Mindful Influence ~ Creating conscious moments

Kari Estrada

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Do You Challenge the Status Quo?

James Baraz said, “Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different, enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”  For effective sustainability and success, individuals will always need to be challenging the status quo before a predicament occurs.

In order to grow as individuals, families, teams, organizations, and communities we must constantly be changing and adapting.  We need to step out of our comfort zone and discover new and innovative ways to accomplish things.  This involves taking risks and learning from our failures.  Researchers Eichinger, Lomardo, and Ulrich define “learning agility” as the ability to reflect on experience and then engage in new behaviors based on those reflections.  Reflection is a big part of mindfulness and allows us to be open hearted and welcoming of change.

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves, erect.”  This quote from Ronald Regan reminds us that our minds and bodies have the ability to accomplish anything we set out to do.  The only energy holding you back is yourself.  Integrating mindfulness with challenging the status quo can lead to greatness.

Challenging the status quo can be approached by the following seven attributes of mindfulness:

  •       Non-Judging – Be impartial to new ideas and keep in mind that an old process was once someone else’s accomplishment
  •       Patience – Let the change unfold as needed and be open minded to each moment
  •       Beginner’s Mind – See possibilities and new concepts as if you were looking at the issue for the first time
  •       Trust – Have faith in yourself, trust your intuitions, and be open to influence
  •       Non-Striving – Have no expectations and be observant and reflective of experiences
  •       Acceptance – Acknowledge the status quo that needs to be changed and why
  •       Letting Go – Let go of control and be vulnerable

How do you approach challenging the status quo?  Do you think mindfulness can help in this process?


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Leading Mindfully

In today’s professional world, we are living in an age where we are producing more with fewer resources.  As a result, we have increased responsibilities and increased stress.  Many times, our body will reside in the present moment, but our mind will be drifting somewhere else.  Leading mindfully improves personal and professional success.  Many top executives are communicating to others about mindfulness and how it benefits their organizations and communities.

We all have the opportunity to be leaders in everything that we do, even if we don’t have a fancy title.  Uniting mindfulness with leadership can give individuals and organizations competitive advantages.   When researching mindful leaders the most common concepts that are discussed are focus, attention, purpose, reflection, transparency, and resilience.  All of these can relate back to the seven attributes of mindfulness.

I am currently reading two books about mindful leadership.  The first book, Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership is written by Janice L. Marturano, Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership.  She defines a mindful leader as someone who embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion in the service of others.  These four natural abilities of the mind can be trained and strengthened.  Janice discusses that by practicing mindfulness, we will tend to notice the times we are being mindless a lot more often.  We can train our brains to come back to the present moment if we are wandering.

The second book is The Mindful Leader by Michael Carroll.  This book introduces the following ten principles and how to integrate them with mindfulness and leadership in the workplace: simplicity, poise, respect, courage, confidence, enthusiasm, patience, awareness, skillfulness, and humility.  Carroll writes, “When we lead a career that is sharply focused on being more successful, more admired, or just more comfortable, we can deceive ourselves into neglecting the world around us.  We end up managing our lives like projects rather than actually living them.  Consequently, for mindful leaders, cultivating this ability to be at work and throughout our lives is not just a nice idea or an interesting thing to do.  Rather, by learning to be at work we discover how to stop kidding ourselves and respect the world around us.”

This quote spoke directly to me.  I remember a time when my work took priority and my whole life was on auto-pilot.  Since practicing mindfulness and incorporating it with my leadership, I have gained self-knowledge, self-awareness, and am much more balanced with my emotions.  Becoming a mindful leader improves focus, attention, and time management.  It increases our learning and memory capabilities by thinking outside of the box and by problem solving through responding versus reacting.  Being a mindful leader allows us to be more resilient, gain emotional intelligence, and to lead with purpose.

How have you combined mindfulness and leadership?   Please share your reflections and observations.  You can also follow me on Twitter.


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A Mindful Workplace

In our careers, most of us strive to be innovative and productive while being effective and efficient.  Stress, pressure, and expectations can sometimes threaten our work performance and cause us to be closed off or defensive. By incorporating mindfulness into the workplace, I have found that it creates calmness, open-mindedness, positivity, and trust.  Some companies that have adopted mindfulness programs are Apple, Aetna, and Google.

I like to find a couple of times in each day when I can take a break and do my belly breathing for 5-10 minutes or take a mindful walk. I use this time to pause my mind and body to stop doing and thinking and just be.  I do these in addition to my daily mindfulness practices. This additional ten minutes a day led to small changes that improved my day-to-day workflow.

A change that I implemented through being more mindful at work was my morning e-mail habit.  Usually, e-mail was the first thing I looked at upon arriving to the office. By doing this, I was making others tasks and needs a priority over my projects and deadlines. To change this, I turned off my e-mail notification pop up on my PC and I waited to check my e-mail until a couple of hours into my workday.  This allowed me to focus and prioritize my projects and to tackle my most difficult responsibilities with a fresh, creative, and productive attitude.

Another mindfulness practice in the workplace is to create mindful meetings.  Each meeting can start with a short breathing exercise or by sharing an optimistic affirmation. This helps everyone clear their thoughts and to be present in the meeting.  It is also a good idea to ask others to not be distracted by smart devices and to only use them if they are being utilized for meeting purposes. Here is some additional advice from the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute blog:

Instead of jumping straight into meetings with technical conversations, start with a pause. Ask people to take a moment to just notice where they’re at. If everyone in the room is feeling wired and stressed, jumping straight into the meeting will naturally make the meeting feel wired and stressed.

Instead, take a moment to pause and point out where the group is at. If everyone’s stressed, just point it out. Do so compassionately, without blame. Naming the elephant in the room places the attention of everyone in the group on what’s really going on, instead of just barreling forward. This instantly makes everyone more aware of what’s in the present moment. Just this awareness can make a big difference.

Over time, you can influence others to be more aware of where they’re at emotionally and where their co-workers are at. You can train others to be more mindful, without even mentioning mindfulness.

My experiences of applying mindfulness in the workplace have made me more confident and resilient within my profession and with my peers.  Being more mindful in my career has enabled me to encourage and motivate other team members and to problem solve without judgment or intimidation.

How have you become more mindful in the workplace? What were the results?

Remember to integrate a couple of “mindfulness pauses” in your workday.  Please share your thoughts and comments.


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Let’s Take a Walk

Usually we walk with intent to go from destination A to destination B.  How often do you find yourself doing the following when you walk?

  • Texting or looking at your smart phone
  • Walking fast because you are running late
  • Creating your “to do” list

With many of our lives being so busy and full of “doing”, we are often multitasking while we are walking.  What if we took the time to notice each step when walking from destination A to destination B?

Mindful walking is a mindfulness practice (meditation) that is done by walking.  When I first was reading about this practice, it was something that was taught to me by my physical therapist.  A few years ago, I was involved in a car accident that injured my feet and left me unable to walk for about four months.  During my rehabilitation of re-learning to walk, my therapist had me put my attention, awareness, and focus on the sensations and breathing I experienced with each step.  I needed to be extremely aware of my body, balance, and surroundings.

To start this exercise, you can set aside any amount of time or simply try this when you are walking from car to your office.

  1. Stand with good posture
  2. Notice your breath (in and out)
  3. Gaze just in front of you
  4. Walk at a steady pace (slightly slower than normal)

As you walk, feel the sensations in your feet and through your body as you lift, step, and shift your balance from foot to foot.  If your mind starts to wander, simply bring yourself back to the movement and the breath.  As you walk, make sure that you have no specific goal or expectation from this walk.  Notice the environment around you without any judgments.

I use the following five tips that I found from Headspace when I take my mindful walks:

  • OBSERVE – Without trying to change the way you’re walking, simply observe how it feels.  Just take a moment to observe it, notice it.
  • NOTICE – Notice what you see going on around you.  It might be people walking past, shop window displays, cars, or advertisements.  Notice the colors, shapes, the movement, and perhaps the stillness too.
  • LISTEN – Turn your attention to sounds – what can you hear?  Without getting caught up in thinking about the objects of sound, just take a moment to be aware of them, as though they are just coming and going in your field of awareness.
  • FEEL – Notice any physical sensations or feelings.  Perhaps it’s the feeling of warm sunshine, cool rain, or a breeze.  Perhaps it’s the sensation of the soles of your feet touching the ground with each step.
  • COME BACK – Use the rhythm of the walking as your base of awareness, a place you can mentally come back to once you realize the mind has wandered.

This action meditation can be done almost anywhere.  I recently practiced a mindful walk at the airport as I walked from security to my gate.  I enjoy doing this mindfulness practice a few times a week whether it is a twenty-minute walk around my neighborhood or simply a walk from the parking lot to my class.

Set some time aside to try a mindful walking meditation.  Remember to walk a little less hectic, experience sensations, acknowledge thoughts or feelings, and step with gratitude.

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Mind, Body, and Breath Movement

Connecting the mind, body, and breath with awareness is a key understanding of mindfulness.  In previous blogs, I have discussed the belly breathing meditation and the body scan meditation.  Today I will be taking mindfulness to the mat with Hatha YogaYogi Swatmarama introduced Hatha Yoga in the 15th century.  It combines posture movements with conscious breathing and helps increases focus and awareness.

I first read about Hatha Yoga in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Full Catastrophe Living.  Before I started this meditation, I was judging the process and was intimidated of my perceived vision of yoga.  I really paid attention to utilizing the beginners mind, one of the seven attitudes of mindfulness.  For a couple of weeks, I practiced the poses from the book.  This then led to a group session of Hatha Yoga in my Mindful Leadership class.  After this class, I started adding this type of mindful meditation to my “mindfulness time” several times a week.  I enjoyed the opportunity to have another variety of mindfulness to practice and how it incorporated movements with the breath.

Jon Kabat-Zinn describes Hatha Yoga as, “mobilizing our ability to cultivate embodied wisdom and self-compassion; and by so doing it teaches us to live our life and face whatever arises with integrity, clarity, and open-hearted presence.”  After a couple of months of practicing Hatha Yoga, this quote has become a reality to me in my daily life.  There is a flowing awareness with my mind, body, and breath.  It guides me to a harmonious place and allows me to see life with a beginners mind during my practice and in my daily interactions and challenges.

YouTube has several videos with guided Hatha Yoga Practice.  Here is a beginners Hatha Yoga video below from health psychologist, Dr. Lynn Rossy:

Try incorporating Hatha Yoga into your mindfulness routine once or twice a week.  Let me know your thoughts on this practice.  Please follow me on Twitter.




Trust Your Journey

TRUST THE PROCESS…I have heard this phrase from others and myself throughout my life.  It usually becomes a topic of conversation when there is uncertainty or challenges occurring.   Many thoughts and emotions surrounding trust come about when there are periods of change or transition.

Recently, my position was eliminated and I found myself without a job for the first time in my 15-year career.  This was a huge shift into uncertainty.  Practicing mindfulness has guided me to embrace the now, let go of control, strengthen my relationship with myself, and to trust my journey.  I am welcoming the opportunity of being a stay-at-home Mom and am enjoying this time with my kids, as I know it may be limited.

As I research organizations to inquire about open positions, trust is one of the biggest values I am looking for.  I want to work for an organization that I believe in and can uphold their vision and carry out their mission.  I am actively pursing my job search mindfully and openly.  This is driving me to be unattached and to have faith that my next career opportunity will result in happiness.

Of the seven attributes of mindfulness, non-striving has taken the forefront.  Non-striving doesn’t take away from goals or ambition, but rather allows us to “go with the flow” and to not force results.  By being non-striving, this allows us to see moments clearer and to grow from our mistakes.

Throughout life, we face many crossroads that lead to change.  You can choose to ignore it, run from it, or trust it.  Integrating mindfulness and trust can help us respond to these crossroads with confidence by:

  • Knowing you are where you need to be
  • Understanding your thoughts and emotions
  • Being flexible
  • Having a good decision making process
  • Being non-striving

I am enjoying each day, learning through my experiences, and letting go of fear and anxiety.  Mindfulness has taught me to trust in my journey!  Please share some of your outcomes or stories when you have trusted the process.



Listening Lessons

Stephen R. Covey quoted, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  Listening is a skill that most of us, including myself, need a lot more practice of.  Before starting my blog post, I looked up the definition of ‘Listen’ from Dictionary.com:

lis·ten  [lis-uhn]

verb (used without object)

1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; heed; obey (often followed by to  ): Children don’t always listen to their parents.
3. to wait attentively for a sound (usually followed by for  ): to listen for sounds of their return.
4. Informal. to convey a particular impression to the hearer; sound: The new recording doesn’t listen as well as the old one.

When reading through these definitions the phrase that jumped out at me was, “to pay attention.”  Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as, “paying attention, moment to moment without judgment.”  Paying attention to others, sounds, our environment, and ourselves is really the essence of mindful listening.  Practicing mindful listening can lead to enhanced focus, more effective communication, and improved social awareness.

Think back to a recent conversation you have had with a family member or friend.  Were you fully engaged with what was being said?  Were you preoccupied with other thoughts or emotions?  Were other distractions decreasing your communication focus?  How did you respond to what the other person was saying?

The following are two mindful listening exercises:

  1. SURROUNDING SOUNDS – Take five minutes to stop what you are doing, no matter where you are, and notice the sounds.  It could be kids playing outside, a copier in the background, a clock ticking, or the rain falling.  Just listen and observe without reacting.  Allow yourself to be in the moment.
  2. MINDFUL CONVERSATION: From Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute – Find a family member, friend, or co-worker.  Take turns speaking for three minutes at a time of uninterrupted speaking.  As the listener, you are only allowed to say, “I see” or “I understand.”  During this three minutes see how you react to the conversation.
    • Did you fell the urge to tell your own experience or story?
    • Did you want to offer advice?
    • What emotions were you having during the three minutes?
    • Are you judging or making assumptions?
    • What are the unspoken characters of the communication?

Here is a video demonstrating the difference between Mindless and Mindful Listening:

There are many techniques to improve your listening.  Dedicate time weekly to practice mindful listening so that you can adopt these new habits in your day-to-day interactions.  Please share your listening lessons and what steps you have taken to better your communication.