Monday, October 24, 2011

Mindfulness of your Strengths, Part II - Benefits not Considered

During an executive team training this morning, I realized some of the Strength Finder Themes could evoke expectations that may be confusing when one is trying to figure out how those Strengths apply to them. A participant asked "Why don't they sometimes work exactly the way they are described in the book?" That was a great question. For example, it‘s understood that a person with the Strength of Harmony is calm, even-keeled, capable of resolving conflicts, and certainly conflict resistant. However, in a drive for creating and/or experiencing Harmony, one may create conflict and unrest to get to it.  This may be an odd  situation, which depend on many other elements that impact one's life such as emotional and mental issues, environmental issues, etc that contribute to a sense of war before calm.  Additionally, depending on the other Strengths one has, the way Harmony is expressed might be different than expected. The fact is that none of these Strengths manifests itself completely independently. Each Strength influences other Strengths by either supporting, complementing, reinforcing or leveling out their opposite effects.

For example, a person who also has Discipline with characteristics of hating chaos, confusion and doing things spontaneously might feel judgmental towards that sort of person or environment. Thus, the effects of his or her Harmony might be reduced temporarily in order to use Discipline to resolve the situation. Visa versa, the Harmony might reduce the sometimes rigidness of Discipline.

Another aspect of the Strengths that‘s not realized is the fact that some Strengths have an unnoticed natural ability in them. A good example is the Strength of Connectedness. Connectedness, when utilized consciously and skillfully, is a great soil for cultivating ideas and strategies. It is due to the ability inherent in the Connectedness to see links that others may not see. Ideas form rapidly and, if the person is mindful enough, most of them may be viable and reliable ideas and solutions. Thus, Connectedness can work as well, if not better than, Ideation and/or Strategic. All it takes is awareness and consciousness (Mindfulness).

Mindfulness training can provide the awareness needed to realize what is happening in the mind and body so that one might know which Strength is present in order to optimize its effects and benefits.

….. more on this topic on future blogs.

For more information on Mindfulness training for individuals visit:
For more information on Mindfulness & Strength Finder training for organizations visit:  or Write to us at:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Management of Self-Views

We had an amazing session last Tuesday night at our regular Mindfulness sitting group.  As I led the group to meditate I asked them to try and recognize how many "I"s showed up in their meditation.  I gave a brief explanation of what I meant, which was to see how our mind forms an identity, owns it (by attaching to it) and then suffers because of it.  This "I" identity is obvious when you think of different roles you play in life, such as wife, sister, mother, brother, father, teacher, student, etc.  Even if those are all you could think of during this meditation, that's fine.  I continued instructing them that as they paid attention to their breath to watch the content of the mind and see if they could tell who was present at each moment.  As we went around checking-in after the meditation, for many noticing who was present seemed to be hard to grasp or stay with.  Many reported that thoughts were emerging so fast and fleeting so rapidly that it would be difficult to pinpoint who was present at each moment.  In fact, it is  very hard to fathom how many hundreds and or thousands of selves we've encountered throughout our lives and continue to encounter.  

The concept of "Self-View" from the Buddhist psychology and teachings is an idea that unless one can experience it through meditation and mindfulness would be abstract and hard to grasp.  Nonetheless, an important teaching. Understanding it can help reduce a lot of mistakes, loss of resources, stress, and dissatisfaction.  It is in the becoming of each of these selves and roles that many leaders, managers or any other individuals get lost because they see the world around them through the "I" lens (subjective) and possibly miss opportunities and/or create a lot of suffering for themselves and others.

Let us explore this idea a bit more before leaping into its effects.  Self-View is one of the first concepts that I came across when I was still new to the practice of mindfulness. In a ten day silent monastic retreat, as we tended to our daily meditations we also attended evening talks by Ajhan Amaro, a prominent Buddhist monk and master/teacher, now the Abbot of  Amaravati Monastery in England.  In one of his talks he introduced the idea of "Self-View", this idea that we have many identifications for many conventional purposes.  As we cling or attach to  any one of these self-views and identity ourselves with it as if it were an absolute reality, we are bound to suffer.  Ahjan Amaro instructed us to contemplate this during the next walking meditation.  This was too vague for me at the time, but somehow it was one of the points in his talk that caught my attention.  During the walking meditation I kept watching for self-view, self identity to arise but couldn't really see anything.  His instructions were to ask the question, "Who is it?" and not really look for the answer but rather listen for it to appear.  He explained that mere questioning of this is enough.  The question brings awareness to some possible space in the mind between all the thoughts and believing that they were mine as opposed to just some thoughts passing through.  This was fascinating, but I had no idea what that meant in actual experience.

As I left the retreat after ten days of absolute silence, I realized that so many seeds had been planted in the soil of me (my mind, heart, soul, and body) and that they would be sprouting as time would pass and as I accumulated more and more mindfulness practice.  Ater a few years and consistent practice I have finally got the meaning of "Self-View" and its impact on my success, failure, illness or wellbeing.  As I presented my understanding of this concept to our regular Tuesday night class, I invited them to look into how many ideas of who we are would constantly form and constantly pass.  We don't  however, seem to see the passing of each self-identity.  As some sort of feeling arises in our internal experience about any event our mind clings to it and owns the event as if it were solid, permanent and reliable.  Then a chain of expectations follows and pushes us into the pit of discomfort, dissatisfaction and suffering.

The way I came to see and understand the workings of self-view in my own mindfulness practice was through observations, reflections and eventually discernment.  Staying long enough with the experience with a curious and objective mind, I was able to see that as soon as an "experience" comes to be, an "I" identity rises with it simultaneously and the "I", if not neutral, attaches itself to the feeling that accompanies the experience.  The mind goes for explanation of what the feeling means and the reasons for it, causing another chain of events to follow in response or reaction to the way the "I"experiences it, (good or bad), as opposed to the actual experience or event without the "I".  Because these chains of events are founded on the subjective aspect of the experience any response or reaction is most often not as wise as it could be.  They are not objective.  And of course, being objective is easier said than done, when as humans we constantly have subjective experiences.

So, what are the effects or benefits of seeing that we are clinging to an experience or owning it as ours?

Because our mind is constantly producing perceptions of events through feelings in combination with assumptions, interpretations, opinions and judgments (which are all created by self-views) our response is to the interpretation of the event, not the actual event.  For example, we may keep some employees around even though they are low performing, not honest, etc.  We feel a lot of discomfort about this and keep coming up with reasonable reasons why we do this.  "Well she is really a good person." or "She does work hard, not consistently, though," or "Only if she ......" We try to analyze and over-analyze and nothing changes until things are completely out of hand.  In this case, we can begin to look at what it is that is causing us to continue this ineffective strategy. Or better yet, ask the question "Who is it " that is continuing to allow this employee to continue not performing and being dishonest with his or her time?

However, I have found that merely asking the question is not enough.  First, I  had to settle the chattering mind enough so that I could actually hear a reliable and wise response to the question of "Who is it?"  I realized the mind that's going a hundred miles an hour with constant opinions and assumptions could not point me to the truth.  The truth is that an uncomfortable feeling arises in the example above where an employee is not being honest with their work habits.  The mind immediately sees itself as the victim, "I cannot believe she does that....,"  and instantly owns the experience, by attaching and clinging to it as "me" or "mine," then it looks for other unreliable perceptions such as, "But she is a good person," and becomes confused about a proper course of action; that may include providing more training, moving the employee to a different department, or letting her go.  As the person is wallowing in their own  sometimes conflicted perceptions, discomfort, stress and suffering persists.  In this way management of agenda is negatively impacted by our perceptions and self-views.  Practicing to settle the mind and cultivating mindfulness of what is real in the moment can intercept the unnecessary and rapid formation of perceptions and self-views and eventually lead to reliable success and well-being.

For more tips on Mindfulness practice visit:
Providing Mindfulness At Work training to your employees can reduce the  loss of important resources such as time, money, supplies, and prevent the failure of expensive projects.  Practicing mindfulness can enhance the quality of your employees' performance, communication, attendance,  attention / presence and overall well-being.   Contact us for mindfulness training To Optimize Success and Wellbeing at: Or  Visit:

To learn more about how a faulty perception is formed see Dr. Motaghy's Process of Perceiving diagram.  Send us your questions and comments through this blog or via email,