As a pastor, I'm always looking for ways to enhance my leadership. I believe good leaders should never stop learning. In the past few years as we've learned more about the human mind and brain, science is affirming an ancient contemplative practice rooted in church history and scripture, mindfulness. It's helped me so much that I'm currently writing a book on Christian mindfulness. Five basic skills comprise the essence of this practice. In this post I explain those skills that will benefit any leader.
First, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a spiritual discipline akin to biblical meditation. It’s setting aside daily time to be still before God, to be in His presence in the present moment. It’s not emptying our minds, but filling our minds with thoughts of Him and His Word. And it's not some weird new age practice. It's a science based practice that helps us disengage from automatic and unhealthy thoughts, feelings, memories and reactions to simply be in God’s presence. It's both a devotional practice and a way to live each moment.
Last year, hundreds of studies were published that showed the benefits of mindfulness. Here are a few of them.
- improved memory
- less anxiety and depression
- a healthier heart
- better ability to cope with stress
- enhanced relationships
- less reactivity
- overall improved well-being
One scientifically proven tool is called the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire based on the five skills I've described below. You can take this inventory here to evaluate how well you practice these skills. If you want to read more about how to develop them, I recommend the book, In this Moment: Five Steps to Transcending Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroscience. The authors explain the skills in depth.
Skill 1: Observing. In this skill you learn to notice what’s happening inside you and in your immediate surroundings, like zooming in with a camera lens.
Skill 2: Describing. In this skill you use your words to convey what you're observing. This involves learning to label your emotions and describe bodily sensations.
Skill 3: Detaching. In this skill, you learn to keep your unhealthy comparisons, predictions, and evaluations about your life from sticking to your soul, akin to how food slides off a Teflon coated frying pan.
Skill 4: Loving yourself. Loving yourself does not mean we become self-centered. Rather, we practice what Jesus told us to do when he said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. It means that we learn to love ourselves as we are, rather than basing our view of ourselves on other people’s approval or on our own performance.
Skill 5: Acting mindfully. This skill means that we learn to become more aware of what we are doing as we are doing it. We learn to be in the moment rather than being on autopilot or trying to get to a 'better' moment.
Developing these skills helps leaders be fully present for those they lead and care about.
The more present you are as a leader, the more effective your leadership.
What benefits have you read about or learned that mindfulness brings?
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Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church (London, Ontario) and founder of StoneWell Ministries. He has authored four books including, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (IVP 2014), and Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry (Abingdon, May 2015). He is passionate about intersecting insight about the brain with Biblical insight. He posts regularly at www.charlesstone.com.www