Today’s fast-paced world is all about busy schedules and tough targets. We don’t even have time to live in the present moment as we are constantly thinking about the past or getting anxious about the future. Why are we so distracted? In this Skill Talk, Gopi Krishnaswamy, Life Coach and Mindfulness Guide at dhyaana, tries to find answers to these questions and more.
For Gopi, mindfulness is a way of life. He has been practising it for over 10 years now and as a Mindfulness Guide, he has conducted training programs to help individuals and organizations become aware of this life skill. Starting on a humorous note, Gopi tells us how this super skill can be practiced through training and self-awareness.
“Take a typical day from a typical life. See how it works. You wake up in the morning and what is the first thing you do? You grab your phone, check Facebook and Whatsapp, you then rush through your daily tasks. While you are having a shower you are already in office, so there are a few other people also in the shower with you! If I ask you at 11o’ clock what you had for breakfast you may not even remember! So, that’s how life is for most of us.” While this did set me thinking about what was coming next, I couldn’t help but ask him what exactly it meant to be mindful and how one could learn and practice this skill. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
So, what exactly is mindfulness?
Let’s look at what mindfulness is not. Working has become synonymous with multitasking. The average human thinks about 70000 thoughts a day. This translates to a thought a second and that’s scary. Thoughts require energy so no wonder this drains you without even ‘doing’ anything! In a recent poll, about 65% of companies surveyed said their employees felt overwhelmed. A lot of this feeling is driven by multitasking. This is a dysfunction and it has become the new normal. Worse, we’ve started defining success by our ability to multitask and success is equated with knowledge. Basically your mind is full!
So we have two words which mean a negative thing and you put them together it means exactly the opposite. In a typical life, people’s minds are full and that is what mindfulness is not– isn’t it a paradox!
How would you describe mindfulness?
In simple words, it’s a state or energy of non-judgmental, present moment awareness. Put even more simply, it basically means being completely and totally aware of the present moment, without judging anything in any manner. Put another way, it is the opposite of mindlessness!
Being present at the moment is a skill in itself, right?
Yes. For example, when you eat something that is really tasty, you completely sink into that taste, when you listen to your favorite music you don’t hear anything else! When you see something beautiful, you feel speechless. When you are mindful you don’t think beyond that moment, you just appreciate the moment.
Being non-judgemental is another important skill
It means suspending judging and over thinking, and being completely in the present moment, without judging anything as good or bad. If there is a thought you recognize the thought or emotion, if you are feeling angry you recognize that you are angry, if you are happy you recognize that you are happy – without criticism and evaluation.
Keeping oneself focused and goal oriented is a skill too!
Yes, by not getting distracted with several things happening around us. For example, the number of distractions with the digital devices that have become an ‘indispensable’ part of our lives.
How do we practice these skills?
For practising mindfulness, you don’t need to invest or have additional time, you continue doing the things you’ve been doing (eating, talking, listening) you just need to change the way you do it. When you learn other skills you may feel that they are disconnected from your life, like something you need to do in addition to your life. With mindfulness there’s no addition to your life. I’m only asking you to live your normal life, but when you do one thing, you please only do that one thing. When you eat you just eat. When you walk, you just walk. When you shower, you only shower!
How do we connect mindfulness with other skills, let’s say, leadership skills?
For long, the key aspect of leadership was about being very skilled in a particular area or field, knowledge, vision and the ability to lead in a dynamic manner. Today, if you have all of that and you are not emotionally intelligent, it’s of no use. It’s about collaboration, empathy and the ability to say ‘I don’t know’. Mindfulness creates a bedrock of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence makes the difference between good and great and it is best acquired through the practice of mindfulness.
How one can be trained?
Once you develop a certain proficiency in the core practice of mindfulness, then we can easily wrap a lot of other skill based training around it. It could be leadership or team building or negotiation, conflict management or stress management.
Benefits of mindfulness
On a personal level, when it comes to health, you begin to look and feel good. You feel energetic and there’s wellness around you. Career benefits are connected with health. Your creative and leadership skills improve. Interpersonal relationships become strong, because you are able to deal easily with stressful situations or conflicts.
For organizations, the benefits are huge! When employees practice mindfulness, they become more productive and improve the quality of their deliverables. There’s tremendous reduction in wastage and indirect expenses.