Sandi serves as the Director of Communications for OCCJ and is currently completing her 200-hour yoga teacher training and social-emotional learning facilitator certification, which she hopes to use to offer inclusive well-being, movement and mindfulness practices to students, educators, parents, and community leaders.
As the pandemic wears on, most of us yearn for ways to meaningfully engage and feel more present. In this increasingly complicated time, I’m here to offer a solution with many applications and an equal number of benefits - mindfulness.
The practice of mindfulness might inspire images of silent retreats or people sitting for hours in meditation, but the good news about mindfulness is that it is an accessible and malleable practice with positive outcomes for many applications. From education to workforce development, the research is positive that implementing mindfulness techniques improves interactions in each of these spaces.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as, “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
We can use this definition for mindfulness as a gentle check-in to bring more awareness, balanced effort, and response to each situation we encounter. If we begin to feel our internal “temperature” rise or energy wane, we can ask:
- Am I paying attention?
- Am I showing up purposefully and in the present moment?
- Am I practicing non-judgment both to myself and others?
Thinking about mindfulness through the framework of equity and inclusion, leaders might be drawn particularly to the concept of awareness and non-judgment.
Mindfulness calls us to maintain present moment awareness, self-regulation, equanimity, acceptance, and a growth mindset - all key components of inclusive leadership.
Beyond the personal, mindfulness is good for business. Businesses that incorporate mindfulness techniques see fewer incidents of absenteeism, less turnover, more engagement, creativity, and focus. Employees may feel more satisfied with their jobs and more prepared to handle organizational change.
While more study is needed, and skilled facilitators are key to the success of programs, outcomes from mindfulness research are overwhelmingly positive. Improved mental health, classroom climate, and reduced teacher burnout are outcomes reported from mindfulness interventions in the classroom, and practices are particularly useful for improving emotional regulation, compassion, and working memory.
It’s important to note that mindfulness is not a pursuit of perfection, in fact, pursuing perfection would be quite antithetical to mindfulness. Instead, we use the components of mindfulness to regulate and redirect our energy to achieve focus and clarity.
Returning to our definition of mindfulness, we see that it is an approachable and sustainable practice not only for this moment but also an anchoring practice that allows us to increase our awareness and interpersonal skills.
Short Mindfulness Practices