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From doing to becoming: That is mindfulness

Priyamvda Puri, a successful mindfulness coach and Apeejay School of Management alumnus explains the concept and debuffs myths surrounding the same

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Priyamvda Puri is a mindfulness and communications coach. She formerly worked in the corporate sector, managing Corporate Sales with Hughes Escott Ltd.  After six years of toil, she followed her inner calling and switched careers to become an entrepreneur. 

 In a wide ranging yet interesting interview, the Apeejay School of Management ( ASM ) alumnus explains how she practices mindfulness in every action of life and suggests ways that would help everyone to find themselves and be the balance they seek in life.

What exactly is mindfulness? Please explain from a beginner’s perspective?

The question has the answer within itself. The first step towards mindfulness is having a beginner’s mind. A beginner’s mind does not have any pre-condition. It is a mind that is open to experiences and does not follow the old patterns of thought and action.

We are all like sunflowers.  When sunflowers are young, they grow facing the sun but as they become taller, they grow facing each other. Similarly, teenagers look at their counterparts a lot and try a lot to fit in. As a result, they reject themselves too much.

We as people always compare ourselves vis-à-vis others. We try to fit in the box. My whole point is that there is no box. Each has a separate journey, so we don’t have to try to fit in.

What happens is some days we are an astrologer and some days we are a historian. Some days we are thinking about the past and hanging onto what has happened while some days we are worrying about the future. So, I always say, live in the present moment.

When the teenager is in class 9, we nudge him/her about the pressure of class 10 and the process keeps happening every year. Children are extremely caught up in the ‘what is next zone’. Therefore, I try to bring in some mindfulness in the education aspect especially.

We have to just progress and accept ourselves. We are reading books or listening to TedX speeches all the time. All of that is based on rejection of what we must not do. But first we have to embrace who we are and then from that self-acceptance, we must take forward what is already there within us. This in turn will help us to make the right choices in life, as we embark on a journey from lack to abundance.

What inspired you to shift from corporate life to mindfulness?

I was giving a lot of guest lectures at various business schools. I was even training some IAS aspirants and later some officers.  I realised that all of them were stuck up somewhere. We are living with some pre-conditions. We are all trying to fold the paper the same way we have been folding it all these years. We are not able to break through. So, I realised there is a need to bring in mindfulness in the formative years.

I also train a lot of teachers at various CBSE schools. I see that teachers are also running a rat race and are unable to press the pause button. They are not enjoying the journey. Rather they are just looking at the destination.

Tell me something, would you step in the most beautiful and expensive car of the world if the car had no brakes? No, right!

So, the biggest tool I want to give through mindfulness is the tool of pause. Brakes in the car not only prevent accidents. The brakes in reality give one the confidence to speed up. The pause is a tool to accelerate. It gives one the confidence to speed up in the career because they can pause and introspect whenever they want.

One has to at any point of time, talk to oneself, go within and realize what one is and press the pause button.

How can teachers and parents focus on their growth and also ensure the child’s growth at the same time? Can mindfulness help?

Whether you are a leader in a corporate organisation or a teacher or a parent, one thumb rule is always applicable.  One can never pour from an empty cup.

One has to fill in one’s own cup first. Mindfulness helps you in this. 

People think mindfulness is all about breathing but it is a lot more. It isn’t a morning deep breathing exercise. It has to be practiced throughout the day. I always call my programmes ‘Mindfulness in action’.

Parents, teachers, and leaders have to help others shift from ‘Doing to being’. Even some years back, I would also make a checklist and stick it on my fridge magnet. But I realized that we are all focused on only the doing part. We are all functioning out of a checklist. Mindfulness is an inner transformation, as one thinks that by doing this activity, what am I becoming? Am I becoming more confident, skillful, talented, fulfilled and content? One has to check into one’s present moment. One must allow the heart to talk as much as the head. There is no mindfulness without the heart.

Teenagers are going through changes both inside and outside the body. For them it is a roller coaster ride. Why should they practice mindfulness?

I will answer this through an example. We are all flowers. Some of us are blue and some of us are yellow lets’ say for example. It would be unfair if we think about why all of us are not the same colour. We have to celebrate our colour and also appreciate another’s colour as well. What makes us more beautiful is when the different coloured flowers come together as a bouquet. Similarly, the way one arranges one’s thoughts, rituals, priorities, habits is what makes one truly beautiful.

Also the spaces between the flowers, is the space that one offers to oneself. It is the freedom to navigate from one emotion to another without rejecting it.

One must not judge what is happening. If one is feeling angry, one must be aware of it and give it due credit and attention. There is no good or bad.

When one says, “I am angry”, one identifies oneself with anger. But through mindfulness one says, “I am feeling angry”. Thereby one distances oneself from the emotion. One understands that one is only feeling it in the moment and it is okay. Don’t reject it. There is no good or bad.

The more one hides oneself from the emotion, the more one feels the urge.

For those in the stressful corporate life, is mindfulness any good?

Firstly, remember to embark on the journey from lack to abundance. One must not reject the skills we have. We are constantly thinking about our past or future worries and not giving the best to the present moment.

Be one with the journey. Remove the jacket of past worries or sorrows. When one sits in an airplane, one puts the phone in flight mode. One must disconnect and be one with the new journey or the new role or task in the organization.

When we wake up in the morning, we first check our social media. I would suggest that for the first 15 minutes of the day, don’t wear any uniform. You are not anyone’s employee or boss then. Just be a human being and be in your natural state of being for the first fifteen minutes. Soon, you’ll see the results. That is the first tool.

The second tool is when you are closing the day, remember what stood out for you and for which experiences you are grateful. Don’t just look at the larger things. Look at the little things as well, maybe a good meal, a good time with friends and family, or just touching the rain or singing or dancing or eating something after many days. The closer you are to experiences of life, the closer you are to emotions which help you to fill up your cup.

Give yourself a pat on the back. Become a washing machine at times and let go of whatever happened. Focus on what you feel right now.

Be in the ‘idk’ (I don’t know) mode. Mindfulness is all about that.

If your boss gives you a task, don’t switch on google and copy. Don’t let someone else’s ideas invade your ideas. For the first 15 minutes let your original ideas come up. Don’t let anyone else’s pressure invade you. Then the content will come to you magically.

Did the magic of mindfulness strike you during your ASM days?

ASM days were magical. I was campus placed from ASM. It was called Apeejay School of Marketing back then. 

The kind of enthusiasm and confidence that got injected in me at that stage by my teachers at ASM was so special. I have a lot of gratitude towards ASM.

We had Prof Sindhwani as our programme director. He told us this one daily in the classroom, ‘Learn how to ask questions’ This opened the doors of my mind. So, I say that never judge yourself. Operate from a sense of curiosity and wonder!

Arijit Roy is a young correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected]

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