Several years ago, I was struggling with challenges in both my professional and personal life and sought out the counsel of a wonderful teacher and spiritual guide named Jennifer Keane. Jennifer has since moved to British Columbia but was an active member of the mindfulness community in Saskatoon. Among her many contributions to promoting mindfulness practices, she also offered private counselling where she integrated mindfulness into her therapeutic approach. Her mindfulness teachings were and still are extremely helpful for me to catch myself when I get stuck in my own head. For me, reading Michael Bunting’s book was not only an excellent reminder of Jennifer’s teachings but also spelled out the connection and extension of mindfulness to a leadership role in a way that I had either forgotten or didn’t get the first time.
If you are a person that is literally willing to lead by example, this book is for you. If you prefer to lead from a place of authority and believe you get the best in people by cracking the whip, it’s not for you – or maybe it’s just what you need. When Bunting says “The paradox of mindfulness is that accessing and living from our true, natural, most authentic self requires practice.“, he means that the practices in the book aren’t things you can superficially say and do for the workplace. Mindfulness is a commitment to change your total approach on how you choose to view yourself and your world. It requires attention, work and no one is ever perfect.
The book provides the reader with the basic premises of mindfulness – it is “maintaining an open-hearted awareness of thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and environment in the present moment.” The titled stated it would cover seven practices but there were actually 8 chapters – be here now, take 200 percent accountability, lead from mindful values, inspire mindful vision, cultivate beginners mind, empower others to shine, nourish others with love, and transforming for good. It could be argued that these are themes and the key concepts within the chapters are actually the practices he intends us to adopt. Each concept within the chapters include concrete examples that demonstrate the benefits and practicality of mindfulness for leaders. The book has a casual writing style that I enjoyed and made it an easy read. I was really engaged until about the ¾ mark where I began to find the content a bit repetitive. I enjoyed the real life examples and started skimming for them but maybe someone brand new to mindfulness would feel differently.
If you are at all interested in mindfulness this is good place to start. It isn’t overly focused on its connection to spirituality which from my experience has raised skepticism and resistance to give it a chance. If you read the book I think you will find that you have already encountered the 7 (or 8) practices, but as Oprah says you will have an “Ah ha” moment where some of your struggles will make sense in a whole new way. I think what mindfulness gives us is a framework to literally live in reality and manage the discomforts of being human in a loving and constructive way. Michael Bunting has just framed it really nicely to apply to how we can overcome the struggles we face in leadership roles.
Definitely a beneficial read for any leader willing to walk the talk.