In part one of this content series on how to become a mindful trainer, Kay Buckby, facilitator at The Development Company, explores how beneficial the meditative practice can be for learning and development professionals.
I have used mindfulness for 15 years now, and in December 2018 I completed a one year programme to facilitate the eight week ‘Mindfulness for Life’ programme. I have found mindfulness to be transformational, so I am looking forward to this next phase of my professional training life.
I am also delighted to be asked to share my experiences of using mindfulness as a trainer, coach and facilitator, with the readers of Training Zone. Let’s enjoy sharing, collaborating and being during 2019.
What is mindfulness?
Put simply, mindfulness is being in touch with the present moment. It sounds so simple, yet often we are not living in the moment. The pace of life, demands, pressures and distractions get our attention, and we can be distant, distracted and disconnected from the moment.
Think of eating – so often, a joyful meal of tasty food can be eaten hurriedly, without enjoying the full senses – smell, textures, sight, touch and sounds.
The life of a trainer is a very intense one – you are a leader, facilitator, time keeper, questioner, responder, listener…and of all professions, we are our own hardest critic. Only actors are as self critical, in my experience.
What trainer hasn’t read nine glorious comments on a happy sheet, yet focused on the one harsh word? It can lead to us being harsh taskmasters, as we constantly evaluate and judge our ‘performance’.
Why mindfulness for trainers?
I see cultivating mindfulness practice as essential practice for any trainer. I’ve incorporated techniques in many situations for myself over the past few years, which is what I will share with you during 2019.
Mindfulness enables our learners to connect with the present moment, and then they can decide whether to be fully in the room, or not. I have found mindfulness enhances the learning experience.
This first article is an introduction to mindfulness practice: I regard mindfulness as a life-long journey.
The trainers’ life
Travel, driving, flying, staying in a bed other than your own…can be stressful.
Delegates arriving in a busy, negative or disconnected mood…can be a challenge.
Your own distractions…looking at emails, doing a social media post, responding to social media, settling the nerves of those entering the room, making small talk…that’s a lot to handle.
We can have moments when it ‘flows’, and moments when it doesn’t.
I will share my life experiences, and how using the techniques of being present in the moment has helped me connect more deeply with moments in my life, enriching my experience, and of those around me.
I was the most unlikely person to select to become a trainer. At school I was nervous of speaking in front of others. Later in life, I was diagnosed as living with anxiety – I spent valuable amounts of energy worrying about the future, and playing out (usually) the worst-case situation/ending.
This amount of time spent in the virtual reality of my head meant I could sometimes think myself into stressful situations. My heart rate would increase, my breathing would get shallower, my muscles would tense, and my vision would blur. At my lowest points, I had panic attacks.
This was me. And against this background, in 1989, I started my life in training as a Customer Care Trainer for Texas Homecare. Life went well – my groups were eager learners, and keen to be trained up as Texas Toms.
Then the recession bit, and courses were reduced in hours, group numbers increased, and learner dissatisfaction started. I found I started to doubt my own abilities, and found myself back up into my head, my virtual reality.
The good news: “neurons that fire together, wire together”
We know that we can rewire our brains to cope with emotional overload; and mindfulness meditation is the approach that works for me. For me, mindfulness is a way of being. When people ask how long I sit meditating each day, they are often surprised when I say my mindfulness practice is about cultivating a here and now awareness to enable awareness and aliveness in everyday moments.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Western mindfulness tradition, calls this ‘falling awake’; the capacity to fully be in the present moment. His definition of mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Formal sitting remains part of my practice, however deepening my awareness to live mindfully enables me to connect with myself and others, and release stresses and tensions to live a fuller, more compassionate life.
Over the next year I will share with you techniques I have used to help me be a more Mindful Trainer. As trainers, we are in a position of great power, and we are given authority that we need to be mindful of. I believe mindfulness will enable me to enhance my training practice.
Kay uses a learner driven, experiential approach in her work. She is always prepared to be challenged with unusual development requests, and often uses actors for drama workshops to embed knowledge, skills and attitudenal change.
Kay has held a variety of roles in her career - sales and marketing, office manager, HR person, Financial...