Mindfulness is the art of being present all the time, and the ability to calm the limbic system down to reduce fight or flight reactions. Mindfulness is a skill that is developed over a period of practice and has been known to take many forms for the last several centuries. One of the forms of mindfulness that I have learnt is while learning yoga. While most of yoga is practical and sets of “asanas”, the theory of yoga is based on mind- body alignment. Which is why yoga asanas never feel as vigorous or exhausting as western style workouts and over a period of time the mind and body align together and solve issues together instead of having diametrically opposite agenda’s, causing the human body stress.
Yoga-nidra or "yogi sleep" is a sleep-like state which one experiences during yoga meditations. The practice of yoga relaxation has been found to reduce tension and anxiety. The autonomic symptoms of high anxiety such as headache, giddiness, chest pain, palpitations, sweating, abdominal pain respond well to Yoga-Nidra. (Wikipedia)
I have been practicing Yoga-Nidra for about five years now. It is a process that takes 45 minutes everyday and aims to get the body and mind into a state of subconscious. They objective being that in that state of subconscious you can order your mind, or create “go to state”(Sankalp) for the mind and body to align to. Doing this with regularity helps create a sense of balance and alignment. I have been working on certain health issues and eating healthy. The other day I walked past a donut stall at the mall that had donuts with rich icing don it and it felt revolting to me. A few years ago I would have salivated at the thought of eating one, and not being able to resist the temptation eaten one and regretted the decision, since my body cannot handle high carbohydrate food. This was proof that over a period of time my body and mind are aligned and decisions of what foods are not good for me come quickly and easily without any struggle!
Labelling is a great strategy to use when one is upset and losing one’s temper over something. There is an employee who is an underperformer in my team. She always has an excuse for not meeting a deadline, shabby work or not coming in to work on several days in a month. Over a period of time I’ve developed a negative attitude towards her. I discount anything she says or does and sometimes I do this publicly. One of the members of my team gave me feedback the other day, saying that the tension between this employee and I was obvious and I needed to do something about it. I had to take a step back and reflect on what may be causing me to behave the way I do with her. I came up with a few theories. I think she is lazy, incapable, unprofessional or just not committed. The strategy I found that worked for me to help me not behave the way I was perceived was labelling. The next time she made a presentation at a team meeting, I had to stop myself from jumping to conclusions about why I think she’s slacking - I just had to ask myself what I thought her consistent poor performance may be because of? Perhaps she did not have time to prepare? Had she been unwell? Or is she is just not as skilled to do the job? Perhaps she needed more coaching and help? I always hold myself back from jumping to any conclusion based on past experiences. Labelling has helped me move from judgment to coaching, and I seek to understand before being understood. Now, we have a more constructive conversation. This behaviour change of mine has helped her get less defensive and more reflective as well. This way it gives us avenues to channel the conversation to listening, communicating and constructive feedback.
The stages of long-term memory consist of Encoding – constructing memory, Retention- storing memory and Retrieval - accessing and using the memory.
When I relate this process to building leader capability, it feels like encoding is critical step in helping leaders build capability. Encoding requires selective attention to the material, elaboration that is associating with other information and visual imagery can be used to add richness to the material to be remembered
One of the learning strategies we have used to build capability in leaders has been the concept of creating a “crucible”. A crucible is, by definition, a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity. For example, I coached a woman executive who was sent on an assignment to a factory in Japan where she faced both estrangement and sexism. She had to face the daunting prospect of carving out a place for herself as the only woman engineer in a plant, in a nation, where women usually serve as low-level assistants. It was a tough situation for her and she was to “sink or swim” with a belief that if she was successful she would be on on high potential list.
To relate the work on crucibles to my insights on memory, I advised that she document her learning with stories, anecdotes, pictures and critical business experiences and stand up and teach an audience of aspiring leaders. This would help her help her organisation build a process of learning and retaining knowledge and skills in a systematic way.
Kalpana Sinha is a Leadership and Organisation Professional. Her blog has reflections from her work experiences of over 20 years.