In its Buddhist context, mindfulness and meditation has three overarching purposes: knowing the mind; training the mind; and freeing the mind.
Knowing the Mind
It is easy to be caught up with our own thoughts, concerns, and activities. To understanding deeply what makes us behave the way we do, react to instances the way we do and truly get a handle on what motivates us, the first step in mindfulness practice is to notice and take stock of who we are. We need to recognize what is going on in our body, in our mind, and impacting our emotional life? What underlying dispositions are we operating under and more importantly why?
Knowing the mind is a simple process of self-discovery and acute awareness. Do no judge something as good or bad. Mindful discovery is supported by calmness, almost being still and having that calmness act as the backdrop to illuminate our surroundings. It doesn’t take much stillness to notice when our “brain is racing a million miles and hour.” Knowing the mind means becoming familiar with what is causing your mind to race instead of being critical of it. It is easy for us to be in the moment and know what effect it has on our body, the emotions we are feeling (or displaying) and more importantly the thoughts that caused us to be in this state.
In our daily routines, it doesn’t take very long for us to have a clear picture of what is happening in order to focus on observing inwardly. We need to make time for those precious few minutes to reflect internally and identify the mental and physical situation at hand.
When the focus is on knowing what is happening, we need not make any attempt to try to change anything. For people who are always trying to make something happen, just observing our mind can be a radical change and a relief.
Training the Mind
Learning, as life, is a dynamic process that is continually bombarded with stimulus and new information that helps us shape who we are, how we behave and who we will become. The main cog in our learning processes is how we take in new stimulus (and information) and process it against what we already know (or believe).
Our mind is elastic. It can be stretched in new ways. An important part of Buddhist practice is taking responsibility for what happens internally, metaphysically and mentally in our mind so that it can operate in ways that are productive and beneficial to all. If we don’t take that responsibility, Buddhism says that external forces will do the shaping. In the case of business: coworkers, managers, competitors, media, advertisements, and other parts of society will hijack how we react and then behave.
Being centered is a good starting point. Being centered builds on knowing the mind and understanding the actions and reactions that accompany certain feelings, thoughts and emotions. We can then train our mind in the art of kindness and compassion. Seeing the good in situations, responding with kind words, empathy and sympathy even when feeling cornered. Being mindfulness may reveal conflict within us, others, or through the ebbs and flow of our daily routines. Such conflict can take the form of retreat or aversion, confusion or despair, anger, over ambition (to the point of hurting others), or self-doubt. Addressing conflict with further conflict will only add to our suffering. Instead, we should begin exploring how to be kinder, more forgiving and open-minded within ourselves.
Meditation is the tool to being centered and knowledgeable about our innermost issues. However, meditation is not always available to us in the business setting—even though 3-5 minutes of solitude and reflection can make a difference. Forcing meditation to relieve us of pain or provide a moment of reconciliation or obligatory reflection can hinder the process of achieving positive space. Removing this challenge is to train our mind to be more at ease with how things are in each moment of our day. Rather than trying to organize the conditions of each situation, we can cultivate an ability to be relaxed with whatever is happening.
Training the mind is not a one time event but a series of happenstances that we should take on to curb negative reactions and find motivation in us that is positive and encompassing of others so that we can all achieve our working ideal. Make time for reflection and meditation. It will help one center and see, feel, act and react with clarity.
Freeing the Mind
Central to Buddhist practice is the ability to let go, to stop clinging. The first notion of Buddhist meditation, knowing the mind, will reveal how and where clinging is present. Some of the more painful forms of grasping in business are clinging to such things as pleasure through wealth, desires that push down others, self-image and judgments about us, opinions and negative talk towards colleagues and our organization and coveting what we don’t have instead of valuing what we do. All clinging limits the mind’s freedom, peace and calm.
Buddhism teaches that we can release the clinging. We can free the mind and subsequently the heart. The ultimate aim of Buddhist practice is to unfetter the heart so there are no limitations to our heart’s freedom. Complete freedom of the mind and heart is not easily attained.
These three notions develop together. The more we explore our inner workings and know ourselves, the more natural it becomes to train ourselves and to know what needs to be released. The more destructive thoughts, motivations and behaviors we let go, the fewer the blockades to understanding who we are and hone our mindfulness.
Free the mind in business is a simple, yet not simplistic, act. We must prepare ourselves to work with our heart not just our mind (or brain). We have so much knowledge to share; yet we feel that the workplace is not the world where we need to feel. Create for yourself a deeper feeling of connectedness and emotional bond with your colleagues and with the job itself. Make sure that you love what you do and can maintain a sense of pride in the work product you create. Free your mind of the thought that “its just a job” or “just a paycheck.” Work, behave and act as if you are contributing to the betterment of others and it will be returned ten-fold.
Few people care for their own minds as they do their own bodies, their clothes, or their possessions. Care of the body is a daily task. The mind too needs regular care, exercise, and training.