Mindfulness Part 1: What’s Type Got to Do With It?

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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?

 

Comments

  1. Bob Esposito

    June 13, 2012

    Linda, this is going to be a little long, but the point is rather simple. I am excited about this conversation and the exploration it invites.  Mindfulness meditation is often referred to as one's  "Practice."  I think this is especially relevant to "self-discovery" and development. The act of quieting and calming onself to focus on the breath in, breath out can be described in terms of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, among other parts.  The PRACTICE is learn to RETURN to the object of intended focus, again and again, with equanimity (non-judgment, free of self-criticism and the "interference" it creates in the brain).  This is to learn how to maintain genuine focused presence in the moment…presence to what is actually going on.  The practice, like cultivating any other capacity, is to increase over time one's ability to be fully present so that one can identify what is happening in one's thoughts and emotions and what is happening outside the self. The space developed between thought and reaction allows one to CHOOSE one's response rather than react (unmindfully) in habituated patterns, literally out of touch with the moment.  To me, this has great bearing on our ability to forge ahead on our personal journeys of individuation or self-differentiation, the process of accessing and cultivating our latent strengths (as reside in our lesser preferences and in our shadow skills.)  Neuroscience is revealing that we each have the ability to continue shaping our brains throughout our lives.  The ongoing maturation and capacitation of the whole self is realized in a process of mindful, calm, genuinely loving, and active self-discovery and cultivation.  Very exciting!  

  2. Deborah Boyar

    February 25, 2012

    This is a brilliant contribution, Linda.  I'd love to see further speculation about what specific meditation practices might be most beneficial for which types.  Thank you!

    • Avatar of Linda Berens

      Linda Berens

      February 25, 2012

      Deborah, That will take some work! especially since I don’t know enough practices. Would love to have a conversation about it though.

  3. Tony Mainardi

    February 8, 2012

    I think often we mistake meditation as mindful, but really meditation is a tool to help us become mindful. And there are other tools as well. Different professions and the skill sets required can also induce mindfulness (Holacracy or protection for example).

    • Avatar of Linda Berens

      Linda Berens

      February 8, 2012

      Thanks Tony, yes, I think this is the case and I think I may not have been clear in my post. I know that my training as a therapist made me more mindful in many ways. What is interesting is that I use that mindfulness when coaching people, but don’t always engage it in my everyday interactions! The same is true for the physical mindfulness I got through the childbirth prep and yoga. I can access it more readily that I could before, but it isn’t automatic as I sit in front of the computer.

  4. Doris

    February 8, 2012

    Hi Linda, great post! I remember hearing Dario mention a few weeks ago that some types seem to be better able to meditate with their eyes open instead of closed. Focusing on an object, e.g. a candle, apparently helped to clear their mind. (Now I only wish I could remember which of the 8 functions he was talking about!) ;-) 

    • Avatar of Linda Berens

      Linda Berens

      February 8, 2012

      Doris, Thanks for adding in this information, I don’t remember which ones either. This is just an example of different people needing different practices for meditation and I also think they need to become mindful of different things.

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