Mindful Leadership was presented to me by Professor Michael Chaskalson, whose extensive experience of Buddhist and Mindfulness meditation is matched by his deep research into its benefits in many areas, and his application of the learning process to companies and many other groups of people.
As well as an overview of the research in the field, he led us through a number of meditations. While Mindfulness and meditation are subjects and practices I am familiar with through Aikido and Buddhist meditation, I sought to come to it with a beginner’s mind and it was wonderful to feel his deep passion for the subject, and benefit from his great experience. The meditation techniques are not identical to those I have experienced – there are subtle differences in some cases and very wide ones in others, in terms of purpose or focus of awareness, however the practices will, I feel work coherently in parallel, and there are a few I will teach to the children in my Aikido kids class.
To summarise the current state of scientific research on mindfulness:
- Significantly increases brain grey matter concentration in areas associated with sustained attention, emotional regulation and perspective taking.
- Increases activity in your left prefrontal cortex – a predictor of happiness and well-being. Boosts the immune response.
- Gives insight into your emotions and it increases your level of attention and concentration.
- Reduces stress, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviours.
- Positive effects on issues like hypertension, heart disease and chronic pain.
- Raises one’s level of emotional intelligence and improves relationships.
I have long thought that people in business, and people in general, could greatly benefit from the very simple to learn techniques of mindfulness.
Reading: Michael Chaskalson – THE MINDFUL WORKPLACE – 2011
To continue on the topic of mindfulness. I would like to provide an Albert Einstein quote offered by Michael Chaskalson:
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
–quoted in H. Eves Mathematical Circles Adieu (Boston 1977).
This speaks to both my personal purpose, and the deeper effects of Mindfulness practice. From studies of religious traditions to my experience of Aikido and through a study of Science and Physics, I came long ago to the insight that the perception of our separateness is on many levels an illusion. We are all embedded parts of a larger organism, as our cells in our body so we in our species and universe. Furthermore this is borne out on the energetic level (in Aikido practice) where unity with the partner or partners produces results that seem to defy traditional Newtonian physics, to insights from the research on Emotions in Positive Psychology, where it is becoming increasingly apparent that emotions may well be contagious and even shared, in a much deeper way that simple individual generation of an emotion. Like with language, it may be that we do not have emotions but emotions have us.