What Makes a Good Mindfulness Coach?

Choosing a mindfulness mentor

Credit: entrepreneur.com

The central question right now for both long-time mindfulness practitioners and individuals and organizations looking for mindfulness training is: What makes a good mindfulness coach?

Mirabai Bush, Senior Fellow and the founding Director of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, has taught mindfulness methods for many years to a variety of organizations – Google, Hearst Publications, AMEX, to name a few. She offers some insights for organizations looking for such services, and for what it takes to be an effective coach.

Mindful presence

When you’re interviewing potential teachers or coaches, notice whether the person is in the moment, without judgment, and really present for you. Be aware that there are many different styles for teachers of mindfulness. The person should embody qualities and competencies that you are looking for in your group or yourself. Humility and a sense of humor are usually good signs.

Are they trained?

Before people begin to teach mindfulness, they should do significant practice, not just in mindfulness but in teaching mindfulness. There are several reputable training programs available:

Credit: avioncoffee.com

Credit: avioncoffee.com

Are they ready?

Like any hiring process, ask them about their experience. There are many people who want to start teaching right after they learn it. After spending some time practicing – or even after some formal training – it’s easy to assume, “Oh, I could teach people to sit down and bring their attention to their breath and breathe in and out. Anybody can teach that.”

But that is not true. You can read the techniques in a book or listen to a CD and probably learn some from it. But teaching mindfulness is different from practicing mindfulness.

Can they coach?

With mindfulness coaching and training in an organization, you’re asking your team to look inside themselves and begin an inquiry into the parts of our minds, bodies and hearts that most of us ignore most of the time. That’s profound. You really want to have someone you can trust to lead you through that exercise.

That’s very important because many people haven’t done any practice that takes them into their inner lives. A teacher or coach needs training and experience in answering the students’ questions: What if intense thoughts come up? Am I doing it wrong? I can’t do it because my mind is racing. Oh, I fell asleep. Am I going to become totally self-centered? How can I find time to do this? If I’m not judging, how will I make decisions?

Mirabai Bush is Senior Fellow and the founding Director of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, a non-profit organization that encourages contemplative awareness in American life in order to create a more just, compassionate, and reflective society. Learn more about her latest CD, Working with Mindfulness.

Listen to Mirabai’s interview about a mindful workplace with Leadership Development News.

by Daniel Goleman, source: Linkedin.com

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Ep 153: A Force for Good – Wise Selfish

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. 

A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for our World by Daniel Goleman (book cover)

Wise Selfish

Daniel Goleman outlines the ways we actually benefit when we learn to feel compassion … for others. This is an excerpt from his audiobook—A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World. Available from morethansound.net.

Each day this week (June 22 to 26), More Than Sound will release an exclusive excerpt from the audiobook.

Order the print book here.

Join the Force for Good initiative here.

Become a member of A Force for Good LinkedIn group here.

About A Force for Good

Daniel Goleman’s A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World highlights the Dalai Lama’s core beliefs, presents evidence that supports their relevance, and explains how these can be applied to promote a better future.

With specific advice for implementation, Goleman and His Holiness explain how compassion can be used to:

  • Educate the heart by teaching ethics, conflict resolution, and compassionate values in schools.
  • Help people help themselves by empowering the world’s most vulnerable.
  • Rethink economics and make business meaningful, not just profitable.
  • Heal the Earth through a more precise analysis of how to lessen our impacts.
  • Be compassionate with others and yourself.
  • Be tough in applying transparency and accountability in the service of fairness.
  • Act now to help those in need in whatever ways you can.

 

Ep 152: A Force for Good – The Empathy Gap

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. 

A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for our World by Daniel Goleman (book cover)

The Empathy Gap

Daniel Goleman shows us how compassion repairs social inequalities in the world. This is an excerpt from his audiobook—A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World. Available from morethansound.net.

Each day this week (June 22 to 26), More Than Sound will release an exclusive excerpt from the audiobook.

Order the print book here.

Join the Force for Good initiative here.

Become a member of A Force for Good LinkedIn group here.

About A Force for Good

Daniel Goleman’s A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World highlights the Dalai Lama’s core beliefs, presents evidence that supports their relevance, and explains how these can be applied to promote a better future.

With specific advice for implementation, Goleman and His Holiness explain how compassion can be used to:

  • Educate the heart by teaching ethics, conflict resolution, and compassionate values in schools.
  • Help people help themselves by empowering the world’s most vulnerable.
  • Rethink economics and make business meaningful, not just profitable.
  • Heal the Earth through a more precise analysis of how to lessen our impacts.
  • Be compassionate with others and yourself.
  • Be tough in applying transparency and accountability in the service of fairness.
  • Act now to help those in need in whatever ways you can.

Ep 151: A Force for Good – A Boyhood Passion

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. 

A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for our World by Daniel Goleman (book cover)

A Boyhood Passion

Daniel Goleman explores the connections between spirituality and science as the basis for an ethic of compassion. This is an excerpt from his audiobook—A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World. Available from morethansound.net.

Every day this week (June 22 to 26), More Than Sound will release an exclusive excerpt from the audiobook.

Order the print book here.

Join the Force for Good initiative here.

Become a member of A Force for Good LinkedIn group here.

About A Force for Good

Daniel Goleman’s A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World highlights the Dalai Lama’s core beliefs, presents evidence that supports their relevance, and explains how these can be applied to promote a better future.

With specific advice for implementation, Goleman and His Holiness explain how compassion can be used to:

  • Educate the heart by teaching ethics, conflict resolution, and compassionate values in schools.
  • Help people help themselves by empowering the world’s most vulnerable.
  • Rethink economics and make business meaningful, not just profitable.
  • Heal the Earth through a more precise analysis of how to lessen our impacts.
  • Be compassionate with others and yourself.
  • Be tough in applying transparency and accountability in the service of fairness.
  • Act now to help those in need in whatever ways you can.

 

What is Mindfulness?

With the growing popularity of mindfulness, it seems worthwhile to pause and ask this simple question. 

 

Art and Mindfulness at Kirby Museum

Admiring works of art may help develop mindfulness. Credit: kirbymuseum.org

“Mindfulness has reached such a level of hipness that it is now suggested as a cure for essentially every ailment. AnxiousBroke? Sneezing? Definitely try meditating. This vogue is in part due to the real benefits of mindfulness, a form of attention and awareness often (but not always) achieved through meditation or yoga. It’s a trend for a reason. But its increasing application to every situation under the sun has some people concerned.” The Mindfulness Backlash, the New York Times, June 30, 2014

References to Mindfulness in Books, 1930-2008

 

Roots and Meaning

Those who popularized the term mindfulness were influenced by Buddhist traditions. “Right mindfulness” translates from the Pāli words samma sati. This is not “right mindfulness” as opposed to “wrong mindfulness.” Think of “right” as complete, wholesome, thorough, or ideal.  

Samma sati (right mindfulness) is part of the Eightfold Path, which is the last of the Four Noble Truths foundational to Buddhism. According to the Four Noble Truths, we suffer because we personally identify with our experiences of craving and attachment, when they are really just universal struggles. We could let go of that identification–as well as the suffering that results from it–through the Eightfold Path, which involves cultivating wholesome intentions, actions, and mindfulness, among other virtues and the wisdom and compassion that arises through this cultivation. 

The What is Mindfulness? Podcast

To avoid advancing a particular partisan agenda and instead help you understand a few different perspectives on the meaning of mindfulness, More Than Sound has interviewed contemporary mindfulness instructors and scholars from a variety of traditions. You can listen to their descriptions of mindfulness for free as part of our What is Mindfulness? podcast project. We hope these leaders and their decades of experience help provide clarity and add to the conversation surrounding the subject, allowing you to formulate your own opinion about mindfulness.

Our contributors include:

Podcast contributor Mirabai Bush with famed spiritual figure and author of Be Here Now, Ram Dass.

Mirabai Bush with famed spiritual figure and author of Be Here Now, Ram Dass. Credit: ramdass.org

Present Moment Awareness

Most of the teachers in the podcasts first describe mindfulness as being aware of the present moment. Mindfulness in this regard is a type of awareness, attention, observation, or focus.

Different teachers highlight slightly distinct aspects of attention. While Joseph Goldstein emphasizes “bare attention,” Wendy Hasenkamp describes adding a “meta-awareness” of what you’re doing while you’re doing it, in addition to your regular everyday attention. Surya Das describes mindfulness as having an open, friendly, and incandescent quality to it.  From these teachings and others in the project, we can summarize some basic themes:

While Practicing Mindfulness, You…

ARE

ARE NOT

focused on emotions, sensations and thoughts in the present. ruminating about the past OR unproductively worrying about the future.
accepting of what is. fighting with your mind because it doesn’t conform to your idea of what you want it to be.
friendly to yourself and others. judging, blaming.
fluid. attached, getting stuck on solid, fixed ideas of reality.
aware of yourself as interdependent with other people and things. self-centered.
consciously proactive or responsive. reacting out of habit.

 

Bestselling author and psychologist Daniel Goleman on The Colbert Report. Credit: colbertreport.cc.com

Ethics & Wisdom

A characteristic of being mindful in the Buddhist tradition is remembering our ethics and wisdom. While Buddhist scripture does include the Buddha’s teachings about awareness and focus, it also includes more literal uses of sati. In the text Samyutta-nikaya, the Buddha says:

“And what, monks, is the faculty of sati [mindfulness]? Here, monks, the noble disciple has sati, he is endowed with perfect sati and intellect, he is one who remembers, who recollects what was done and said long before.”

Our podcast contributors also speak to mindfulness’s connection to memory and intellect.

Joseph Goldstein explains that mindfulness can be understood as remembering both what is wholesome (generosity, love, and wisdom) and unwholesome (greed, hatred, and delusion).

Juliet Adams asserts that mindfulness helps us choose the “wise response.”

Surya Das describes mindfulness having an intelligent, peacemaking quality, that includes insight into interdependence, impermanence, and the nature of causation.

What Mindfulness is Not

Those interviewed for the What is Mindfulness? podcasts also pointed out what is decidedly not mindfulness. Here are a few of their helpful observations:

Mindfulness is Not Passivity

It is worth noting that “accepting what is” and “avoiding judgement” should not be interpreted as tolerating hardships as they are, without expressing preferences or working to improve circumstances.  By contrast, in developing the ability to clearly observe situations and accept them as starting points, mindfulness can makes us more capable of effectively engaging in our relationships and working in ways that will have truly beneficial impacts.

Mindfulness is Not Mindlessness

The interviewees contrast mindfulness to a few other states in which you are likely to habitually find yourself. Mindfulness, they explain, is the opposite of mindlessness or inattention. Even though the black lab chasing its nose or the cat chasing a mouse might be very focused on the present moment, they do not have the heightened awareness that is a defining characteristic of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is Not Attachment

Mindful attention is free from our clinging attachments to desire and our powerful habits of aversion that are considered to be the central causes of suffering in the Buddhist tradition.

Mindfulness is Not Religion

And while this article highlights the Buddhist origins of the concept of mindfulness, it is also important to note that the psychological benefits of mindfulness practice are enjoyed by secular people as well as practitioners of other traditions.  You don’t need to be Buddhist to reap the benefits of mindfulness.  Furthermore, as Surya Das explains, there are parallel and compatible concepts in a variety of other traditions.

 

by Ari Pliskin

 

To access these podcasts, scroll to the top of morethansound.net/mindfulness, and use the filter buttons. You can either “Search by Topic” or “Search by podcast guest.” The drop-down menu will display your options for both categories. You can also listen to brief mindfulness practices at the right of the page. We will continue to publish more podcasts, blog posts, and audio practices as we expand this project. Thank you for your interest in mindfulness.

 

Ep 150: A Force for Good – Constructive Anger vs. Destructive Emotions

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. 

A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for our World by Daniel Goleman (book cover)

Constructive Anger versus Destructive Emotions

Daniel Goleman explains the occasional need for well-guided anger, and the importance of separating it from destructive emotions. This is an excerpt from his audiobook—A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World. Available from morethansound.net.

Every day this week (June 22 to 26), More Than Sound will release an exclusive excerpt from the audiobook.

Order the print book here.

Join the Force for Good initiative here.

Become a member of A Force for Good LinkedIn group here.

About A Force for Good

Daniel Goleman’s A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World highlights the Dalai Lama’s core beliefs, presents evidence that supports their relevance, and explains how these can be applied to promote a better future.

With specific advice for implementation, Goleman and His Holiness explain how compassion can be used to:

Ep 149: A Force for Good – Partnering with Science

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. 

A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama's Vision for our World by Daniel Goleman (book cover)

Partnering with Science

Daniel Goleman uses case studies from the field of neuroscience to teach us about selfishness and compassion. This is an excerpt from his audiobook — A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World. Available June 23 from morethansound.net. Every day this week (June 22 to 26, 2015), More Than Sound will release an exclusive audio excerpt from A Force for Good.

About A Force for Good

Daniel Goleman’s A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World highlights the Dalai Lama’s core beliefs, presents evidence that supports their relevance, and explains how these can be applied to promote a better future.

With specific advice for implementation, Goleman and His Holiness explain how compassion can be used to:

  • Educate the heart by teaching ethics, conflict resolution, and compassionate values in schools.
  • Help people help themselves by empowering the world’s most vulnerable.
  • Rethink economics and make business meaningful, not just profitable.
  • Heal the Earth through a more precise analysis of how to lessen our impacts.
  • Be compassionate with others and yourself.
  • Be tough in applying transparency and accountability in the service of fairness.
  • Act now to help those in need in whatever ways you can.

 

Ep 148: Rick Hanson – Judging yourself for having judgement? (5 of 5)

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. 

RH

Hanuman Goleman asked leaders who are shaping the mindfulness movement to offer a more nuanced survey of the mindfulness landscape.

Rick Hanson is a psychologist and Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. He is also the best-selling author of Buddha’s Brain and Hardwiring Happiness.

In this final conversation, Rick offers enormous gratitude for the boom of mindfulness in psychology, and why he thinks it might be time to return to the clarity and rigor of the original sense of Present Moment Awareness.

Ep 147: Juliet Adams – Hidden dangers in growing popularity of Mindfulness? (4 of 4)

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. 

JA

Hanuman Goleman asked leaders who are shaping the mindfulness movement to offer a more nuanced survey of the mindfulness landscape.

Juliet Adams is the author of Mindfulness at Work for Dummies. She is also the founder of Mindfulnet.org; and director of A Head for Work, a leadership and workplace productivity firm.

In her final conversation, Juliet explores the pitfalls of both watered-down and hard-core mindfulness instruction.