Mindful Leadership in Organisations

Be the change that you wish to see in the worldMahatma Gandhi

It is no coincidence that today’s post starts with this important quote; I have indeed spent the last months figuring out the organisational culture of an international association being confronted once again with entrenched positions, misunderstandings related to poor communication, a lack of intercultural dialogue and pretty much negative mindsets.

Looking at all this with my trained “mindful” eyes and as always believing in the power of motivation, empathy and a transparent, strategic, positive way forward, I have begun to slowly impact this environment by simply “walking the talk“, looking at solutions rather than problems and listening to the various actors and their concerns to identify an appropriate way forward.

Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn via Foter.com / CC BY

Among others, I reminded people that:

  1. Rome wasn’t built in a day meaning that what slowly came to undermine processes and hampered the motivation of people cannot be changed in a couple of weeks but takes time to evolve.
  2. Everybody has a role to play meaning that a culture of complaining will lead to even more complaints, whereas a culture of trust, empathy and positive focus will shift moods and move mountains.
  3. Intercultural and effective communications is a skill and can be learned. Working in Switzerland, where many different languages are spoken, being sensitive to different cultural habits and backgrounds is even more important than in other local contexts so that teams can productively work together.

The next mile stone on the road to a more mindful organisation is set: a creative vision finding workshop for staff and Board where unconscious wishes and thoughts will have a central role to play. Looking very much forward to seeing how people will react as this doesn’t follow the “usual” way to proceed!

Stay tuned for more insights from within,

Jenny

Photo credit: symphony of love via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: symphony of love via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

 

 

Mindfulness and Mountains

One of the best ways I find for recovering my inner strength and recharging my batteries is being in the mountains. Living in Switzerland, I feel very lucky as I can quickly escape and in a couple of hours be in places of extreme beauty.

Wallis Panorama

Last year, I published a nice post about mountains and especially the so-called “mountain-meditation” from Kabat-Zinn. Today, I found another guiding text that I want to share here with you now. It also comes from Kabat-Zinn and is adapted from “Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life“. Enjoy!

The mountain meditation

When it comes to meditation, mountains have a lot to teach us. The image of a the mountain held in the mind’s eye and in the body, can refresh our memory of why we are sitting, and of what it really means to dwell in the realm of non-doing.

 

Picture the most beautiful mountain you know – or can imagine. Notice its overall shape, the lofty peak, the base rooted in the rock of the earth’s crust, the sloping sides. Note how massive it is, how unmoving, how beautiful.

 

See if you can bring the mountain into your own body – your head becomes the lofty peak; your shoulders and arms the sides of the mountain; your buttocks and legs the solid base rooted to your cushion on the floor or to your chair.

 

Notice any emotions you are feeling and your mood as though they are the weather around the mountain. Is your weather right now sunny and calm or stormy with lashing rain, is it icy or warm? Allow your personal weather to be the way it is, noticing if it intensifies, changes or stays the same through the meditation.

 

Fully become the breathing mountain, unwavering in your stillness, completely what you are – beyond words and thought, a centred, rooted, unmoving presence.

 

As the light changes, as night follows day and day night, the mountain just sits, simply being itself. It remains still as the seasons flow into one another and as the weather changes moment by moment. Storms may come, but still the mountain sits.

 

Calmness abiding all change.

Glimpse on the Matterhorn

 

 

 

How assumptions can mislead us

Perceptions, assumptions and thoughts can lead us completely in the wrong direction sometimes

To illustrate what I mean by that, I would like to share a story with you; something that you might have experienced as well, in one form or another. It is entitled “Cookie Thief” from Valerie Cox.

A woman was waiting at the airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book, but happened to see,
That the man beside her, as bold as could be,
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between,
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

Photo credit: Mrs Magic via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock,
As the gustly “cookie thief” diminished her stock
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I’d blacken his eye!”

 

With each cookie she took, he took one too.
When only one was left, she wondered what he’d do.
with a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, and he ate the other.
She snatched it from him and thought, “Oh brother,
This guy has some nerve, and he’s also so rude,
Why, he didn’t even show any gratitude!”

She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,
Refusing to look at the “thieving ingrate”.

She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,
Then sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise.
There were her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!

“If mine are here,” she moaned with despair.
“Then the others were his and he tried to share!”
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief!!!!

 

What did you think reading this? Have you experienced something similar in your life before?

What can we learn from this? Well, next time you find yourself in a difficult, challenging situation, take a moment to be mindful and challenge your assumptions, checking what the reality really looks like instead. Maybe you are getting entangled in your mind’s stories, triggering emotions, sensations, judgements…

Things are not always as they appear and taking a moment to pause and observe what is will allow you to respond more skillfully and to communicate more effectively.

Mindfulness for Athletes

You spend hours training your body, now train your mind to prepare and be ready for competition!

mindfulness | athletesMindfulness can not only enhance athletic, academic, or work performance; it also has a profound impact on stress resistance, resilience, emotional balance, team work, mental habits to only name a few. How does this happen? With guidance and practice you learn how to let go of disrupting thoughts to be able to increase your focus and physical awareness on what is really present for you at that very moment. You become very self aware in terms of what is going on in your body and mind and to respond rather than react to stressors, difficult situations, triggers etc.

There are a multitude of examples where mindfulness has significantly improved athletic results as well as peak performance or even team cohesion and team performance.

The same skills practiced in your mindfulness training will then enhance your training and help you deal with injuries and other challenges, giving yourself a competitive edge. Additionally, the competences that you will have gained will also significantly impact your attitude and behaviour so that you can benefit from them in the classroom as well as in life off the court, field or track.

Susan Salzbrenner, author of “Play Abroad 101 – Your ultimate guide to success as an athlete abroad” has interviewed me in her podcast about mindfulness for athletes and its benefits. Click here to read more and listen in!

mindfulness | sportsLooking forward to your reactions! I accompany athletes, adults and children through individual coaching and training geared towards their particular needs in mindfulness. I also organise retreats and group courses.

Contact me to learn more!

Leading the way: The UK and mindfulness

Just now, in October 2015, the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) in the UK published a ground-breaking report, entitled “Mindful Nation UK”. In it, it states that: “Our long-term vision is of the UK as a group of mindful nations, an international pioneer of a National Mental Health Service which has, at its heart, a deep understanding of how best to support human flourishing and thereby the prosperity of the country. “ For this to happen, the report recommends governmental action in four particular sectors:

  • Health
  • Education
  • Workplace
  • Criminal Justice System

Having been in the Netherlands recently, I see the same trend forward; schools are training teachers in mindfulness as well as their pupils, trainers and consultants are proposing courses, workshops and interventions. I truly have never seen so many people familiar with and active in mindfulness.

I will definitely bring these great thoughts and projects back to French speaking Switzerland, where I currently live, to try and raise awareness and openness towards new and innovative methods that have proven their worth. Mindful Communication, Mindful Leadership and regular mindfulness courses for adults, teachers and children is what I have to offer. Contact me to learn more!

Jenny

 

 

I wonder

Teaching my mindfulness class, I came across this poem by Derek Tasker… it touched me, so I thought, I’d share it with you too!

I wonder what would happen if

I treated everyone like I was in love

with them, whether I like them or not

and whether they respond or not and no matter

what they say or do to me and even if I see

things in them which are ugly twisted petty

cruel, vain, deceitful, indifferent, just accept

all that and turn my attention to some small

weak, tender, hidden part and keep my eyes on

that until it shines like a beam of light

like a bonfire I can warm my hands by and trust

it to burn away all the waste which is not

never was my business to meddle with.

 

Heart Meditation

Assertiveness: Being an Effective Communicator

Effective Communication is all about assertiveness – rather than aggressiveness or submission

The first step towards becoming an effective communicator is practicing assertiveness, thus knowing how you are actually feeling. Did you know that your feelings are simply that: your feelings and nothing more? Their are neither good nor bad, nor anything else! These are just judgements that others – or even yourself – impose onto your feelings.

Photo credit: Wesley Fryer / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Wesley Fryer / Foter / CC BY-SA

Once you are aware of what you are feeling and you don’t get caught up in any judgements about them, you can begin exploring ways to deal with the situation. Assertiveness involves clear, calm thinking and respectful negotiation, where each person is entitled to their opinion. Simply say how you are feeling or seeing things by making “I statements” rather than “you” statements. There is a huge difference between saying: “you are always pushing me too hard” versus “I feel very tired because…”. The first sentence prompts your discussion partner to feel threatened, under attack, maybe even having more power than you. The second sentence simply says how you are feeling in response to something. This leaves the other person room to hear what you are saying without feeling blamed or under attack.

The most important part of effective communication is to be mindful of your own feelings, speech, thoughts as well as of the whole situation. If you are consciously cultivating this approach, you will be able to better resolve potential conflicts and greater harmony will slip itself into your discussions!

Further reading:

  • http://jennyebermann.com/tag/insight-dialogue/
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Full Catastrophe Living”
  • Gregory Kramer: “Insight Dialogue”

 

 

Teaching Mindfulness

… is like guiding people in a very humble way for a short while on their very personal journey.

20121221-222218.jpgHaving been accepted on the teacher training pathway of the Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University in the UK, I have now led my first face-2-face session within an 8-weeks course that I am teaching. I feel grateful and at the same time very moved about the openness and trust that the participants are showing me. Through teaching, I also deepen my own practice which of course brings me even more insights and personal growth. I am happy that I have chosen this path a couple of years ago as I feel very much centered, creative and alive!

In fact, a central aspect around mindfulness is to learn how to be more fully aware and present in each moment of life. This makes it more interesting, vivid and fulfilling. On the other hand, it also means facing what is present even when it is unpleasant or difficult.

I can now also appreciate fully, why one cannot simply read a book about mindfulness in order to teach it and why one need to practice a long time before actually being able to introduce a mindful approach into communications and leadership as well as broader diversity topics.

Let me close with a poem that I found on this wonderful site which I hope will get to you as much as it does to me:

Walk Slowly (Danna Faulds)

It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.

 

How much disconnection do you need?

DisconnectingAre you already back at work or are you still enjoying some time off, relaxing and energizing yourself?

For many people, holidays always start with a lot of stress, either because they need to pack the appropriate things and then spend hours at the airport tackling over bookings, delays or other unforeseen events. Or, as many of us here in Europe, you decide to take your car because of practicality or budgetary reasons just to find yourself in endless queues, traffic jams and accidents. It surely takes some patience to arrive where you want to be and at least a couple of days more to be able to get out of your ever turning  thoughts. For some people it takes as long as a full week, to come down again and feel some relief, even more so if you stay connected to your day-job.

Were you able to switch off your devices and really disconnect during your holidays? And how long did it take?

Many of us are not used anymore to leave our smart phones out during the day without regularly checking something; not only mails and other messages, but the weather forecast, simply the time, news, the best hiking route, the nearest restaurant etc. How many of us still remember how it felt like and – more and foremost – how we managed to “survive” without all the apps, devices, guides and information so readily available nowadays? And how many of us feel comfortable not to use our digital friends regularly and instead simply be for a while?

I agree, Stillnessit is very tempting to read mails and stay connected on social media with many “friends” even during the holiday period. How many pictures and posts can be found of “happy people” smiling into their camera wherever they are in the world…. It takes courage. And also patience as your mind will play tricks with you and lure you back to the device just for checking the weather (it would be safer) or the latest news (I have to know what is going on); of course, once you hold your smart phone in your hands, you don’t usually end up looking solely at the weather or news….

But it is worth it: disconnecting regularly has huge benefits on your overall health and well-being as well as your behavior with others in real life.

As with all things in life: finding the right balance is crucial and necessary in order not to be overwhelmed in a world spinning faster every day…

Enjoy the rest of the summer and take a deep breath!

Jenny

How Our Thoughts Affect Our Performance: 3 Activities

IMG_0705

Many of us wish we could perform with the focus, strength and skill of a professional athlete. To do so requires a strong connection between our minds and our bodies—some research shows only a 5% d…

Sourced through Scoop.it from: blog.culturaldetective.com

Thanks Dianne for this great post summarizing our workshop in Valencia! #SiETAR #mindfulness #diversity

See on Scoop.itMindful Leadership & Intercultural Communication