I am often asked “how can mindfulness help to bring more creativity into the workplace?” One practice I developed, inspired by the work of Otto Scharmer and Francisco Varela, is called “Attention Training with Focus.” It works well for those who find themselves in need of creating a radically new approach to a wicked problem because the others didn’t work; or those in need of re-inventing themselves to match their changing life or work conditions.
Attention Training with Focus is comprised of the following 5 simple steps. Practice it when you have 20 minutes free of distractions. A relaxed but alert body posture is also recommended. You can do it with eyes open or closed, whichever is more comfortable.
- Suspend your inner chatter. Pause the continual flow of thoughts, images, and feelings. When you shake off already-formed concepts, you’ll be able to create the opening needed for something new to emerge. Observe your breath – breathing in and out without judging or evaluating it. Don’t be hard on yourself; 3-5 minutes is a good start.
- Redirect your attention from external things, or thoughts, to its source. In other words, pay attention to attention itself. When the source become the focus, a subtle but powerful shift occurs that enhances your moment-to-moment awareness in the moment. In that split second you see your world anew – from a perspective of the whole. When that happens, just relax into it. This opens to more creative potential.
- Let go of controlling the result of the exercise. If impatience appears, look at it, then let it go. Even if you think you already got a solution, don’t accept it just yet. This is a time for letting go of any preferred future state of the issue or goal you’re dealing with, temporarily giving it up to the unconscious mind.
- Hold space for new possibilities to emerge without you pushing them. In that “holding space,” articulate a simple question that is at the heart of your situation. Put it in the focus of your attention but instead of looking for answers, walk around it, and consider it under various angles, in all the contexts in which it has meaning for you.
- Listen for an answer to what arises from that unhurried space – a space of possibility uncontrolled by your previous attitudes and opinions. First it may appear as a felt sense, for which you don’t yet have words. Don’t force words into it; instead sense its quality and let words come from it. This gives an opportunity for a new and surprising solution to your problem, challenge or situation.