mindfulnessIt seems that everywhere I turn lately there is a new workshop, lecture or book on mindfulness. A quick search of “mindfulness at work” on Amazon Books results in over 1,000 hits! In the last six months I attended three professional events with a “mindfulness” topic: mindfulness for stress reduction; mindfulness in parenting, and mindfulness in coaching. Mindfulness in Leadership is even a hot topic (see sidebar).

Today, developing a mindfulness practice has almost gone mainstream – endorsed by many in the medical community as an effective method for dealing with stress, anxiety, depression and chronic pain; and backed up by brain research which shows among other benefits that a mindfulness practice can improve:

  • Memory
  • Focus and concentration
  • Sleep
  • Immune system
  • Positive affect (i.e. you will simply feel better)

I believe that mindfulness is an essential tool for cultivating a healthy working life and can have a positive impact on your career. By developing a mindfulness practice, you learn to use the cadence of your breath to bring your focus into the present and generate a sense of grounding or calm. As a result, you are able to function with greater ease at work, increase your energy and creativity, reduce your stress reactions, process more efficiently, think more expansively, and make better decisions.

Recent research indicates that as little as nine minutes of mindfulness meditation a day can change how your brain functions. With these potential benefits you’d expect progressive employers to encourage “mindfulness” practices as part of the daily work routine. Imagine if coffee breaks were replaced with “mindfulness” breaks?

How ready are you to change your habits?

Developing a mindfulness practice, like any new habit, takes effort and repetition. Start by stopping.you-are-here

Sounds easy? Try it for the next three minutes. Whether you are sitting, standing or walking, try to focus on just your breath and nothing else. See how long it takes for your mind to wander off to something you have to do, or you start to ruminate about something that just happened. Notice how you judge yourself when make this observation. The challenge of mindfulness is simply to notice and let it be. To pay attention to the present moment without judgment and without trying to change a thing. It is about “being” instead of “doing”.

The essential tool for making this shift is the breath. By continually turning your attention back to your breathing, the natural rhythm of the in breath and the out breath, you are reminded over and over to come back to what is happening right here, right now. Don’t be surprised if you have to consciously bring your mind back to breathing every few seconds. That’s ok. It’s practice. I’ve heard many meditation instructors say, while it may be simple, it’s not easy!

The great thing about a mindfulness practice is you can do it just about anywhere and doing almost anything – walking, sitting, sailing, swimming, canoeing, eating, waiting for a bus, hiking, etc.) Take advantage of the summer and make a commitment to trying one mindfulness practice this month.

Drop me a note at lianne@krakauer.ca  to tell me how your mindfulness experiment works. I’d love to hear from you!

News & Resources

Mindfulness in Leadership
Mindfulness is even a hot topic in corporate settings as leaders and executives are realizing the benefits of mindfulness on how they execute decisions, deal with stress and increase their resilience. I am working with Rotman’s Executive Programs this year to deliver an innovative mentorship program for leaders in the community health care sector in partnership with the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network. In September, Michele Milan, CEO Executive Programs, will be facilitating a workshop on Mindfulness in Leadership for all of the mentor program participants. If you want to learn more about how to bring mindfulness into your organization or for leadership coaching, contact me at 
lianne@krakauer.ca or Giordano Scotti, Learning Advisor at Rotman.

Mindfulness in Everyday Life
There are lots of courses and workshops available to learn the techniques of a mindfulness practice in a group setting.  Check out your local community centre, yoga studio, wellness and/or health clinic to find out what’s available. Some mindfulness meditation courses are even covered by OHIP!

For clients who meet at my College Street office, located in the Octopus Garden Health Centre, check out the schedule for meditation classes or ask about upcoming retreats. Your first week at Octopus Garden is free!

For an introductory course to meditation, try the Centre for Mindfulness Studies.

Ultimately, meditation it is a personal practice and doesn’t have to cost you a thing once you find your own way.

For a great introduction to mindfulness, I recommend  Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Too busy to practice mindfulness? Read Maria Gonzalez’s article  Mindfulness for People Who Are Too Busy To Meditate.

Looking for office space? 
If you are a coach or therapist interested in sharing an office space in downtown Toronto, a space is opening up at my downtown office in the fall.  The office is located near Yonge & Bloor in a quiet, professional office building.  Available 2-3 days per week. Contact me at lianne@krakauer.ca or 647-393-4589 for details.

Image #1 courtesy of markuso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image #2 courtesy of Joe Loong at Flickr, used under a Creative Commons License

Lianne Krakauer is a career and leadership coach with 20 years of experience in professional services, law, education and the public sector. She works with individuals at all levels to find ways to re-invent their careers and bring about positive sustainable change. Lianne has led workshops and presented on a wide range of topics related to career and leadership development, communication and coaching. Lianne has a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Education, both from the University of Toronto; and a Bachelor of Arts from Western. She has a Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching from Royal Roads University and specialized training in Solutions Focused Coaching. She is certified to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, a psychological instrument that supports individual growth and team development.  Lianne is a Professional Certified Coach, a designation granted by the International Coach Federation which recognizes coaches who have completed over 750 hours of individual coaching. In her free time she can be found on her yoga mat in a favourite warrior pose