Aware of the Awareness of being Aware

We use old methods but that doesn’t work any more and our efforts don’t bring success as they used to, they bring us burnout

Continent Gunnar Michanek

 

On our way to success we sometimes feel like a Kierkegaard’s spider who ‘flings itself from a fixed point down into its consequences, it continually sees before it an empty space in which it can find no foothold, however much it stretches’. We use old methods but that doesn’t work any more and our efforts don’t bring success as they used to, they bring us burnout. It turns out that humanity has found a solution for this — our columnist, the founder of Mind Unlimited, experienced teacher of leadership Gunnar Michanek works on it with Swedish Government, Google companies, Facebook, Atlas Copco and many others.

We are overloaded by information, bombarded by it from many sources at a speed of 10 Gb every second. At the same time we understand well that to be successful and happy we need to be concentrated 100% on our work, on what we do. It is a scientifically proven fact that one is less happy and less successful if his mind is distracted and distributed between for example his mobile phone, thoughts about food and his working process. Our life should f low in a healthy tension but it is hard to do it without mindfulness.

Mindfulness is not a method but a state of consciousness we reach by meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts defines it: «Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgementally».

One company leader I knew was working successfully leading his workers. Then one day he felt that his energy level is low and he is not as productive as he used to be. He went to doctors and they gave him a gym card. In one and half year after that he was in the zone of burning out. Then he came to the school of mindfulness and realized that there is a flow zone and another zone and on the end of its spectrum lies burnout. He started his meditating and was so impressed by the result and his new vision of live and work that he created a rule for his enterprises saying that the company should be responsible for the burnout of its workers.

At the moment we work with more than 150 companies in Sweden and with Swedish Government.

To work on this level and be convincing we have to do science. We classified the microwaves our brain can function on: Beta 15–30 Hz — we are awake, in normal alert and consciousness. Alfa 9–14Hz — we are relaxed, calm, we make meditation and are capable of creative visualization. Theta 4–8 Hz — we are in a deep relaxation and meditation state, problem solving is possible here. Delta 1–3 Hz means a deep dreamless sleep. When we are stimulated to achieve good results fast we can concentrate and work in a very intensive mode, but fast and ultra fast waves are harmful for the body, we can not exist in this mode for a long time. So the question is: can we change the wave immediately to avoid burning out? We can — by using meditation. It gives us presence — the capacity to be fully aware of what is happening within and outside yourself at the same moment. Shift of awareness is possible: you start analyzing and observe yourself being involved and detached at the same time. These exercises have been tried out on more than 22,000 persons at Massachusetts University Hospital. And they analyzed how long you should do it, what type of exercise and what effect it has. I’ve been in more than 20 different schools for this type of practice and the core of all of them is the same. What attracted me to mindfulness was it was scientifically proven. Should we do six, eight, or twelve weeks? Should we do once, five minutes or one hour a day? And they get really good results.

Illustration Nata Dedova

Mankind is using electrodes and MRT to analyze neurons and their functioning for quite a long time. But 25–30 years ago we understood that our brain is plastic and we can rebuild our neurons. Mindfulness and emotional intellect are connected directly. It is about empathy: for example love and kindness meditation. Meditation affects concrete brain zones. When we take a decision we think that it happens in brain, it’s frontal part. The science shows that in 2/3 of our decisions the signals go from the prefrontal cortex part down through the vagus nerve and connect to the emotional system of the body. There are the same type of brain cells all the way into the stomach. And the science now is proving what we always knew for a long time — intuition exists. New is that decision is made not only by intellect but all of your body. That means that you need to train yourself in a different way, including meditation. Those leaders who are afraid of their emotions take decisions based on logic not listening to their feelings and the result is bad. We are all taking decisions in our lives — inner leadership. You should open your emotional system to make right and strong decisions. To be aware of your own feelings and other people feelings. Meditation focused on breathing and body scan helps to anchor the mindfulness into every body cell.

Meditation helps to analyze the nature of decisions we take. They are created by the impulses we receive from our senses. Also impulses from the cells inside of our body. First comes stimulus, then autopilot action, then reaction but there is a gap between thought — feeling — reaction. Gaps are the base of self observation and moments you can make your decisions. Gap gives a thought — gives a feeling and it goes very fast. In a deep meditation you can observe that before a thought there is a vibration, a feeling. If we give it attention we make new creative decisions instead of usual.

Mindfulness meditation itself is not about knowledge, it’s not about intelligence, it’s about a shift of awareness which differs Homo sapiens from other spices dramatically. We are the species who are aware of being aware, we know that we know. What we think and feel affects our world and ourselves on the cell level. And it’s good to be aware of this.

— Mindfulness is not a method but a state of consciousness we reach by meditation>.