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Mindfulness in Mentoring—an Opportunity for Shared Exploration and Discovery By: Roger Cote

The practice of mindfulness has been around for centuries, dating back to 500 B.C. as an integral element in Buddhist teachings.  It has been woven into many cultures and philosophies since then, and made its way into American considerations in 1979 via the efforts of 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 Medical School.

Over the years, Kabat-Zinn and others have helped mindfulness grow in popularity, partly by playing down the religious and philosophical elements that often turn off prospective practitioners, and focused on its potential to help people reduce stress and increase focus on everyday tasks.

A quick internet search generates a plethora of books and articles on the subject.  They all center on the same core premise that practicing mindfulness involves learning how to be more aware of what is going on around you in the present moment.  And a key element in every approach is making an intentional effort to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without passing judgement or making commentary. 

Many resources teach you to implement mindfulness techniques into your daily life, and how the practice can improve physical and emotional health as well as improve relations with friends, family, and co-workers.  Some resources delve into diet, exercise, and leveraging everyday opportunities to practice awareness.

So how do you choose which path is right for you?  Start with your own search and tug on the threads that catch your eye.  Are you interested in the roots of mindfulness as they relate to Buddhist teachings and the practice of Vipassana and Metta meditation?  Or do you just want to learn a few exercises that can help reduce stress and improve focus?  Perhaps you are interested in recent studies conducted that show the science behind the potential benefits of practicing mindfulness.  

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Learning more about practicing mindfulness can benefit mentoring partnerships in at least two ways.  First, it can help partners discover ways to be more in tune with their mentoring moments, and more aware and present for each other during their meetings.  Second, partners can explore the topic together, identifying things about practicing mindfulness that they share an interest or curiosity in.


Talk to your mentors about mindfulness and see if they have any thoughts or insight into the topic.  Do a little basic exploring with them and see if you can identify a topic or two that interests you both.  Then let the exploration take you where it will.  You just might find yourselves working on your own mindfulness practice, and you might even be pleasantly surprised by your discoveries.

Do a little poking around yourself before meeting with your mentor to talk about mindfulness.

  • Take 10 minutes to surf the web on the topic in general to see which book, article, or sub-topic piques your interest.  It’s likely your 10 minutes will expand to 20 or more before you know it.  
  • Come up with a list of two or three things that you particularly like.  
  • Share your findings and interests with your mentors so they have a starting point.

Ask your mentors about their knowledge or experiences with the subject.

  • Have they read anything on the subject that they particularly liked?
  • Have they had any formal training on practicing mindfulness?
  • Are there perhaps introductory courses you could attend together to learn more?
  • Maybe they know someone who has more information or experience on the subject.

Talk to your mentor about potential examples of practicing mindfulness.

  • How have you (and possibly your mentor) begun to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine?
  • If not, what are some strategies to start?
  • What are some of the benefits that you (or your mentor) have already experienced from practicing mindfulness?
  • You might also find it easier to reflect on examples where you did not practice mindfulness.  It’s okay to acknowledge such mistakes, and valuable to identify how you might have made that experience more positive.

An exploration into practicing mindfulness will no doubt reveal some areas in which you (or others) could improve efforts to live more in the moment.  Just try to remember to focus your energy on how you can make things better.  You can be aware of the negatives, but let them go and work on the positive aspects that will help you grow in your mentoring relationship and beyond.