Mindful Reflection: Increasing Awareness

By Ken Giglio, Principal of Mindful Leadership Consulting

I have the good fortune to be in the business of awareness. At a deeper level, awareness is my calling. I spend my days with leaders and coaches exploring how to increase awareness for them and me as we engage in our chosen roles and work. 

What is clear to me as I do this work is how central awareness is to our lives. All aspects of what we think about and act upon every day depend on being aware to some extent. Awareness encompasses all of our experiences, from the practical to the profound. To engage others and drive change, leaders need awareness of critical data and focused attention to cut through distractions. Leaders should strive for a deeper awareness of themselves, because who they are—their purpose, values, and identity—is how they lead. What we do with our attention and our presence within our bodies in every moment dictates how we live and lead. This is awareness at work. 

Dynamic Range of Awareness

Awareness exists on a dynamic range, from our blind spots and what’s barely noticed to what is increasingly transparent and crystal clear. This dynamic range of awareness is like looking through a camera’s viewfinder and seeing the smallest details to the broadest landscape. The more we can see through the viewfinder, the more aware we become. By seeing more, we increase our awareness of ourselves, others and the world around us. Greater awareness allows us to better attune our thoughts and master our emotions. It enhances our capability to have meaningful relationships and productive interactions within our communities and organizations.  

We all have the inborn capacity to grow our awareness and to be aware and awake in each moment. Neuroscientists have discovered that we have a complex attention system built into our brains and bodies allowing us to perceive mental and emotional movements within us. This is our innate ability to notice and observe our thinking and sense our feelings as we experience them in the present. Social psychologists have revealed that our awareness is in large part automatic and unconscious, helping us to anticipate how to engage with others and our environment. We are paying attention even when we are unaware, so we can take care of ourselves and have successful interactions with others. And evolutionary psychologists have studied how our evolution and our individual and collective ancestry plays into our current ways of thinking, feeling and acting. What we are aware of and pay attention to is influenced by our family history, genetic makeup and our interdependent connection with nature. 

The research from neuroscience and psychology provides us with a baseline for how awareness works, particularly through attention to present experience. At the practical level, however, we need a framework we can apply in everyday situations – one that is easy enough to understand and rigorous enough to be evidence based. Even with all we know about awareness from theories and science, it’s important to know that increasing awareness is also acknowledging what we don’t know. Not knowing is a key principle on the journey of becoming more aware. We never arrive at full awareness; we return again and again to our present experience using our attention and embodied presence.

The Tri-Lens Mindful Reflection Model™

“Mindfulness [Mindful Reflection] makes it possible to see connections that may not have been visible before. But seeing these connections doesn’t happen as a result of trying—it simply comes out of the stillness.”
– Peter M. Senge,  Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. 

Mindful reflection is a primary way to increase awareness. Reflection supports: 

  • A sense of well-being, the capacity to be emotionally and physically centered and grounded 
  • Facilitates learning and growth, the acquiring of skills and the increase in confidence 
  • Fosters flourishing, enhancing abilities to engage with others and do quality work

To be more aware and awake in our lives, what is necessary is a process and practice to be in a state of awareness more consistently. Mindful Leadership’s approach to increasing awareness at a practical level is through The Tri-Lens Mindful Reflection Model™. The center of the model is the present, emergent moment, a space where we steady our mind’s attention and settle our body’s presence. From this center, which is the viewfinder, we have the ability to see through three lenses—self, other, and system. The mindful reflection questions, which help us maintain present moment awareness are: 

What am I noticing?                        What am I sensing in my body and in my surroundings? 

Working with these questions and looking through the three lenses provides us with a depth and breadth of awareness about ourselves, our relationships with others and our interconnections with the systems we live and work in.  

Being awake and aware of our present experience is simple yet challenging. Mindful reflection is the practice of increasing awareness. We will continue our journey of increasing awareness through mindful reflection in the next post where we will explore the connection between Attention and Awareness. 

Mindful Leadership Tri-Lens Reflection Model
Mindful Leadership’s Tri-Lens Mindful Reflection Model™


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