Posted on

The Vital Role of Resilience in Emergencies

**Update: all 12 Wild Boars, their coach, and the rescuers are now safe! A true effort, from those who cooked and fed the volunteers, to the schoolchildren who prayed, to the frogman who stayed with the team. A moment of gratitude and respect for Saman Gunan.

 

Much of the world has been riveted to the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach in Thailand. As the eighth “Wild Boar” is now in the hospital, it goes without notice how much mental fortitude, mindfulness, and emotional balance has played a role in the survival of the soccer team for two weeks in claustrophobic, frightening conditions, and in the innovative problem solving and collaborative action of an international team of planners and rescuers putting the young men’s lives over their own.

The boys look skinnier than usual, but seem to maintain their humanity and humor. They joked about getting fried BBQ and asking their teacher not to give them too much homework. How do these young boys and their coach, barely older than them at 25, have the fortitude to maintain their calm despite great uncertainty of their rescue?

First, let’s take a look at what happens to our brains and bodies in emergencies.

Our brains are designed to react quickly to threats for our survival. When we’re under sudden attack, stress-related hormones adrenaline and cortisol flood our bodies, our heart rate goes up, and our vision decreases up to 70%. All these physiological changes compromise our cognitive flexibility to come up with the wise or innovative solutions. Our fight/flight/freeze default take over our prefrontal cortex – our brain’s executive functioning area, and we have an amygdala hijack. Our ability to logically think is greatly reduced. We go into autopilot, reduce our capacity to consider wise or innovative solutions, or fail to make the choice that will actually get us out of trouble.

Have you ever been caught in a tight bind and made the wrong turn? You’re not alone. We hear unfortunate stories of people who have met their doom because of a sudden wrong decision in the heat of the moment. According to psychologist John Leach, 85% of people respond inappropriately in a crisis. In 2011, George Larson was one of 17 survivors out of 65 because he was one of the few with the wherewithal to get himself out of a burning plane before it exploded. In airplane crashes, it is common for passengers to scramble for their bags from the overhead lockers first. It’s easy for us to say now “that wouldn’t be me,” but in an emergency, even the “smartest” of us get stuck brains.

Daniel Goleman uses the analogy of a basement and balcony. In emergencies, whether catastrophes like tsunamis or getting stuck underground in a cave for weeks, we often go to the “basement,” our brain’s primitive threat response system. But if we are to respond with greater wisdom and flexibility, it is important to “go to the balcony,” and view the crisis from a broader perspective and get as much information as possible to  make a wiser decision of how to proceed. This requires our prefrontal cortex to stay in the game.

Let’s go back to the question: how does the young Thai soccer team have the fortitude to maintain their calm despite great uncertainty of their rescue?

Undoubtedly, there are many factors, and researchers will probably be eager to learn about their survival. A few early indicators suggest that mindfulness, meditation, compassion, cognitive flexibility, collaboration, and resilience have played a huge role. The boys’ soccer coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, is a novice monk. Reports indicate that he taught the boys how to meditate as they sat in dank darkness without any indicators of how they would get out. He taught them to refocus their minds away from hunger and fear, and to maintain emotional balance and build resilience during this harrowing ordeal.

Now as the first eight boys are safely in the hospital, divers continue these efforts, recognizing that the most difficult part is not the lack of the boys’ ability to swim or visibility – the divers are there to guide them. The most difficult part is for the boys – and divers – to maintain their mental focus and calm for each of the 11-hour trek through tight passageways underwater so that they do not get an amygdala hijack and panic. If that happens, then they are in real trouble.

There is also the mental fortitude and resilience required of the remaining boys and their coach as they watch their mates leave the cave, not knowing if their mates survived and not knowing if they too will be rescued. The team of rescuers are rescuing the mentally strongest last. There was a 10-hour gap between the rescue of the first and second group to replenish oxygen, and now another long gap until the next group. Ten hours is an eternity once you see your mates leave. Being left behind can pose additional threats to the body’s survival instinct, and so they will have to draw from even greater reservoirs of mindfulness and emotional balance.

Then there are the rescuers. These rescuers have clearly stepped up to the balcony rather than the basement. They have taken as much into account to make the decisions to begin rescues now rather than wait for more heavy rains. Additionally, their emotional balance has allowed them to put aside any personal differences to form an international coalition of 90 divers – 40 Thai and 50 non-Thai. There are 13 medical teams each with their own ambulance and helicopter, and 30 doctors await. There are the engineers who pumped out water. There are others ready to activate Plans C, D, and E, from Elon Musk’s submarine to Pairojana Toontong’s inflatable tube. There is Saman Gunan, the Thai Navy Seal who gave his life ensuring the treacherous path has oxygen. Their collective diversity of perspectives, languages, cultures, and experiences fuels the cognitive flexibility, trust, and clarity of when to act, and is indicative of how a sense of purpose can lead to greater connection and team performance. This team’s sense of empathic concern has moved a global movement from just sitting by and feeling badly for the boys to putting their own lives at risk. Watching the rescuers is to watch true leadership and teamwork in action.

Finally, the emotional balance the boys’ families are demonstrating is a lesson in compassion. While some are chiding the coach for being negligent, and Ekopol himself has already apologized to the families, the children’s families are focusing on how Ekapol has helped their children survive. He is said to be the weakest, having given his share of food to the boys. One mother said: “when [Ekapol] comes out, we have to heal his heart. My dear Ek, I would never blame you.”

As we write, we continue to send our collective thoughts for all to return safely.

Recommended Resources:

 

 

Interested in cultivating your own Emotional Balance? Reserve your spot for the Foundational Skills of Emotional Intelligence. During twelve, two-week online experiences, you’ll explore the Foundational Skills of Emotional Intelligence through facilitated, group learning. You’ll discover the science behind each competency, why they matter, and how to apply them to positively differentiate yourself.

For a taste of the Foundational Skills, join our two-week Emotional Balance experience. In this portion of the Foundational Skills of EI, you’ll build your resilience, self-awareness, and focus.

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like to learn more about the fundamentals of Emotional Intelligence, our series of primers focuses on the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, which include Emotional Self-Control (or Emotional Balance), Empathy, and Teamwork. The primers are written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, co-creators of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, along with a range of colleagues, thought-leaders, researchers, and leaders with expertise in the various competencies. Explore the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

Posted on

Coaching for Emotional Intelligence: Michelle Maldonado on Mindfulness Coaching

In the second installment of Coaching for Emotional Intelligence, Michelle Maldonado, a Faculty member and Meta-Coach for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification, discusses her lifelong meditation practice, what it means to embody authenticity, and more. The first interview in the series, with Meta-Coach Dot Proux, is available here.

 

Michelle is Founder and CEO of Lucenscia LLC, a human capital development and business strategy firm dedicated to developing leaders and organizations with positive impact in the world. She is a Genos International Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner® and Master Teacher with the Google-inspired Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute® who leverages her more than 35 years of contemplative practice and two plus decades of business and legal experience to create relevant and practical solutions to transform how we “show up” as more compassionate, impactful and resilient leaders.

 

 

How did you begin coaching?

I am a teacher and facilitator at heart; one who serves as a seed planter and a gentle “way shower.” So coaching came very naturally to me in my early years of professional work. John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods Market and the Conscious Capitalism movement, once said that, “If you are a leader of an organization, you have a duty to evolve yourself or you are holding the organization back.” I take this to heart. In order for people in organizations to thrive, managers have an obligation to do their self-work and assist others to do the same which very often takes the form of coaching and mentoring their people. I found myself doing this as a young attorney in law firm life and also later as a business professional in the tech and online industries. Today, I consider it a privilege to share in the journey of others and to play a supporting role in helping them discover the wholeness that makes them who they are and aligning the vision and values they have for their work and their lives.

 

In what ways has your background as a corporate attorney and business leader influenced your work as a coach?

Across both the legal and business arenas, the most salient insights I gained were about people. I learned quite a bit about the quiet suffering that occurs in the workplace, about inspiration and innovation, about the need for people to feel heard, seen and valued, about culture, connection and engagement, and more. My legal and business experience deepened my understanding and appreciation of how people were showing up and their emotional drivers. This, in turn, helped build my capacity for compassion and support of their journey in a way that created psychological safety (regardless of role or title) and paved the way for meaningful conversation, exploration, self-discovery, insight, and change.

 

What are your thoughts on Emotional Intelligence?

Whether in my own self-work or those with whom I collaborate, I have found that Emotional Intelligence is a foundational skill set that makes the difference between those who truly thrive and are living a life in alignment with their values, passions, and optimized skill sets and those who are not. EI does not just help us with what we do. It helps create an inner and outer connectedness that creates a way of being that informs how we do what we do. This nuanced difference creates ripples of positive impact across diverse stakeholder communities.

EI helps us shift from “me” to “we” thinking. Although people tend to lump it into the category of “soft skills,” this terminology creates a misperception of being easy or less important. The reality is that developing Emotional Intelligence competencies is simple, but not easy. It is simple to understand the steps and components intellectually, but challenging to practice and cultivate because they require the creation of new, sustainable habits and shifting of mindsets. In our instant access, on-demand world, it is important to remember that developing these skills is a lifelong journey where they are honed over time with patience, persistence, and great self-awareness (which brings in its connection to mindfulness meditation).

 

 

What drew you to the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification?

Like many, I have followed Dan’s research on Emotional Intelligence, and more recently, its intersection with mindfulness, for quite a while. What drew me to the certification was its interconnected framework and the depth of the content coupled with time, spaciousness and support for self-reflection, application, and integration.

The Coaching Certification is experiential in many ways so that it affords the greatest opportunity for participants and coaches to connect on deeper levels and peel back the layers for meaningful transformation. I believe it is a model that will help coaches be more effective at supporting the client as a “whole person” and to facilitating personal revelations and impact across their spheres of influence.

 

How do you approach the topics of diversity and civility within the framework of your coaching practice? Do you have any advice for leaders who want to become more aware of the ways in which unconscious bias impacts their leadership?

Civil discourse and belonging are so important for our world community.

As a critical element needed to facilitate shifts of hearts and minds, I like to take a step back and first recognize that, perhaps even the language we use may be outdated and may unwittingly leave some people out of the conversation.

Historically, we spoke of “Diversity,” Then we evolved to “Diversity & Inclusion.” However, despite our best intentions we have not achieved a felt sense for all people – from LGBTQ, to women, to people of color, to white men – that they are valued, heard, and seen. While language alone will not fix the human connection gap we are experiencing, it is a start. Instead of looking at diversity and inclusion, I much prefer to call it “Belonging and Unity.” With Belonging and Unity, we naturally weave in civil discourse as a pathway to create the greater felt sense of a common humanity.

Another perspective I take is to understand how critically important it is to create safe space to allow for the difficult conversations and emotions that naturally arise during this type of work. Everyone has biases – some unconscious (or implicit) and some conscious. That, too, is part of the human condition. And, it is important for us to be open to what we see about our biases without beating ourselves up about it; to follow the lines of where the impact of these biases goes at work (who do you hire, give high profile projects to, promote, associate yourself with?) and at play (who do you interact with socially?). After all, we cannot transform what we do not see or will not acknowledge.

The discovery and awareness process is a great first step, but it is not enough. To truly make a sustainable shift, we also are called to move forward into action and impact where we put practices into place that help us see others as ourselves. This is the part that can be most challenging because it makes us step out of our comfort zone and asks us to extend empathy and compassion to others we may feel uncomfortable with or not understand. However, the good news is that we can leverage practices from wisdom traditions to assist us. To help build better connection, diminish the “us” and “them” mentality, I encourage clients to practice Loving Kindness and Just Like Me meditations. Over time, with sustained practice, these enhance self-awareness and cultivate our capacity to extend compassion to a broader spectrum of people and communities, stretching us beyond our biases.

 

 

What led you to your contemplative practice? How has it evolved over the years?

I was introduced to meditation the summer after first grade. As a child, I was raised in a Roman Catholic family in Cape Cod, MA. However, one summer, I spent several months with my Great Aunt in Wyoming where she introduced me to the cultural traditions of indigenous communities in the area as well as meditation. What was remarkable is that she did not use typical terminology with me. Instead, she simply invited me “to sit” with her as she gently placed her hands on my head saying, “Quiet here,” and then slowly moved her hands down to my heart saying, “so you can be here.” For some reason, at that age, I did not need any more than that. I knew that I felt good – different even – after sitting with her and regularly returned to my practice after my summer visit was over. As the years passed, I found myself sitting frequently feeling the ease of well-being, clarity, and replenishment that it provided. It was not until I was in college that I learned what I was doing was called meditation.

When I think about the inspiration behind my Great Aunt’s introduction of meditation to me, she explained that she did not use all the words associated with her Buddhist philosophy because I was seven years old and she wanted me to find a way to share it with others my age in our own language. I also remember her telling me that it was not enough to have a broader view beyond my own community or even to have a world view. Rather, she often emphasized the need for each of us to have a view of interconnectedness and humanity.

Over time, my contemplative practice evolved and expanded to include different forms of meditation such as walking meditation, gratitude meditation, loving kindness/just like me, retreats, and more. Additionally, my ability to understand the importance of language and how to use language that meets people where they are also was influenced by my early meditation practice and its evolution over time. Ultimately, my practice has shifted the lens through which I view myself and others enabling me to embrace the seeds my Great Aunt planted so long ago and that was so nicely summarized in a speech once given by Salma Hayek where she proudly proclaimed, “The world is my home and humanity is my family.”

 

Has mindfulness always been a part of your coaching practice? In your experience, what are some of the unique benefits of mindfulness coaching? 

Yes, I have found that mindfulness coaching is one of the most effective ways to cultivate self-awareness. As the foundational EI domain, self-awareness is uniquely developed through mental focus training which enables our capacity to construct a solid and sustainable foundation upon which all the remaining Emotional Intelligence domains rest.

Mindfulness also is an important part of coaching because it further develops our empathetic and compassion responses in a way that helps us shift to other perspective taking, understanding of a common humanity, and our shared connection. With this embodied understanding, we are better positioned to evolve our social and leadership skills that influence how we show up with others in our family, our community, and the workplace. When you step back and look at it, you can see how mindfulness enables the EI domains to help us more fully flourish as human beings with positive presence, intention, and impact.

 

 

What does authentic leadership mean to you? How do you develop authentic leaders?

Authentic Leadership has been studied, taught and talked about for decades. There is quite a bit of information and opinion out there on this topic. Whether recognized industry experts or an average Joe or Jane, what is believed to make an authentic leader is as varied as the people you ask. For me, similar to mindfulness, authenticity is one of those characteristics that infuses how you do what you do:

You don’t do authenticity, you are authentic.

Just as you don’t do mindfulness, you are mindful.

Authenticity doesn’t mean that you say whatever you want, whenever you want, to whomever you want, however you want. That is merely a way of not exercising self-awareness or self-management and it mistakenly places the responsibility for your words and actions on others around you. Rather, when we embody authenticity, we cultivate positive and healthy relationships and are comfortable being vulnerable in the room. Being vulnerable includes being accountable and moving through interactions with integrity, trustworthiness, awareness, compassion, and more – and if you don’t, immediately owning it and taking corrective action. Authenticity, like compassion and other EI competencies takes courage. When this courage rests on a stable foundation, authenticity nicely flourishes.

 

What advice do you have for people who would like to become coaches?

For people who wish to become coaches, I would offer that they must be clear on their “why” for this work and be committed to consistently doing their own inner work. Coaching places us in a sacred position of trust by others who share their dreams and deepest desires as well as their frustrations and deeply rooted fears. If we do not continuously do our inner work, when we coach we then risk personal projections on our clients and a potential level of disconnection that depletes us. The same is true if we are not clear on our “why.” Without this clarity of self and intention, we can come from a place of ego that could leave us blind to crucial information that is present for us to see and work with.

Ultimately, we have to remember that while this work can be tactical or functional in nature, like most of the EI and mindfulness work we do, coaching is a journey where we plant many seeds. By simultaneously being heart-centered, humble, and wise, we help people move from head to heart so they can re-align both in a most magnificent way.

 

 

 

 

Interested in working with Michelle and becoming a certified coach? Apply now for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification. This in-depth program, akin to a professional degree, draws upon a range of evidence-based concepts and practices, including the Emotional & Social Intelligence framework. Coaches will gain meaningful new insights to impact their personal and professional lives through online learning, one-on-one guidance from a Meta-Coach, a coaching practicum, and more.

 

 

 

 

Posted on

How Meditation Fuels Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

meditation and emotional intelligence

Not many of my readers know this, but long before I started writing about emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness, I studied meditation. I started back in my college days, and found daily meditation calmed my undergraduate jitters and helped me focus better. To get a scientific look at what I had experienced, I did my doctoral research in psychology at Harvard University on how meditation might help us be less reactive to stress.

Back then, there were but two scientific studies of meditation I could point to. Today, there are more than 6,000. This past year or so, working with my friend since grad school, Professor Richard J. Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we used rigorous standards to review all that research. We share the strongest findings in our book, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body. While 99 percent of the studies failed to meet these standards, about 60 – one percent – were first-rate. They make a convincing case for the positive, lasting effects of meditation.

Meditation and Emotional Intelligence

While continuing my interest in meditation, over the past 20+ years, of course, I’ve studied and written about emotional intelligence and its powerful role in high performance and leadership. My colleague, Richard Boyatzis of Case Western Reserve University, and I developed a model of emotional and social intelligence that centers around twelve learned and learnable competencies. Now when people ask me how to develop those competencies, my response often includes the power of meditation to strengthen emotional intelligence.

It’s not that meditation makes you expert in all twelve emotional intelligence competencies. Not at all. Exhibiting these at a high level takes specific learning, particular to each competence. But meditation has some general impacts that can help upgrade several of these leadership skills.

For example:

Emotional Self-Awareness supports development of all of the emotional intelligence competencies, simply because it allows us a way to monitor and evaluate what we do and how we think and feel. Mindfulness meditation cultivates emotional self-awareness, helping us develop the mental ability to pause and notice feelings and thoughts rather than immediately reacting. Seeing our thoughts as just thoughts, and feelings as just feelings gives us a platform for choosing more skillfully how we react, or to change for the better what we habitually do.

Emotional Self-Control means that you are in charge of your disruptive reactions, rather than your feelings controlling what you do. I’ve written extensively about the executive centers of our brain (the prefrontal cortex) and the fight-or-flight emotional centers (and their trigger, the amygdala). Research now shows that regular practice of mindfulness meditation builds the pathways between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex so that the calming, thoughtful influence of the prefrontal cortex can curb the knee-jerk reactions of the amygdala.

Empathy – tuning into and reading accurately how others feel – helps us manage our relationships. While emotional self-awareness helps you know yourself, empathy means being able to understand the thoughts and feelings of the people around you. My new book Altered Traits reviews several studies that show certain kinds of meditation enhance empathy – for example, just eight hours of a form of meditation known as loving-kindness or compassion meditation has been shown to strengthen our mental brain’s circuitry for empathy.

Conflict Management
Conflicts big and small are inevitable in work and in life. Being able to understand different perspectives and effectively work toward finding common ground is an essential skill for leaders at all levels of organizations. The building blocks of skillful conflict management include the other three competencies I mention above. Before we can manage conflict effectively, we need to recognize our own disruptive feelings and manage them. We also need to understand the feelings and perspectives of others. Just as mindfulness meditation supports development of the skills for knowing our own feelings and controlling them, those skills enhance our ability to manage conflict.

Emotional intelligence means being skilled at a variety of competencies. Meditation alone will not make you excel in these skill sets, but it can help. To become adept at the competencies, get a strong foundation by first learning to become aware, to focus, to interact with others in a constructive and meaningful way. These abilities are exactly what meditation helps to cultivate.

Recommended Reading:

Altered Traits audio coverAltered Traits is the newest book by bestselling author Daniel Goleman and neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson. Through thoughtful analysis of countless studies, the authors offer the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it. At the heart of what Goleman and Davidson aim to impress upon readers and listeners is that beyond the pleasant states mental exercises can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting personality traits that can result.

Posted on

What to do when worry dominates your attention

develop a healthy mind

develop a healthy mind

Did I unplug the iron?

Traffic is brutal. Will I be late for my meeting?

I haven’t heard back from my friend. Are they upset with me?

Worry is a natural response to an upsetting situation, the unknown, or if we’re run down and frazzled. It can be difficult to get a handle on distressing thoughts. Fixating on a worry can exact a toll on our brain and our body. It also affects our decision-making skills, even our relationships (spending too much time with a “worry wart” can be draining).

Daniel Goleman spoke with Dr. Richard Davidson, founder of The Center for Investigating a Healthy Mind about the role of attention training in optimal brain functions in Develop a Healthy Mind: How Focus Impacts Brain Function. Here’s what they had to say about attention driven by worry.

Human beings are endowed with a very large prefrontal cortex, which gives us the ability to do mental time travel. That means that we can anticipate the future and reflect on the past, which clearly has its advantages. But it can also create a lot of problems.

We can worry about the future. We can anticipate threats that don’t actually occur, which, in most cases, turn out to be far more significant than real threats.

Our brain on stress

When we’re under stress, the brain secretes hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that in the best scenario mobilize us to handle a short-term emergency, but in the worst scenario create an ongoing hazard for performance. In that case, attention narrows to focus on the cause of the stress, not the task at hand. Our memory reshuffles to promote thoughts most relevant to what’s stressing us, and we fall back on negative learned habits. The brain’s executive centers – our neural circuitry for paying attention, comprehending, and learning – are hijacked by our networks for handling stress.

In today’s over-stimulated, fast-paced culture, it’s very difficult to respond effectively to worry and stress. Our old habits kick in: we shut down, lash out, ruminate, stress eat, and on and on. But you can develop more positive responses to stress.

Write it down

In Paul Ekman’s book Emotions Revealed he encourages people to keep a log of regrettable angry episodes. Write down:

  • what the incident was about
  • how it happened
  • what set you off
  • and what did you do that you think you shouldn’t have done.

After a few journal entries, try to see the commonality in the triggers and responses. You’ll usually find a particular script that underlies what’s causing you to have a particular perception on certain situations, to cast people into roles that they really aren’t in, and to try to replay a plot that doesn’t really fit.

Exercise your mental muscle

Practice different mental exercises to calm the mind and body down after a stressful arousal. The more you practice, the easier you can recall these tools when you need it most. Try these very simple exercises when you’re stressed or angry:

develop a healthy mind       develop a healthy mind

Know your stress type

Stress hits each of us differently. Some of us feel it in our bodies. Others just can’t stop worrying. Knowing how you experience stress can help you find the most effective relaxation methods. Try different exercises, such as deep breathing, auto suggestion or sensory focus. See which methods work best for you.

Stop and see

Stress management expert Elad Levinson developed the stop and see practice for the overwhelmed executives he coaches. Try this:

Begin with a simple exercise of thoughtful observation.

  • How would I characterize my mind right now? What does it feel like?
  • If I had to guess its revolutions per minute, what would I guess?
  • Does it feel hot or cool?
  • If my mind were a river, would it be a lazy river or a rushing river?

Next, try a slow deep breathing exercise to calm the mind.

  • Inhale and count to 3, 4, or 5, depending upon how deep an inhalation you can take.
  • Now exhale, doing the same.
  • Try this for one minute.
  • Notice any differences in you body, or changes to the content of your thoughts.

Additional resources

Develop a Healthy Mind: How Focus Impacts Brain Function

Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence

Relax: 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress

Working with Mindfulness

Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit

Knowing Our Emotions, Improving Our World

Training the Brain: Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

Posted on

How Students Can Develop Their Mental Muscle

Most of our internal narrative is fictitious, repetitive and negative. The internal narrative of children can be all of that – heightened. They don’t have the skills of experience to recognize the thought/emotion connection. How can educators help students become more aware – and in control – of their internal world?

Physical movement, including basic yoga postures, is a fun, practical way to help students strengthen not only their physical muscles, but their mental muscles. The goal is to cultivate a multitude of traits:

  1. Awareness
  2. Embodied attending
  3. Emotional intelligence
  4. Self-regulation
  5. Recognition

Here’s how it works. Take a break for physical activity, perhaps when you notice they’re getting restless. Try something very simple such as tortoise pose, to camel, to triangle, to warrior, to mountain, and back down again. Or walking slowly around the room.

Ask the children occasionally throughout and after the sequence: what do you feel in your body? Then you can ask them to name an emotion they might be feeling: tired, happy, angry, bored, etc. This will help them to start recognizing emotions such as impulses of anger when they arise. When children learn to handle their anger (or any emotion) as an impersonal entity, they’ll be less inclined to deal with it violently either to themselves or others.

“So we’re on the upward facing dog. Now what? Nothing!” said Jon Kabat-Zinn at his keynote speech at the 2013 Bridging Hearts and Minds of Youth conference. “This is a curriculum already: being. Just be here! We’re learning how to inhabit being – in school. All of a sudden it wakes something up.”

The basic practices of mindfulness and yoga are a great way to show students how to free themselves from paying too much attention to the movie in their minds – and focus on the task at hand.

Jon’s full speech is available for purchase in an exclusive streaming video here, and the entirety of the 2013 BHMY conference is available here.

Additional resources

Back-to-School Focus Bundle

Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference DVD Set

The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education

SaveSave

Posted on

How would you define mindfulness?

How would you define mindfulness?

What Is Mindfulness?

by More Than Sound Staff

Have you heard anything about mindfulness lately? Chances are you have… Chances are you’ve heard a lot about mindfulness lately. You’ve probably been hearing about mindfuless in the media, at work, in casual conversation, maybe even at the dinner table from your kids. Perhaps you’ve read about it online a few times.

But even with the media spotlight on mindfulness, do you feel like you understand it? Is it clear to you how mindfulness works? How would you define mindfulness?

How would you define mindfulness?
Can you explain mindfulness? Credit: laprogressive.com

There’s so much buzz about what mindfulness is or is not, and sometimes coming from people who have minimal experience in the practice. So in an effort to both simplify and deepen the mindfulness conversation, we have released a series of podcasts featuring noted mindfulness scholars, including Rick Hanson, Juliet Adams, and Joseph Goldstein. Upcoming contributors will include Daniel Goleman, Mirabai Bush, and Surya Das.

Common Questions, Thoughtful Insights

Designed as an interview series to maintain consistency across subject matter, the podcast contributors are all asked the same questions. Some examples are:

  • How can mindfulness be put into action?
  • What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
  • How does mindfulness training work?

Through these questions and others, our featured guests and their decades of experience will help provide clarity and add to the conversation surrounding mindfulness. This will allow you to formulate your own opinions about how mindfulness might apply to you.

Listen to some interviews now:

Rick Hanson: What is Mindfulness?

Juliet Adams: The Relationship Between Mindfulness and Meditation

Joseph Goldstein: Hidden Dangers in Popularity of Mindfulness

Posted on

Flex Your Mental Muscle

Think of your mind as a muscle: You need to keep it in great shape.

Adapted from Dr. Jutta Tobias‘s conversation with Elad Levinson, recorded for his online course Thriving on Change.

mental muscle
Image: Business Insider. DOTS App

Mindfulness training isn’t much different than muscle training. Just like working out regularly and consistently will show a gradual growth in your biceps and quads, the more you practice mindfulness the bigger your mental muscle becomes to approach situations differently and in a more open-minded way.

Working out your mental muscle and toning your mindfulness is a door-opener to endless beneficial skills for leaders, such a resilience, open-mindedness, self-control, patience, and regulating impulses. Being patient with yourself as you develop your mindfulness will indirectly slow down your impulse to judge situations quickly.

Think of your mind as a muscle: You need to keep it in great shape.
Credit: rgh.cc

If you wake up one morning after doing nothing but sitting on the couch and eating chips for weeks and decide to run a marathon, chances are you will not succeed. Similarly, you cannot wake up in the morning and decide, “Today I’m going to be in complete control of my emotions,” or, “Today I’m going to take total charge of my impulses.” In order to become directly in charge of your emotions, you must work at it indirectly layer-by-layer through training in mindfulness practice.

Emotions can be very fickle
Credit: entrepreneur.com

Emotions are fickle and sometimes can never be directly controlled. Because emotions are deeply functional and have been our survival method for millennia, your boss can’t simply approach you and say, “Just be happy now!” However, you can follow this “work-out program” to begin your journey to a happier, more mindful life.

  1. Focus your attention on the here-and-now. Really emphasize the importance of the task at hand.
  2. Focus on your sensory experience, and see if you can become aware of how quickly or rashly you might be judging situations.
  3. Become more adept at seeing multiple perspectives. Look at everyone involved in a situation and try to see it from their point of view.
  4. Attempt to see each challenging situation not as a daunting, impossible task, but as an opportunity to learn and grow.

If you can begin to grasp those concepts, you are taking the first steps to creating a link between mindfulness and resilience, and becoming an effective decision maker in both your personal life and within your organization.

Dr. Jutta Tobias has been published in the Journal of Business Venturing for her work on entrepreneurial and social change in Rwanda, received several academic awards (including the President’s Award from her doctoral alma mater, Washington State University), worked with clients such as Goldman-Sachs and the United States Congress, co-facilitated non-violence workshops in United States/United Kingdom prisons, and holds counselling qualification from the University of Cambridge. Dr. Tobais is also a contributor to our Praxis You course, Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit.

thriving on change

You’re invited to preview our new online course, Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit for free here. Module 1 is now available for purchase.