Lessons Learned From a Year of Practicing Mindfulness

By Vicki L. Flaherty

The most important lesson I’ve learned after a year of practicing mindfulness is that opportunities to practice are everywhere. Opportunities to drop into a moment of awareness are available any time anywhere in any of a variety of ways.

Opportunity.png2016 was a year of experimentation and learning from others. I spent quality time with myself, with informative and encouraging books, and with passionate and inspiring people. I led and attended virtual practice sessions inside and outside of IBM, and I attended retreats and practiced with experts and strangers. All the while, I sought simple, practical ways to wake myself up, ways that skeptical colleagues might also find easy enough to try.

The Power of an “Awake” Posture

awake-postureRolf Gates, author of Meditations on Intention and Being, taught me that how we are in our body has an incredible impact on how we are in our minds. The power of what I call an ‘awake’ posture is my most valuable discovery of the year. An awake posture is at the balance point between effort and ease, whereby our ears, shoulders, and hips are in alignment. I find that this posture creates a sense of openness. Whenever I notice that I am slouched over my computer or sitting with my arms crossed over my chest, I take a deep belly breath and slowly straighten my spine, coming into an awake posture. Instantly I feel a shift. To deepen the benefit, sometimes I make micro movements to open my chest – not puffing it out, just gently opening it by pulling my shoulder blades down behind me.

Taking Chances and Learning New Things

I learned that mindfulness helps me take chances and learned new things because practicing opens my curiosity, helps me see when I am afraid, and supports me in being brave in the face of fear.

Seeing Opportunities

I learned that mindfulness helps me see opportunities in front of me that I might have otherwise missed – opportunities to shift my mindset or attitude so that I show up in a way that aligns with who I want to be, whether while fixing dinner with my husband or in meeting with my team, opportunities to smile at a stranger or acknowledge something special about another person, bringing both me and others joy, and opportunities to envision a future and experiment with new ways of being and doing that move me and others toward the vision, creating collaboration and momentum.

Learning to Trust, Respect and Care for Myself and Others

I learned that mindfulness helps me trust, respect, and care for others. By teaching me to trust, respect and care for myself, mindfulness practice provides the foundation on which I’m able to do that for others.

Key ways I practiced mindfulness:

  • Journaling my thoughts and ideas
  • Keeping gratitude journal
  • Reading inspiring books
  • Guided practices (such as those available at mindful.org, and weekly restorative yoga)
  • Starting meetings with a mindful pause
    • Intentional breath joining
    • Moment of silence and reflection with the group
  • Making time to connecting with others

I’ve discovered that my life and work is a practice field with an abundance of moments every day to develop my leadership. We’re all leaders…so how will you play and practice in this new year? How will you seize each opportunity to be awake and at choice about how you show up and make a difference in the world?practice-field

We hope you find these suggested mindfulness approaches useful for creating greater awareness in your life and work. Please feel free to add a comment below to let us know how you have got on.

For more on working and living more mindfully, visit our mindfulness series.

Vicki L Flaherty is the global Mindfulness@IBM Leader and helps IBMers lead with clarity, intention, and authenticity. You’ll find her on LinkedIn and Twitter and over at her Leading with Intention blog.

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