Connecting with Mindfulness through Movement

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What the heck is mindfulness? The word has become a buzzword amongst business leaders who are looking for ways to take their game to the next level. Many experts claim that mindfulness helps increase awareness, attention and even productivity. Meditation with a focus on breath work is often suggested as a path to mindfulness.

It sounds easy but it’s quite challenging for many of us who live in a highly-connected world. Moving from doing hectic work to sitting calmly for even just 10 minutes can be a tall order. I had found it hard to grasp the state of mind. What’s it like to be present? What does mindfulness really feel like? If the end goal is not specific enough, how would I know what to work toward and how do I recognize it when I realize the state of mind?

For a while, I had given up on exploring meditation and mindfulness. So I was pleasantly surprised by an amazing experience when I was least expecting it. I got up early one Saturday morning, like I always do. It was rainy and gloomy outside. It would have been a perfect day to read in bed and tuck in under the comforter, but I wasn’t going to miss my favorite dance workout class. The great thing about going out on a murky drizzling morning was that the traffic was light.  It creates a sense of peace and quiet.

For once, I actually got to the class early. I got a spot in one of the front rows where I had a clear view of the instructor and could follow her choreography. I love how she incorporates the elegance of classical ballet into the eclectic, popular dances we do. She made it so easy and fun to follow along. I could feel my body relaxing but getting energized at the same time.

Towards the end of the class, she played Bob Dylan to help us wind down. We were cocooned in the studio with beautiful music and movement while the rain had halted the world outside to silence. Suddenly I noticed the brilliance of the dance teacher’s white outfit and her purple scarf. Now the dance studio seemed to be almost illuminated as if we were spotlighted. And it dawned on me that this is what being fully present is like. Everything seemed to be in slow motion as we swung our bodies first towards the right before curving to the left. So slow that I could feel the joy and fluidity of our every movement. The music was magnified in my ears. It was the clarity that felt so surreal.

“Mindfulness just means becoming more conscious of what you’re feeling, more intentional about your behaviors and more attentive to your impact on others. It’s about presence — what Ms. Ingram calls “keeping quiet and simple inside, rather than having any mental task whatsoever.” Tony Schwartz wrote in the article, “More Mindfulness, Less Meditation”. Practicing mindfulness requires us to relax, learn to be single-minded and experience simplicity. If you are not comfortable with the exercise of meditation, why let the “form factor” get in the way and defeat the purpose of relaxation and concentration? Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and a renowned expert in the subject of presence explains it this way – “Our search for presence is about the honest, powerful connection that we create internally, with ourselves. We are no longer fighting ourselves; we are being ourselves.” Being mindful is being present. So find a practice that makes you feel yourself.

“Movement-based mindfulness has been around in India for a very long time. It is better suited for today’s business world.” Said Aparna Sain of beCorporate Yogi who is advocating the new approach and believes that it suits today’s lifestyle better. Chinese tai chi is another example of meditation in motion, to achieve serenity through gentle, flowing movements.

“The simplest definition of meditation is learning to do one thing at a time……(but) it is far more effective as a technique for self-management than as a means for personal transformation.” Said Tony Schwartz. If sitting quietly or closing your eyes is hard for you, experiment with movement-based mindfulness practice. It is more practical in today’s environment but it’s also easier to transition and apply the experience back to your everyday life. And being able to stay mindful in the real life could be the key to personal transformation.

 

About the Author: Nancy Lin  is an executive coach and founder of Change Agent SF.  She was the host of the Business Reinvention show for 3 years. She works with leaders at growth-stage companies to transform the way they look at their business and leadership. Nancy brings to her executive coaching a strong understanding of business, having worked for Yahoo, DHL, Johnson & Johnson and Pepsi.