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  • Why mindfulness is more about your strengths than your weaknesses

    September 24, 2018 | Stable Attention
  • I like to do simple informal mindfulness practice–to cultivate stable attention in the present moment–in the woods not far from my house. For me, the environment of trees, rushing water and birds is an excellent complement for focusing in on an object (like a tree branch or a clump of moss) with curiosity and attention.

    Recently I was chatting with a fellow consultant who is also a mindfulness fan. For him the preferred context is quite different: running stairs in the bleachers at Tacoma’s Stadium High School. He had just led a workshop on the VIA Character Strengths survey, where I learned that “Love of Beauty” was one of my top strength. I soon found out that “Zest” (which often expresses itself in vigorous physical activity) was one of his.

    My takeaway: mindfulness practice works best when you tie it to something that you love to do and that gives you energy. The beauty of the woods for me, the joy of exertion for him—we have each found an approach that not only brings the benefits of mindfulness practice but feeds our sense of well-being.

    You probably already have a pretty good idea of what you love to do and brings you deep and long-lasting joy. If you can find a way to do that activity in a mindful spirit—with openness, curiosity, and a focus on the present moment without judgments—that can form the core of a robust and sustainable practice.

    For a little further insight, an assessment can be helpful. I am partial to the VIA assessment because it comes from the work of Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania. Seligman is the founder of the positive psychology movement (his book on Learned Optimism is an illuminating approach to cultivating happiness that has been widely adopted, including by the U.S. military).

    Try It: Consider what you love most in your life. How might you relate to that activity in a mindful way. Watching your kids sleeping? Looking at the stars? Helping a neighbor out? If you are so inclined, take the VIA Character Strengths Survey to get additional information about what brings you energy and strength—those might be fruitful avenues to explore: http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey

    Image:  An original card from the tarot deck of Jean Dodal of a classic Tarot of Marseilles deck which dates from 1701-1715.