I was overwhelmed by the simplicity and at the same time the emotional impact of this approach: rather than delving into my habitual “enthusiastic workshop attendee and competent coach persona” I felt stripped of any such social and narrative constructs.
By guest writer: Clara Seeger, NeuroLeadership and Emotional Intelligence Coach
Reflecting back on the Mindful Leaders workshop that I attended recently and the superb facilitation by Joel and Michelle Levey, I am reconnected with the powerful presence of these truly mindful leaders. For them, mindfulness is so much more than an area of expertise and part of their product offering. It was evident that mindfulness is at the core of who Joel and Michelle are as human beings as well as facilitators.
Having attended an ever-increasing number of talks, workshops and guided classes on mindfulness over the last few years, and ventured into delivering training on mindfulness myself, this in itself was a key insight and revelation: to use a clichéd phrase, Joel and Michelle do not just talk the talk, they walk the walk; and the way they do that is part and parcel of their gift of mindfulness that they shared with all of us on the day.
In all other mindfulness interventions I have attended or conducted so far, mindfulness is either the object of discussion or learning or a practice that one engages in – one rarely bridges the gap between the two. Not so in the Mindful Leaders workshop: mindfulness was not just the topic of teaching or relegated to a series of mindful practices, it was at the very heart of how we were shown to communicate with each other when we engaged in sharing our experiences.
I was overwhelmed by the simplicity and at the same time the emotional impact of this approach: rather than delving into my habitual “enthusiastic workshop attendee and competent coach persona” I felt stripped of any such social and narrative constructs. Who am I really below the surface of this fictive identity, the false sense of self, derived from identification with my thinking, which Eckhart Tolle has so powerfully unmasked? As my partner and I held eye contact before delving into our discussion I felt naked, exposed, self-conscious and at the same time mindfully aware of it, accepting of it, allowing it to be without resorting to rationalisations or further intellectual indulgences of the thinking mind. My partner later shared a similar experience. We learnt the lesson of what it means to remain truly mindful, not just when formally practising mindfulness but in our very communication.
We were encouraged to continue this approach during our lunch and tea breaks. For me this was the true lesson in mindfulness, a lesson in integration. It was about how to practice the art of attention, of intimacy with one’s own mind and body, of loving kindness when connecting with others, when eating; not just on the proverbial cushion but as a sustained life practice. It seemed to have a transformational effect on many attendees, judging from the disarming openness and honesty, the heartfeltness and the emotive tone of many contributions during the day. The tears that flowed at times were a symbol of the release and shift that can occur when people connect with their own and others’ deeper being in a space that George Por, another truly mindful leader who shared his powerful presence with us, calls “shared mindfulness”.
I loved some of the exercises we did; one was to choose five “value cards” from a large number of cards, each containing a word or phrase representing a value, e.g. compassion, wisdom, open-heartedness, awakening, etc. Gathered around different tables in small groups we had to swap cards until we were holding our top five values, each time explaining why we were picking one card at the expense of another. This safe and supportive space allowed many of us to gain new insights about the values closest to our hearts and led several of us to choose cards we had not expected to pick. My top choice was “silence” for it suddenly hit me, as I was observing my attachment to what I thought I was striving towards, that this seemingly modest virtue of silence was what I need more than anything in my life – a life that is filled with words, people, an overactive mind and too much physical and mental noise. After all, only a silent mind can become enlightened, and for the first time I understood this quality of mind beyond its use during meditation practice. Thank you Joel, Michelle and George!