With lots of discussion about mindfulness practices to help us to individually achieve our potential, it is time to look into what it means to be mindful together. There is much to explore around how it can contribute to building better groups, families, communities and organisations...
The mindfulness movement is teaching us to become more present to the present; more precisely, to our body, thoughts, emotions, environment, etc. in the now. It's the first step on the journey to awakening and realizing our response-ability to our individual and collective life conditions.
If we take into account the intertwining crises of our planetary existence, then we need to be present to something more than just the present moment. Then we need the mindfulness of us not only as individuals, but also as communities, organisations, and social systems, caring for the future. Then we need shared mindfulness at increasing scale.
When I'm in conversation with a person or more people, and we have a shared intention that guides our shared attention, the space between us becomes one of shared mindfulness. When I'm lucky enough to be in the company of those skilled at paying attention to what they pay attention to, then that space of shared mindfulness becomes palpable, the conversation flows frictionless, relatedness deepens, and things get done smoothly, almost effortlessly.
Humans are complex beings, with multiple layers of needs and aspirations and mindfulness can serve them all. The trainers, coaches, and consultants, who teach mindfulness, need to become more aware of the difference between those layers, and match them with the right selection of tools and approaches. To do so, we need to remember,
"only what you are, what you realized and embodied can you support in others"
Correspondingly, some practitioners working with organisations are focusing on the therapeutic, stress-reduction impact of their craft, others transcend and include that in reaching for such benefits as enhanced capacity to innovative or attend the big picture and details of the work at the same time.
Yet others are aiming at realizing an even greater depth of benefits that can come only from cultivating shared mindfulness: the increased power of and collective intelligence guided by collective wisdom. Nothing less will do when the shortening business cycles impose a short-term thinking incapable to deal with the problems it is creating. Shared mindfulness and the collective intelligence it can generate are indispensable for organisations that struggle with the increasing demands of our VUCA times of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. (Illustration courtesy by Wisdom at Work)
None of these orientations in mindfulness training is better or worse than the others. They are all needed and, hopefully, will get some mindshare in the "Mindfulness in the workplace: Opportunities and challenges" discussion at the UK Parliamentary Roundtable on Mindfulness, 20 May 2014.
When everybody and their grandmother are jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon, the wide variety of quality in the quality of training is unavoidable. It is the responsibility of the HR departments hiring them, to increase their own competence in separating the wheat from the chaff, and ensure that organisation will get all what mindfulness trainings can offer honoring the varied needs that they can serve. That would require going beyond (and include) the "enhanced performance" orientation of the now and thinking of mindfulness also as if the future mattered.
To support that, I will write about some of the specific arts of cultivating shared mindfulness in one of my next blogs. I will also introduce them in two upcoming workshops on Mindful Leadership.
As always, your comments and questions are more than welcome. The field of shared mindfulness needs the collective intelligence emerging from conversation among those who care.