Have you ever heard someone describe people that act without thinking as “being asleep at the wheel?” This is one way to identify individuals that are not mindful of their behavior or actions. In my eBook, Ethics in the Real World (2013), I point out that unlimited power without compassion encourages unlimited corruption (Berry, 2013). In other words, people who are not mindful of their actions or behave without regard for consequences typically find it easier to engage in unethical behavior. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is the act of behaving in a conscious manner. Plum Village founder Thich Nhat Hanh (2012), describes mindfulness as the act of bringing one’s full attention to what is happening in the present moment. He suggests that when we bring our minds back to our bodies, we are focused on the present moment (Hanh, 2012).
Hanh further explains that mindfulness is a kind of energy that helps us to be fully present so that we can live our lives in the here and now. Students at Plum Village for instance, are educated and understand how to work with this energy. Individuals are trained in techniques that will help them focus on mindful awareness as a means to achieve successful outcomes. To begin the process, they learn the practice of in-and-out breathing exercises. What is appealing about this technique, is that in various ways, any one of us can easily engage in these tactics to generate our own energy of mindfulness. For example, when we center our attention on breathing in-and-out, we are focused on the air moving in and out of our body, putting other thoughts aside. Hanh refers to this technique as mindful breathing. Likewise, when we drink a glass of water or a cup of coffee and focus all our attention on nothing else but drinking, he calls this practice mindful drinking. When we walk and focus our awareness on our posture, our breathing, our legs, and the footsteps we take, this technique is called mindful walking. All of these examples illustrate strategies for practicing mindful awareness.
When we focus our attention first on our breathing, Hanh asserts that we are able to unite the body with the mind, bringing our full attention to the present moment. From there, we can become more aware of everything that’s happening in that moment and observe it with a fresh perspective, without getting caught up in our past experiences or consumed by anxieties about the future. By applying these concepts, we can transform any ordinary behavior into an act of mindfulness, including brushing our hair, washing the dishes, walking the dog, eating, drinking, and even working.
Incidentally, mindfulness is not just being mindful about positive things either. For example, when joy manifests, we practice mindfulness of joy. When anger manifests, however, we practice mindfulness of anger. Whatever strong emotion it is that arises, if we learn to practice mindfulness of that emotion, in other words, acknowledge it, not suppress or act on it, then transformation can occur which enables us to find more joy, peace, and awareness. These proven strategies have been effective for encouraging ethical behavior with successful outcomes at the Plum Village Community. The good news everyone, is that we don’t have to move to Plum Village to have these experiences. We can also learn how to incorporate mindful behavior to achieve positive changes that can also help us to develop more meaningful relationships. On Friday we will examine some of the techniques to achieve this and find out how one successful corporate executive fit this practice into his schedule. We will also learn more about how we can apply these techniques in our own lives, anywhere, anytime. Until then be mindful and stay organized!
Berry, M. A. (2013). Ethics in the Real World. USA: Kindle Direct Publishing.
Hanh, T. N. (2012). Work: How to find joy and meaning in each hour of the day. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler. – Albert Einstein