There is a fair amount of interest in Mindfulness these days. Large corporations such as Genentech have mindfulness programs. There are five LinkedIn groups with Mindfulness in their name and the largest one has over 5000 members. The Wisdom 2.0 Conference where mindfulness is explored in relation to technology was sold out in its second year and again this year at a larger venue. So what is mindfulness and why did I title a leadership workshop, Mindfully You: Leading from the CORE? This is the first in a series of posts exploring mindfulness and type. I hope you join me in the discussion.
Mindfulness is often equated with meditation. The dictionary defines it as keeping aware or being heedful. Mindfulness is not just meditation, but also a way of being open to the experience of the moment. Some describe it as awareness, others as being intentional about our choices.
There is a great deal of research linking mindfulness to stress reduction and lowering blood pressure to mention just a few of the benefits. Last year at Wisdom 2.0, I was struck by what seemed to be a rather specific definition of mindfulness that linked it to meditation and tuning in to one’s environment. It occurred to me that different types might experience mindfulness in different ways. I agree that meditation and increased awareness of one’s body and physical surroundings are good things. I just wonder if there aren’t other ways we need to become mindful.
When I took yoga classes we were taught different meditation practices each week. The goal was to try each of them and then use the ones that worked the best for us so I know there is allowance for individual differences in meditation practices.
It occurs to me that given that different personality types have different preferences for attending to different sources and kinds of information, we likely limit our awareness by automatically accessing and paying attention to one or two of these different kinds of information. Can we use our understanding of type differences to expand our awareness and become more mindful?
Just focusing for the moment on the Jungian model of psychological type, we can identify four perceiving processes:
- extraverted Sensing—tuning in to the immediate tangible context and experiencing what is there right now
- introverted Sensing—reviewing information from the past and the stored images and experiences we have had and comparing our current state with the past state
- extraverted iNtuiting—inferring meanings and interpreting between-the-lines information that isn’t expressed and seeing possibilities and links to other contexts
- introverted iNtuiting—imaging a likely future or different view that often presents itself as a whole
Many meditation practices ask us to focus on our breathing and when thoughts come up to just observe them and let them go. Others guide us through a body awareness so we tune into the tensions that we need to let go of and there are more methods than we can go into here.
As I think of my own development and the ways of becoming mindful, I can identify how different experiences helped me when it came to meditating as well as being more mindful in general. The first one came before I was type aware. Prepared childbirth required me to become hyper aware of what was going on in my body and consciously relaxing parts of it while tensing other parts. The practice I had to do for this served me long since in helping me balance my tendency of being so much in my head. I found that meditation practices that direct my attention to different areas of my body work well for me. Those that ask me to focus on an image or ‘nothingness’ don’t work for me. Is there a type preference? I think so. As an INTP, I prefer exraverted iNtuiting and can spend hours with random, seemingly unrelated thoughts going through my head. Sometimes I get so many ideas, I overwhelm myself. I need to calm my mind by focusing on the changing state of my body. This seems to me to be more of an introverted Sensing experience rather than an extraverted Sensing experience.
I’m curious if people of other types would say something different? What has helped you be mindful and how does that relate to your type preferences?