Mindfulness – The Path Is Wide and Deep

The last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a wide range of populations. A buttoned-up global law firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. A San Francisco-based technology company who’s product connects its users to therapists. A major biotech company. A non-profit working to destigmatize mental illness. A software company building products for the cannabis industry. And most recently, an organization comprised of extremely high functioning individuals (ex special-ops military among other elite) who’s work is highly classified, so anonymity is critical for them and the work we do together.

When I think about what each of these groups wants or needs to hear, there’s plenty of overlap: The importance of bringing mindful awareness to the body; practicing mindful communication; using the senses to have a direct experience with the present moment. Once we cover these basics, I move to address what it is the specific organization is looking for. Here, though, I also think about and hoping to discover what will resonate with each individual. While a company may be interested in boosting employee productivity, I’m keenly aware that the employees in front of me may be best served by learning to better deal with anxiety, or anger, or living with their significant others’ communication style. If they address this, then it’s likely that productivity will go up too! This is where the wide and deep path comes in.

In the book Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman & Richard Davidson published in 2017, they describe a conversation they had with the Dalai Lama where he encouraged them to research and test what he described as “time-tested practices for taming destructive emotions.” He said that if their findings appeared to promote well-being, they should “spread them to all who might benefit.” Drs. Goleman & Davidson explained that this response really fired them up. So they set off to explore and research “the deep and the wide path.” This path spurred work on evidence-based applications suitable for schools, clinics, businesses, law enforcement, and others, ranging from a kindness program for preschoolers to treatments for veterans with PTSD, and many populations in between. Goleman & Davidson suggested finding one type of meditation and sticking to it, “since most types will enhance mental fitness to some degree, just as regular physical workouts give you better physical fitness.”

When working with an organization most recently, we covered the basics of mindfulness during the first two sessions. Then, after a few individual conversations with each member, it became apparent that we needed to work on the practice of 1- responding skillfully vs reacting, 2- compassion, and 3- empathy, with mindfulness at the center. It also had to be packaged correctly. This group wasn’t going to “buy-in” if I started talking about feelings and emotions right out of the gate. Instead, I began by talking about athletes who practice meditation, how mindfulness can be practiced when lifting weights or even when they’re scuba diving. After working with them, my hope is that they’ll apply mindfulness to whatever is topical in their life, and perhaps go deep in one area or another.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~Viktor Frankl

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