Mindfulness Meditation: A Skill All Businesspeople Should Embrace
Mindfulness is increasingly popular, and I’m not surprised. It’s a brilliant skill everyone can benefit from. However, when I ask people about mindfulness, although they know the word, they believe it synonymous with meditation. The two connect and correlate, but as individual practices. I will continue to explain the differences between meditation and mindfulness. How they come together, and why all businesspeople should embrace both.
Origins of Mindfulness
The word mindfulness originates from the Buddhist indriyas. Indriya is a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘ability’ or ‘physical strength’. Buddhism holds five spiritual indriyas. Virya (energy), panna (wisdom), saddha (faith), samadhi (concentration / meditation) and sati (being aware / mindful). In the late 1800s – early 1900s, the English founder of the Pali Text Society, Thomas William Rhys Davids, created the word mindfulness from the English word mindful.
Sati relates to the verb sarati which translates directly to ‘to remember’. If sati is present, the mind can remember well. Sati is necessary to fully take in the moment, remember it and recall it later. Some philosophers refer to it as a calm, detached observation. A broad state of mind that watches over an entire situation.
In 1979, an American professor of medicine and keen learner and teacher of meditation, Jon Kabat-Zinn, created a stress reduction clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn based his Stress Reduction and Relaxation Programme on Buddhist teachings. He separated it from Buddhism when he renamed his structured eight-week programme Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR helps people with general life or chronic conditions. One research study found “MBSR improves the condition of patients suffering from chronic illnesses and helps them cope with a wide variety of clinical problems.” Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”.
Although Rhys Davids and Kabat-Zinn use the words mindfulness in different ways, they both point to the same mindset. Buddhism considers this the way to live. A mindset we should all strive to hold as the default mindset. Kabat-Zinn recognised this is not how most of us live, and therefore suffer. By using MBSR practices, including meditation, we can achieve a mindful state and heal or live better.
Mindfulness for Healthy People
Mindfulness helps everyone live better. As previously mentioned, research shows it helps people with chronic conditions. It also improves life for already healthy people. Many non-clinical but high stress environments use mindfulness techniques to improve wellbeing and reduce stress. Medical students, for example, who like businesspeople have high levels of psychological distress, depression, burnout, and suicidal ideation compared to others, use mindfulness to reduce stress, anxiety, and distress, improve empathy, increase self-awareness, and reduce the risk of burnout.
Mindfulness Vs Meditation
Meditation is a practice attached to many religions. The most well-known story of meditation belongs to a young Siddhartha Gautama. The Hindu prince who, after witnessing suffering on the street, decided to sit under a tree meditating for forty days and forty nights. He achieved enlightenment and founded Buddhism, becoming known as Buddha. Most religions and schools of thought refer to meditation in their teachings. Including Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, yoga, and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Meditation is a practice that helps achieve the required mindset.
Meditation is subjective, however, physiological tests on people in a meditative state show a reduced heart rate, slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and an increase in the alpha activity in the brain. The alpha state is one of rest and relaxation. When you experience an increase in alpha waves, you probably also increase your levels of creativity. One study found that an induced increase of alpha waves in the brains of people with depression reduces the depressive symptoms. To begin your meditation journey, please read more here.
A regular meditation practice will help you learn the mindful state of mind. An important facet of meditation is observing without judgement. When you practice this formally, every day you will master the ability to return to this frame of mind at the click of an imaginary switch. At first, you might need to consciously switch on the different way of responding to situations, but eventually it will become your default state. You will feel in control of your reactions in all environments, able to observe, consider and proceed in a composed, calm way. If you want to learn additional techniques to bring mindfulness into your life, please see my blog post here.
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Niazi AK, Niazi SK. Mindfulness-based stress reduction: a non-pharmacological approach for chronic illnesses. N Am J Med Sci. 2011 Jan;3(1):20-3. doi: 10.4297/najms.2011.320. PMID: 22540058; PMCID: PMC3336928.
(2022). Retrieved 6 July 2022, from https://mindfulness.uams.edu/science/