The other day I was in Dymocks with no set intention and stumbled upon Mindfulness for Dummies. The sight of the book took me back to a meeting I had two weeks ago with the team.
I have always known Gilton Valeo to place a special emphasis on the notion of mindfulness and it has never been a subtle endeavour. We have discussed mindfulness and culture during training sessions and breakfast, ruminating about what the word means, what it represents and creative methods through which to arrive to that sweet spot of bliss. The latter has led to us engaging in team yoga sessions one Friday a month and mindfulness mornings where we get to take the morning off to do something mindful be it a morning session in the gym, meditation in the park, a coastal walk before work or painting in a secret garden that also prizes you with lucrative views of the harbour.
But the meeting I had last Friday was the first time I wondered whether we were doing mindfulness right. The practice leader and author of several well written insightful blogs, Troy, mentioned something which really hit home and inspired this blog post. He said that as a firm we have placed an emphasis on the culture and we have gotten it right but now we have to redirect the focus to work on the foundations on which this firm and all our careers stand on, starting with striving for excellence, because we aren’t quite there yet. This led me to think about mindful practice.
Since that conversation I wondered whether mindfulness and mindful practice are two mutually exclusive principles and whilst we have may have gotten the hang of embedding mindfulness into the GV culture hub, is it working in the context of the workplace and striving for excellence? Or is that mindful practice?
What is Mindfulness?
I didn’t buy the book on Mindfulness for Dummies since one can readily find short versions of the guide through a simple Google search, many of which seem to say the same thing:
‘Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional, and physical processes.’
– Mindful Org
To achieve mindfulness, one must essentially use a moment to be present, breath and practice awareness. Some guides suggest meditation as the introductory gateway to proper mindfulness whilst other guides assert that it doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, mindfulness is available in each and every moment and the simple goal is to remain present in that moment.
So perhaps in this way mindfulness at the work desk is helpful to focus, so that we don’t end up thinking about what we want to make for dinner once we get home, whilst drafting a Distinguished Talent (subclass 124) visa submission and in the process making several spelling mistakes or not critically challenging the work as we write it.
But I am still asking, how does mindfulness help me improve my work habits so that I am able to achieve more in one working day all at a high-quality level? How does a morning breakfast with the team help me exceed my reach higher than my grasp?
I think this is where mindful practice comes in and where the focus needs to shift next. I wish there was a book on Mindful Practice for Dummies because I would not hesitate to buy. Even Google didn’t yield me a straightforward guide. But now that I think about it, mindful practice is personal to the office and so maybe we need to come up with our own definition and guidelines.
Tracing and re-tracing the steps of the meeting I’ve come to understand that mindful practice is a branch of the mindfulness tree, along side other branches such as focus and positive work culture. One can’t exist without the other but both are distinct.
Whilst mindfulness has the broad purpose of compelling one to remain in the present and fine tune awareness, mindful practice places focus on practical efforts that stem from initiative and proactiveness. Mindful practice should encourage one to look at their work and working day with foresight, to be one step ahead, to critically challenge work as they develop it, to become malleable and flexible. Mindful practice requires active thinking and clear communication not simply with ones team members but ones self. Most importantly, mindful practice should be developed as a team.
In this way, mindful practice plays and integral role in the quality of work that is produced whilst mindfulness creates the environment in which success is fostered on a day to day basis. The seeds have been planted and even through the colder months the tree will flourish. We are not there yet but we are close.