Modern Science meets Ancient Wisdom or something more??
(When doing some research for this blog around “mindfulness” I came across “Mindfulness in May”! What a wonderful concept. Too late too little however for me for this year but it is definitely on my radar for next year. However – more on that another time.)
When I think of Mindfulness I immediately link it to spirituality/meditation and Yoga. Whilst I practice and teach yoga – meditation is something that is very new and somewhat foreign for me. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and (despite my yoga affiliations) I don’t necessarily see myself as a spiritual person.
I’m sure there are a lot of people out there in the same boat. I spend part of my life in a Yoga World and often see myself as the “Misfit” given my lack of meditation and spiritual connection!! I wonder if it really matters and surely practising (and in my case teaching) yoga in any way shape or form is of benefit! I find myself joking that running is my meditation. If I need to clear my mind and get some clarity of thought I go for a run!! Is that in itself practicing mindfulness??
Mindfulness in Today’s Society
So what is mindfulness and how does it fit in today’s society.??
Over recent years the term mindfulness has become common in mainstream society. It has inspired programs such as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programme (MBSR), which has been interpreted and copied many times since. Research is continuing to document the mental and physical benefits of practicing mindfulness.
The Greater Good Science Centre,
University of California, Berkley
What is Mindfulness??
Mindfulness: “Mindfulness is a form of active mental awareness rooted in Buddhist tradioions; it is achieved by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgemental awareness of inner and outer experiences” – PsychologyToday.com. OK so this is where my impression that mindfulness is a spiritual practice comes from.
“Mindfulness is a lifetime engagement – not to get somewhere else, but to be where and as we actually are in this very moment, whether the experience is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral” John Kabat-Zinn,
Why Practice Mindfulness?
There are many documented reasons for practicing Mindfulness. I liked this list taken from The Greater Good Science Centre, University of California, Berkley
- Mindfulness increases positive emotions while decreasing negative emotions and stress
- Mindfulness changes our brains – research has found that it increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion and empathy.
- It helps us focus. It improves memory and attention skills
- It enhances relationships and fosters compassion, enabling us to be more understanding of the emotions of others
What about Emotional Intelligence (EI)
But what about this more modern concept of Emotional Intelligence?? Being a business owner I spend another part of my life in the business world and this term emotional intelligence gets tossed around with similar terms such as transformational leadership and disuse atrophy.
Wikipedia describes Emotional Intelligence as a way to“Use emotional information to guide thinking and Behaviour”
This is a more complex definition: “The set of abilities (verbal and non-verbal) that enable a person to generate, recognise, express, understand and evaluate their own and others emotions in order to guide thinking and actions that successfully cope with environmental demands and pressures” Van Rooy
From the studies I have read regarding EI, it has been proven that people with higher EI have greater mental health, exemplary job performance and more potent leadership skills. EI is being used as a predictor of leadership, academic performance, job performance, trust work family conflict and stress (Ashkanasy and Daus 2002)
The Link to Leadership
Let me introduce another term: “Transformational Leaders” These are people in the work force who act as mentors to their followers by encouraging learning, achievement, and individual development. They provide meaning, act as role models, provide challenges, evoke emotions and foster a climate of trust – empowering their followers!! Harms, P.D., Crede, M. (2010) “Emotional Intelligence and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis. Leadership Institute Faculty Publications.
One of the predictors of a Transformational Leader is someone who possesses Emotional Intelligence.
Surely in order to have EI – you need to have mindfulness??
What have I learnt??
Do all of these terms mean the same thing??
Are these modern terms just an ancient practice given a more modern name to give it a more scientific spin and make it a more acceptable and less daunting term in the corporate world?
Does one need to practice yoga and meditate in order to achieve this??
It would appear to me that the ancient practice of Mindfulness is now being transformed in to modern science, and it’s being published in such journals as the Journal of Organizational Behaviour.
There now seems a more mainstream reason for being mindful rather than to find “inner peace” It seems to me that possessing Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence in today’s society is a way of giving people an edge!
Call it mindfulness or call it emotional intelligence it seems that the goal here is to be able to relate to your own emotions as well as what other people are feeling, and use those emotions to to get the best out of ourselves and others! Use and understand emotions to facilitate thought and behaviour and you’ll not only reach a state of mindfulness yourself but also help others to reach their full potential!!
There’s a lot to learn here and this is just the beginning….
Now where are my running shoes……