In mindfulness practices, we hear:
We re-center and then try to center again.
Much flows through the middle of our minds, and we select what to hold on to and what to let go of. The skill and talent of being a middle person.
What mindfulness delivers is a sense of what being in the middle of our environment, thoughts, and experiences mean. A rewarding place to be, if we take advantage of it.
Ditch Being Centered, Go for Being in the Middle
A shift to being in the middle versus being centered is one we need to adopt. While being centered implies being at a state of quiet contentment, being in the middle means we are active in cutting through the crap and finding a better way forward. I would rather be in the middle than be centered. It is the difference between being a spectator and being in the arena.
By being in the middle, stillness helps. Being still enhances our:
Being in the middle requires a certain stillness with a strong dash of activity to find the common ground upon which to stand and move forward.
Where Being Still in the Middle Helps
When thinking about being still and being in the middle, we visualize where this intersection empowers certain areas. From leadership to imagination, the practices of stillness bear fruit. We just need to pause and use our time wisely.
How many leaders do you know who practice stillness in their work? My guess – not many. Leaders think they need to pretend to listen and then tell you want to do. Too many leaders are caught up in their own way of doing things or righteousness of their title. Taking time to be still signals weakness or softness. Unfortunately, too many leaders believe this.
However, in stillness, another’s point of view develops. Being still empowers empathy or, simply, understanding. Stillness delivers thought before action. Even better, stillness produces thoughtful action.
Leaders who are still in the middle of the conversations and actions discern and discernment is a compelling leadership trait.
In many conversations, especially in meetings, a few do most of the talking. However, the ones who are quiet carry more weight when they speak. The reason: They have listened carefully, whittled down the essential arguments, and communicate an understanding to bring people to a respectable, actionable result. The individuals in the middle of stillness during conversations are Common Grounders.
Common Grounders are problem solvers. Common Grounders are good listeners.
Issues rile people. A certain passion exists within issues, and passion plays a key role. At times, energetic passion is required to gain attention and foster change momentum. Other times, a mindful passion keeps the flame of solution and resolution alive and reaches a milestone of realization.
Passionate people can engage. When a greater purpose has clarity within the issue, a quiet passion helps find common ground. By quiet passion, I mean an ability to listen to understand and an ability to speak to convey and embrace ideas. We cannot just talk over each other or, a favorite political term, just talk in our lane.
We need to intersect our perspective lanes, and this takes a certain stillness to listen and remember purpose.
Are you comfortable in silence when with others? Solid relationships are built by being comfortable in each other’s silence. When we feel like we don’t have to say anything, we reach a new level or status within a relationship. It is more than comfort; it is confidence in who we are and who we can be. We don’t have to pretend or fill the cracks with meaningless words.
Conversations strengthen relationships, just as stillness in who we are does. Within both, we become better partners in work and life.
Our activity increases like bees around a hive. We move, check-in, and monitor all that is happening. Just look at cars that pass by and see how many have their phone to their ear or texting during a red light. Stillness evaporates. In the process, our multitasking and always being on takes a toll on our creativity and imagination. In a recent #PeopleSkills chat, a good friend, Kumud Ajmani tweeted:
“Lack of imagination is perhaps our greatest obstacle to finding common (play)grounds as adults.”
The context is what we can learn from children in our leadership practices. Kumud just completed his own #SpiritChat on Stillness, and the two play well together. When we are still, our minds begin to imagine new possibilities. When our imagination works, we begin to find cross-sections of common ground.
To be an effective leader, we need to imagine. Our imagination requires stillness to renew, think, and create.
Stillness Encourages Empathy
We need to encourage our middle. From middle management to political moderates, we need this type of centeredness to thrive in our business and society. Being in the middle and in the quiet, we strengthen our empathetic skills.
In a World Economic Forum article, Belinda Parmar, CEO of The Empathy Business and creator of the world’s first global Empathy Index, argues:
“So at a time when we should be flexing our empathic muscles and becoming more emotionally intelligent we are actually dumbing down. We have become empathic slobs and this is a problem that needs to be addressed.”
To gain empathy, I argue we need to re-engage stillness. Added to stillness, we need to energize our middle and commit to action in which we construct more common ground with challenging issues. Common ground is vital for our business survival as well as our society’s.
Our leadership challenge is to be still, to celebrate our middle. Within both, we find common ground for reasonable, productive progress and results.
Remember. Being in the middle is being in the arena. Embrace the arena with a sense of stillness and responsibility.
How can we practice more stillness in our work and life?