Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand and they are becoming mainstream leadership concepts. But what do they mean??? There are a ton of books, podcasts, webinars, apps, and other versions of media out there that all claim to be "the best," "the newest," the most whatever. I decided to get the bottom of it by going to the source of both of these concepts - Buddhism. Buddhist monks have been practicing mindfulness and meditation for over 2000 years. If anyone can call themselves masters, it is these guys and specifically Bhante Gunaratana who has posted several YouTube videos as a way to ensure the true methods and teachings are being spread.
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana is laid out to be a field guide to understanding of meditation and mindfulness for everyone from the day-one-beginner to the experienced practitioner. The titles of the chapters are honestly what drew me to choosing this book. Chapter 1, Meditation: Why Bother? and Chapter 2, What Meditation Isn't. Two questions I asked myself as I began to hear more and more about meditation as a leadership tool. To answer the title question of chapter 1, Gunaratana says: "Meditation sharpens your concentration and your thinking power...Your intuition sharpens. The precision of your thought increases, and gradually you come to a direct knowledge of things as they really are, without prejudice and without illusion" pg. 10. I can certainly see the value in sharpening and increasing those aspects of my daily life.
The specific type of meditation discussed in this book is Vipassana and its two goals are awareness and insight through teaching the practitioner to "watch the functioning of [their] own mind in a calm and detached manner so you can gain insight into your own behavior" and, eventually, the "inner workings of reality" pg. 12. The purpose of learning to get to this state of calm awareness is to avoid creating problems, chaos, and calamity in your life. "It is only when you don't understand things deeply that you create problems. If you fail to see the consequences of your actions, you will blunder" pg. 17. Awareness through meditation allows you to see the big picture.
Seeing the big picture without any emotional based biases or preconceived notions from experiences or anticipation of what others may think is the state of awareness. "You'll find yourself observing things objectively, exactly as they are...vipassana bhavana means the cultivation of the mind toward the aim of seeing in a special way that leads to insight and full understanding" pgs. 26-27. How nice would it be if people read text messages and emails from a state of heightened awareness? How many times has someone read something you have sent them in a written form and they read unintended emotion into it? Maybe this is why emojis were made; food for thought.
"Meditation tames the mind" pg. 65. It trains you to focus on productive thoughts and view points over those which cause chaos, distractions, and lead to getting stuck. The insight you gain from training your mind to be calm and aware "will show you the way to peace and happiness, and will give you the wisdom to handle your daily problems in life" pg. 53. Learning to do this is not an over night process. It takes determination and gumption as Gunaratana says. It truly is a skill that needs lots of practice.
I have been trying to start a meditation routine while reading through this book. It certainly does take patience, structure, and consistency to even get started. I have come to realize that my mind does not like "sitting still" and focusing on the air going in and out of my nose. It much prefers to contemplate what I want to eat for my next meal, what books I should add to my reading list, or any number of more flashy/engaging topics then breathing. Come on back on December 20th to hear about the steps Gunaratana details and my success, or lack there of, with attempting to begin a meditation practice.
I love hearing what you think of the books and the blog! Please reach out to me via email, leaving a comment below, or clicking on any of the social buttons. Happy Holidays and "see" you in a few weeks.