Whereas the title of last week’s Provision, Mindless Mindfulness, may have seemed like an oxymoron, that is, a self-contradictory statement, the title of this week’s Provision, Mindful Self-Awareness may seem like a circumlocution, that is, the use of more word than necessary to express an idea. Isn’t all mindfulness a matter of self-awareness? On one level, or course, that goes without saying. On another level, however, putting the two notions in such close proximity expresses an important truth. Read on to see how I wrestle my way through the juxtaposition of such important concepts.
The dictionary in the sky (dictionary.com) defines Mindfulness as being attentive, aware, heedful, or careful. This definition associates Mindfulness with the notion of having duties. When one has a job to do, it is important to be mindful of one’s responsibilities. The same dictionary associates Self-Awareness with the notion of consciousness and self-realization. One cannot develop as a person until and unless one knows oneself as a person. The two go hand in hand.
For this Provision, I put the two concepts together. Indeed, I might even be willing to go so far as to assert cause and effect. Apart from mindfulness it is impossible to be self-aware. Until and unless one has the quality of being and agency encompassed by mindfulness, self-awareness will never be fully realized. Indeed, we will not even scratch the surface of self-awareness. Mindfulness is that important.
One sense of how that works has to do with the sorting out of what is and what is not. Mindfulness is not just a matter of having a quiet mind, although it is hard to be mindful and distracted with a lot of noise and commotion at the same time. That’s part of what makes the gurus of mindfulness so distinguished. They are able to maintain a quiet mind even when the whole world is falling apart around them. That’s an art that takes commitment and practice to develop as well as commitment and skill to maintain. The one precedes the other but the commitment remains the same.
The commitment of mindfulness is to be fully conscious, present, and alive in the present moment. And we would live in a very different world if that was the commitment of each and every one of us.
Fully Conscious. To be aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, and surroundings – to mention only four dimensions of life – is to tackle the raison d’être of human life itself. We are not only at the top of the food chain; we are also at the top of the consciousness chain. No other living thing, plant or animal – as far as we know – has as much capacity to understand and appreciate what is going on in the here and now. It has been argued that consciousness has been the driving force of evolution. With each new expression and degree of consciousness, there have been new opportunities for life to come into being. And isn’t that what our life as human beings is all about?
Fully Present. For new expressions and degrees of consciousness to take hold of our very being and essence we have, of course, to be fully present. Being distracted does not lead to mindfulness. But how does that level of attentiveness and regard take form in life? It starts with invitation: we invite it to take hold of our spirit. And then we watch as it comes over and forms us into new human beings. Presence will do that to a person: it will transform us into the sensitive and aware people we all hope to be. Presence has no other object or intention. It simply wants to be mindful of what is happening in the here and now. And that something, regardless of its pleasure or pain, is always glorious.
Fully Alive. This dimension of mindfulness may seem so straightforward as to be silly. If you are reading these words, then you must be fully alive – right? Wrong! To be fully alive is to have energy, spirit, and vigor. It is to read these words with the interest and desire to grow into your best of all possible selves. And that does not come automatically. It takes commitment, as we have already noted, and it takes a lot more than just a good, balanced diet to keep you going. To really keep you going and growing takes verve, and that too comes under the umbrella of mindfulness. Apart from a vivacious and enthusiastic commitment to learn, we just won’t be living fully in the moment. We won’t be fully alive in the sense that mindfulness as self-awareness invites.
So how do we cultivate that commitment? It starts with a recognition of its importance and value. Until and unless we recognize the importance and value of mindfulness as self-awareness, we will continue to go about our busy-busy lives with all the associated distractions, hubbub, and commotion. We may get a lot of things done but we will not be living from that place of mindful self-awareness. We will not anchored in the ground of being that makes all things possible.
Once we recognize its importance and value, we need to develop practices and approaches to make mindful self-awareness come forward. Some find meditation to be helpful. Others are grounded in prayer. Still others focus on the inward and outward movement of breathing. The breath of life: what a gift.
If you are reading these words then you are alive and you can cultivate mindfulness as self-awareness. What are you thinking right now? Where are you right now? How would you describe your energy right now? There are no correct answers to these questions. There are only your answers to these questions. But any and every answer has its consequences. Some answers make us more mindful and self-aware; others make us less mindful and self-aware.
I, for one, choose more rather than less. I want to think thoughts that open me up rather than close me down. I want to be present in the here and now rather than thinking about the past or worrying about the future. I want to be filled with energy, positive energy, so as to make the best possible contribution in the world. Such are the consequences of mindfulness. Mindfulness is not an end in itself. Mindfulness as self-awareness enables us to be the best we can possibly be in the here and now. And how can we imagine a better reality than that?
Coaching Inquiries: What practices enable you to be fully mindful in the present moment? How could you discover, adopt, and cultivate even better practices? Who could help you to make it so?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
I hope you are doing well and I read your Provisions almost every week. It sounds like your health is stable with continued new realities but those have given you a new perspective. Your last Provision included a good use of the Marion Campbell story. Thanks for the good words in your letters. Mindless Mindfulness – it gives pause.
I am sorry to hear of your recent health challenges. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you. You have touched my life; even in this recent trust work and our resulting correspondence. I am sure you continue to touch many others – it’s amazing how that works! Thank you for responding to my inquiry. It’s a blessing and honor to hear from you! When I look for Wellcoaches classes to listen to, I always know yours will be rich and informative in many ways. Not only because of the wealth of experience and knowledge you have, but I can hear “things” in your voice and must say it speaks volumes to your wisdom and wonderful spirit.
In Provision #857, Mindless Mindfulness, you really captured the essence of mindfulness. It is in the mindless mindfulness that our true essence emerges. Beautifully written.
I read your Provisions every week. Thank you – you have such a gift to write and share such life-affirming perspectives! This morning “when I swam, I swam!” Thank you. I hope you continue on a path of healing.
I think of you every Sunday when I check my email for my LifeTrek Provision. I am glad you are still fighting the fight!
Your last Provision, Mindless Mindfulness, was beautiful and so true. Thank you.
How do I say thank you! Oh my goodness, your last Provision was such a wonderful appreciation of being in the moment with everything we do and are part of. Can we use that to bring us into the full presence of whatever we are doing in the moment? “When I …., I ……” To be here now, to be in this moment with what I am doing and experiencing. Thank you.
Interesting Boston sidelight: http://www.businessinsider.com/ryan-hall-meb-boston-marathon-2014-4
Your last Provision was very nice. Yes, Celebrate what’s right is a wonderful video and you did a marvelous job describing why it is so good.
So “when I weave, I weave” is actually harnessing our best natural ability. Wonderful insight. Our brains are proven to work best when focused on a single task because in fact that is what it does. It simply switches back and forth very rapidly when we think we are “doing two things at once.” I learned this from a very rudimentary hands-on exhibit at the Buffalo Museum of Science when I was a kid.
We have exchanged emails before, Bob, regarding the Evocative Coaching Training Program and my interest in coaching. I will follow this up sometime soon. However, I wanted/needed to tell you that I followed up Dewitt’s film, watched it with wonder, delight and thoughtfulness, forwarded it to my partner who has also been positively touched by it. And I am forwarding to others… Thank you both for sharing such a precious gift.
One of my first early marathons was in 09 In Baltimore. You were the Pacer group leader. You taught my friend Brenda and I all about the joy, breathing , stretching, walking backwards and sideways every mile. It changed my life. I have been running marathons ever since, and have utilized your techniques on almost every run and definitely every long run. Thank you for your guidance.
Yesterday I ran the Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke. It was my 22nd State. I am trying to run all 50 states. I went to this marathon without any of my teammates. They all had done Virginia already. I saw a man at this marathon with wings on his hat, and he really seemed like he knew what he was doing. He seemed to be at real ease with the run and who I imagined had run tons of marathons. I was a little intimated about the hills and elevation gain, but I focused on this man and followed him for at least four miles until he finally said something to me and we started talking. It turns out he is your good friend, Jim, that you helped become a runner a long time ago. He kept talking about you and finally it hit me……that’s Bob! The Baltimore Pacer!
Tell Jim I finished the marathon and his kindness helped a lot. After running about to the half, we split up. But I will never forget that marathon, and the spirit of joy that came from people who care about others. Your efforts have touched more than you will ever know. I have already gotten my daughter, my Sister and her two kids, local running friends and business associates and a whole bunch at my office to run full and half marathons. Running has been my joy throughout some very difficult times… Jim did not know, but I had lost someone very dear to me a couple months ago. The marathon was one of the few things that kept me together in recent days……
Jim shared with me your health challenge. My heart is with you. I hope you get to run Baltimore with your family, as Jim mentioned you were considering another marathon. I bet Jim will go with you!
I just finished the toughest marathon, the Blue Ridge Marathon, I have ever run! I won’t say how long it took me, nor will I confess that I spent 40 minutes in the EMS tent afterwards. Thanks to my loving and supportive wife, Kathy, for being there and for being patient with me. They did pulse, BP and EKG twice, just to be safe – results were excellent both times. I was just nauseated. The course was absolutely brutal – it surely deserves its title! I had no idea what 7400 ft of elevation gain meant. And the temp was near 80 at the finish.
I was great at the half-way point, at the top of Mill Mountain. I thought it was all down hill from there, and in a manner of speaking it was! The course through the suburbs in the foothills and up to Peakwood were the worst. They were like trying to run up a ladder! Anyway, I will never run the Blue Ridge Marathon again. I told Kathy I’d sign a statement to that effect! Thanks to all for your wishes and prayers. I really needed them! The best part of the run involves a story about meeting someone who knows my friend Bob. (Ed. Note: So glad the two of you met up. What an amazing coincidence! I did 5+ miles today. A marathon is a long ways away, but I can’t wait to run one with you, Jim, just so long as it’s an easier course that Blue Ridge Mountain!)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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