Developing self-awareness via mindfulness practise
In my view, adopting the practise of mindfulness meditation - or present moment awareness - is one of best ways of developing a high level of self-awareness. Mindfulness develops the capacity:
To witness or observe (without narrative or analysis) the recurring or autonomic nature of your thoughts and feelings
To watch how your inner map applies the filters
To see how you become immersed in and identified with your thoughts and feelings
To learn how to stop thinking – to turn your thoughts off - at will
The practise of mindfulness meditation is a powerful life skill, it reduces stress and it dramatically enhances your capacity for adaptive and holistic thinking - necessary qualities for managing personal change.
Mindfulness meditation is non-faith based - you don't have to be a Buddhist to do this - and it won't make you one if you do!
Whilst mindfulness meditation practise has its origins in a Buddhist meditation practise, it is a non-faith based approach that can be applied by anyone regardless of what you do or don't believe.
I am very aware that people coming from certain types of Christian background - usually, but not exclusively, evangelical Christians - have difficulty with the idea of any form of meditation.
This is largely based on a deep-seated and (in my opinion) mis-guided belief that meditation will either "open them up" to "external forces" that may gain entry to their minds and/or that engaging in any form of meditation practise will in some way lead them into a non-christian and buddhist practise.
Two further difficulties are firstly that whilst there is a strong tradition of meditation in the Christian faith, it is largely object focused or guided or creative meditation, stemming from the 6th century practice of Bible reading among Benedictine monks called "Lectio Divina" (i.e. divine reading) and there is considerable resistance to eastern style meditation where there is no object of focus other than the mind itself.
The second major difficulty is simply cultural - in that meditation (of any sort) is not "on the radar" and thus is not found in the mainstream evangelical churches.
For many people reading this, what I have just said may seem odd or incomprehensible, but there are significant minority of Christians in the US, UK, South America and Africa who will believe this.
So anyone reading this who comes from this background and who believes this and feels apprehensive, may I respectfully suggest that you view mindfulness practise and present moment awareness as developing an increased and enhanced sense of the presence of God.
I would also add that "listening to the inner voice of God" is easier with a quiet mind - think of the prophet Elijah in the cave!
A mindful approach to communication and leadership
Mindful communication is an extraordinary tool for problem solving.
It allows you to tolerate the discomfort of confrontation with others and the embarrassment of discovering how you might have contributed to the problem.
Mindfulness also allows you to find your creativity and resourcefulness, so that you can approach the situation differently and perhaps transform it. It helps you to easily tap into your core creativity to solve problems and achieve goals.
"Most people spend their entire life imprisoned within the confines of their own thoughts. They never go beyond a narrow, mind-made, personalized sense of self that is conditioned by the past.
In you, as in each human being, there is dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought.
It is the very essence of who you are". [Eckhart Tolle - "Stillness Speaks"]
This is very relevant to managing personal change as for many of us, there are significant aspects of our personal and organisational lives that are out of our control.
The experience for many of us is that change is imposed upon us and/or we are considerably constrained by factors totally beyond our control.
These things are frequently very stressful and often not fully resolvable.
How to cope? How to gain insight, guidance and perspective?
The practise of mindfulness meditation, or present moment awareness, has profoundly changed my perspective and experience of some very difficult circumstances.
Fancy trying this?
Ok here's a good one: try sitting still on a chair or cushion facing a blank wall and just sit there for 15 minutes. No music, no Ipod or mobile phone or any other distractions - just sit there - and stop thinking!
If (or more likely when) you find that you can't stop thinking - just watch your thoughts with no internal analysis or narrative - just witness, watch and observe, like watching clouds blow across the sky.
You can do this with practise. Take just one of the 6 exercises and practise it several times a day for 3 weeks until it becomes a habit. Observe how a greater self-awareness starts to develop and how your interactions with others start to change.