Yesterday I was having a conversation with a a highly stressed young professional. I suggested using mindfulness to reduce stress levels and described a few techniques she could try.
This, in turn, triggered a memory of a workshop that ‘went wrong’ in the early 2000s.
Freddy had attended a mindfulness ‘bosberaad’ -a meeting in the bush to discuss weighty matters- and couldn’t stop talking about it. The concept was new. So, too, were the concepts of skills development & workplace learning. I used a pause as Freddy caught breath to get back to group work. I couldn’t get my head around the cognitive dissonance of mindfulness and a bosberaad. So I asked the groups to consider how mindfulness could be applied to workplace learning and skills development.
Initially the groups stuttered along. A couple of groups asked Freddy to explain a point or two and then, suddenly, the groups were firing on cylinders.
By the end of the session the groups were so enthusiastic and eager that each report back became an extended larger group discussion.
The overall conclusion was that skills development and workplace learning were a form of mindful practice. You, the novice, had to give up thinking like “Blooms taxonomy” and start to pay attention to what was around you. You had to focus on the people, the processes, the interactions and other situational cues and clues. You had to let go of theory and take on a non-judgemental attitude and be present in the moment. During your work experience you had to learn to take in information with your senses.
Then someone asked, “What about reflection?” It was one of the fashion terms of the time (it could still be). At first it was a show-stopper question. But within a few minutes the responses started bubbling up – the energy levels were high and the creative juices were running strong.
Without being present in the moment what could you later actually reflect on? Mindfulness was a precursor to reflection. Without focusing on the “theories-in-use”, as opposed to the “espoused theories” taught in the classroom, you would never be able to decode actual practice.
The discussion shifted the goal posts so far that I couldn’t return to the workshop programme.
Nor did I need to.