightness. To be honest, after several months of hard work and entrepreneurial uncertainty, I had expected this retreat to be more challenging. I had expected the first day to at least confront me with a lot of emotional and physical discomfort. I had expected tough emotions to surface.
Instead, the thoughts in my head seemed happy to be silent and my body literally relaxed as we sat (Sazen = meditative sitting in Zen) and walked (Kinhin = meditative walking). During the dharma talks of our zen master and guide (also called Teisho), I was inspired by the simple logic of the Zen philosophy. At the same time, it calmed me and made me aware:
Life can be so simple, when you just accept it as it is.
MINDFULNESS – COOKING UP YOUR PRESENCE?
Why did I want to share this experience? When I look at the colourful offering around mindfulness these days, it appears like mindfulness can be acquired like the ingredients for a good dish. You just go to a shop, buy twenty mindfulness books, a yoga mat and some incense, and voilá – you are an enlightened being. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. But at the same time, it is also not as complicated as the many articles, books, and blogs try to tell us.
At the end of the day, mindfulness is a personal decision to search for calm and silence within.
It is a very personal way to find the presence that is deeply entwined with being human. It should not come with an ambition to find eternal peace or instant enlightenment, but with the joy of becoming testimony of inner peace and liberation. Your true self does not expect you to check your emails, to be digitally available 24/7 or to finish your task list every day. All it wants for you is to show up for yourself by eating, drinking, walking, sitting, sleeping, and by filling every step you take with your presence.
Within this simplicity, you create the space for being you with all your heart. This is the space in which you can enfold your potential, your hopes, and dreams. This is your space to grow as a human being.
Have fun trying with a beginner’s mind.
For more on mindfulness at work and beyond, see myndway.com. Find out more about our mynd:way method in our book “Achtsamkeit und Innovation in integrierten Organisationen.“
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