Workplace Evolution and the Well-Being of Employees

For 30 years, Carl Lemieux worked with executive teams on strategy, transformation and leadership at an international level.

In this interview, he shares his observations on workplace evolution and his recommendations for sustainable well-being in the workplace, such as:

Changes in organization
How does the pace in organizations today affect people?
How are people coping?
How can organizations adapt to these new challenges?
Are you interested in learning more about well-being opportunities in the workplace?

 

Doctor’s Orders: Mindfulness Meditation

“There’s no doubt in my mind that spending a few minutes breathing calmly in a

quiet space on a daily basis will improve my patients’ health.”

Once perceived as flaky or new-agey, meditation is becoming mainstream. There has been an explosion of interest in meditation among doctors and other medical practitioners, neuroscientists, psychologists, and mental health care providers of all stripes. In particular, mindfulness meditation has become a popular and successful intervention over the past three decades, largely due to the pioneering efforts of Jon Kabat-Zinn and the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts medical school. Kabat-Zinn and colleagues developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that is now taught at hospitals, clinics, and universities worldwide.

For some insight into the integration of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation in contemporary medicine, the Numinus Clinic’s Sarah Roberts sat down with Dr. Adam Gavsie, a family physician who practices integrative medicine at the state-of-the-art Montreal Centre for Integrative Medicine. A McGill medical school graduate and faculty lecturer in family medicine at McGill University, Dr. Gavsie has trained extensively in Integrative and Holistic Medicine and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, as well as hatha yoga and restorative yoga.

Dr. Gavsie practices mindfulness meditation and teaches it to his patients. He graciously answered our questions about his medical and meditation practices:

SR: What is integrative medicine and how is it different from traditional medicine?
Dr. G: Integrative Medicine is a healing-oriented medicine that takes into account the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between doctor and patient and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and complementary/alternative. We focus on health promotion and illness prevention; that is, we’d rather prevent illness than treat it after it develops. We try to use natural and non-invasive interventions wherever possible, and base all our interventions in good science.

SR: What is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)?
Dr. G: I like the definition from the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: CAM are a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that aren’t presently considered to be conventional medicine. Some healthcare providers (e.g., doctors, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists) practice both CAM and conventional medicine.

Complementary medicine is generally used together with conventional medicine, for example using aromatherapy therapy (in which the scent of essential oils from flowers, herbs, and trees is inhaled to promote health and well-being) to decrease a patient’s discomfort following surgery. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine, for example using a mind-body intervention such as meditation to treat hypertension, before starting a patient on pharmacotherapy. There’s scientific evidence to support some CAM therapies, but for most, there are still key questions about safety and efficacy that have yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies.

SR: You said that Integrative Medicine takes into account the mind, body, and spirit. How does the mind affect body functions and symptoms?
Dr. G: There’s a lot of evidence that the mind affects the body. Just conjure a sexual thought and watch what happens. During stressful periods, thoughts cause an increase in cortisol and adrenaline, which in turn increases blood flow to the muscles. When this stress response is maintained for a prolonged period, the body produces free radicals and inflammation. In contrast, when we think happy and loving thoughts, our body’s increase production of dopamine and serotonin–the body’s feel-good hormones–and oxytocin, which dilates blood vessels, neutralizes free radicals, and lowers blood pressure.

SR: Does meditation fall into the category of CAM?
Dr. G: Meditation is classified as a mind-body intervention modality according to the National Center for CAM (NCCAM) in the United States. There is a great deal of evidence for meditation under the banner of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR). Most of the research on MBSR comes from the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness, headed by Jon Kabat Zinn and Saki Santorelli. MBSR is widely used as a CAM modality for conditions such as hypertension, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.

SR: We heard you trained with Jon Kabat-Zinn. Can you tell us about that?
Dr. G: In 2005, I spent a week on a meditation retreat in California with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli from the U Mass Center for Mindfulness. The retreat was a 7-day intensive immersion into the 8-week MBSR program they run for patients. There were multiple sessions each day of the various elements of the MBSR program, including sitting meditation, walking meditation, the body scan, and yoga. There was also a 36-hour silent portion that included five silent meals. It was intense, but I felt like I left feeling like my mind was completely cleansed.

SR: Do you have a meditation practice these days?
Dr. G: I think about meditation every day but actually get to do it formally a few times a week. I am constantly striving for the daily practice and am hoping that it will soon stick and become part of my daily routine.

SR: Do you teach your patients to meditate? How do you think meditation can help them?
Dr. G: I teach many of my patients how to meditate. It can often be as simple as teaching a few breathing techniques and helping them to create the time and space to do it on a regular basis. But then there’s motivating them to do it: I tell my patients about all the research that says that regular meditation can lower blood pressure, decrease some tension-related pain, increase serotonin production (improving mood and behaviour), improve immune system functioning, and increase energy–and it’s still a challenge!

It’s not easy to meditate every day but I know I get clear benefits when I meditate and my patients report the benefits it affords them when they are able to do it regularly. There’s no doubt in my mind that spending a few minutes breathing calmly in a quiet space on a daily basis will improve my patients’ health.

The Best Definition of Mindfulness I’ve Come Across

All consciousness involves awareness in the sense of a knowing or experiencing of an object. But with the practice of mindfulness, awareness is applied at a special pitch. The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgements and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped. The task is simply to note whatever comes up and just as it is occurring, riding the changes of events in the way a surfer rides the waves of the sea. The whole process is a way of coming back into the present, of standing in the here and now without slipping away, without getting swept away by the tides of distracting thoughts.
– Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Noble Eightfold Path

Mindfulness and Social Media

Our phone vibrates with a Twitter notification and we do a stealth check even though we’re in a business meeting. Our heart speeds up at the sight of three new ‘likes’ on our latest Facebook status. We can’t get through the first course of our dinner without Instagramming our plate.

Are we addicted to social media?

Certainly some of our behaviour resembles addiction, and many of us would acknowledge that it would be hard to get through the day without connecting. But is this necessarily problematic? After all, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms are useful business and promotion tools, they’re fun, and they help people reconnect and stay in touch.

When and how does it become an addiction?

In a recent Télé-Québec appearance, Dr. Joe Flanders, director of the Numinus Clinic, joined several experts to discuss social media addiction. According to the experts, excessive social media use veers toward addiction when it begins to interfere with functioning–at work, in relationships, and in other activities. That is, if your Facebook habits get you into trouble with your boss, and your partner is upset because you can’t get through breakfast without Instagram, there’s a problem.

Brain imaging research clearly demonstrates that the areas of the brain involved with rewards light up when an individual with a gambling problem is presented with an image of a casino, or a long-time smoker is presented with an image of a cigarette. Dr. Flanders suspects that, for avid social media users, the same areas of the brain would respond to an image of an iPhone with a little red Facebook notification. What’s more, he added, social media notifications occur on what psychologists call an ‘intermittent reinforcement schedule.’ Intermittent reinforcement means that you never know when you’ll be rewarded with a comment or a ‘like.’ This random reinforcement is more powerful than consistent reward–and keeps us coming back.

Mindfulness and Social Media

Mindfulness is a great tool for managing social media use. Here are some tips:

1) Set aside a specific and limited time. We’ve all had the experience of arriving at the office and thinking, “I’ll just check Facebook for a second before starting work,” and then getting lost for an hour, commenting on photos and status updates. Planning times to connect and times to disconnect can help us gain back our time. For example, resolve to set aside 30 minutes after supper to post all of your Instagram photos from that day, rather than posting as you go along. Decide that 8 to 9pm is your Twitter hour, after which you’ll disconnect.

2) Notice whether or not you’re checking in with social media on purpose or simply out of boredom or habit.
Do you actually want or need to know what’s happening on Facebook, or are you just at loose ends or avoiding your work? Whereas conscious and intentional social media use can connect us with others and enrich our lives, mindless use can disconnect us from ourselves, from each other, and from the present moment. Before checking in, ask yourself whether or not using this particular moment for social media is consistent with your values, your priorities, and your intentions for the day.

3) Notice whether or not your impulse to connect on social media corresponds with emotional cues. In a recent Conan O’Brien appearance, comedian Louis C. K. hilariously hypothesized that we use social media to avoid the discomfort that arises when we’re alone, feeling down, or aren’t busy. Many of us are uncomfortable with the void, and we connect to relieve the discomfort. When Louis C. K. suggested that we “need to build the ability to be [ourselves] and not be doing something. To just sit there… when the emptiness creeps in…” he was describing mindfulness. As he put it, “That’s being a person.”

Louis C.K. went on to describe an episode of sadness that “hit him like a truck.” Sounding like a mindfulness guru, the comedian recounted how, when he met the sadness with openness and acceptance, the sadness moved through him and was replaced by a profound happiness. His point: When we fear and refuse to feel unpleasant emotion, we get stuck in a semi-present avoidance state–which prevents us from living fully and from experiencing pure positive emotions. We miss out on the happiness and equanimity that develops when we’re willing to experience whatever arises, good or bad. Next time you feel the urge to Tweet or Instagram, take a second to tune in to how you’re doing emotionally. Are you sad, angry, frustrated, or jealous? Can you–even just for a minute–sit with the experience, by yourself? What happens?

4) Use the same technology you use for social media to help you be more mindful. Numerous websites and apps to support mindfulness practice have been developed. Try programming your computer to ring a bell once an hour to remind you to take a few mindful breaths, or downloading a brief guided meditation onto your phone.

Mindfulness doesn’t mean avoiding social media. It simply means avoiding automatic and habitual social media use, and making wise and conscious choices about when and how to use it.

My Week with Jon Kabat-Zinn

I just came back from a 7-day retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleague Saki Santorelli. They were teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for healthcare professionals at the Omega Center in Rhinebeck, New York.

The program consisted of an intensive version of the 8-week MBSR curriculum, including a 30-hour silent retreat in the middle of the week. The schedule was pretty grueling: we started each day at 6 am with 90 minutes of meditation practice. Meditation was followed by a 3-hour workshop/meditation session before lunch, with a second 3-hour session after lunch. Most days also ended with a 2-hour evening workshop/meditation session! The silent retreat day was the most demanding—and the most rewarding—part of the week, with a total of 9.5 hours dedicated to practice, including yoga, sitting, and walking. I was tired but felt great at the end of that day!

Overall, the retreat was an excellent experience for me. I had been working long, intense hours in the weeks leading up to it, and was feeling exhausted and emotionally drained. It was great to be in the country, soak up the peace and quiet, and not have to think about meetings, deadlines, and email. Believe it or not, I was able to go a full 7 days without connecting to the Internet! You can’t imagine the loose, light state of mind that a “connection holiday” brings.

More importantly, though, the many hours of meditation reconnected me with a more open, peaceful, and compassionate version of myself that sometimes gets buried in my busy professional life. In the silence of meditation, I was exposed to the mental habits that subtly shape my interactions with the world. The exposure allowed me to see through the distortions that usually shape my experience, and connect with some truths about what’s important to me and how to move forward. It definitely wasn’t easy, and I was grateful to go through the experience with a community of 200 other healthcare professionals. The emotional rawness that arises with increased mindfulness forges strong bonds, and I had the pleasure of connecting with some outstanding people.

The week was also excellent in terms of professional development. Jon Kabat-Zinn was amazing to watch. He has a titanic intellect, dynamic energy, and a deep sense of compassion. Aside from leading workshops and meditations, he stuck around after each session to chat with participants one-on-one, and ate his meals at the communal tables in the dining room. The guy never stopped! Not bad for a guy who celebrated his 69th birthday that week.

Kabat-Zinn told us the complete story of how he developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and it’s as intriguing as he is. As a young biology professor at the University of Massachusetts, he started teaching mindfulness as a side gig in the basement of the Medical School. His vision was to help people who had fallen through the cracks of the health care system by teaching them the Buddhist tradition of mindfulness—but translated from the Eastern tradition into mainstream medical culture. He invited doctors to refer anyone they were having difficulty treating, including patients suffering from depression, chronic pain, and other chronic illnesses. He wasn’t sure what to call the program so he picked something generic and non-threatening: the Stress Clinic. That was in 1979—before the Internet; before cell phones; before answering machines; before I was born!

The results spoke for themselves. Stress Clinic patients’ lives improved and doctors began referring more and more. Researchers began studying Kabat-Zinn’s program and establishing a solid evidence base. The clinic grew and the name MBSR was adopted, highlighting the ‘M’ at the core. Over the next decade, a few scientific trends accelerated the expansion of MBSR into the medical establishment: 1) The medical and science communities began recognizing the serious impact of stress on health; 2) the emergence of brain imaging research and the discovery of neuroplasticity allowed Kabat-Zinn and his team to demonstrate measurable changes in the brains of MBSR participants; and 3) more recently, epigenetics researchers have been able to begin identifying changes in gene expression as a result of MBSR. What Kabat-Zinn created is nothing short of a revolution in health care.

At the heart of MBSR is the notion that we can find a new way to relate to our pain, whether it’s physical or emotional. Instead of focusing on finding solutions to our discomfort, we can learn to befriend it, and to open up to it as part of our experience. This means that rather than thinking of discomfort as a drag on our quality of life, we observe it—and our reactions to it—with awareness and with the knowledge that both comfort and discomfort are transient. In so doing, we become less attached to having every little thing just the way we like it.

Cultivating this relationship to our experience requires training in mindfulness meditation. Practicing meditation helps us slow down and lets us see how our minds create “stories” about our experiences, distracting us from experiencing the moment as it is. Some of that mental busy work is harmless, but much of it contributes to unhelpful attitudes toward ourselves, our bodies, and our relationships. Learning to pay attention and cultivate awareness in this way is a powerful tool for improving overall health and well being; it creates a small psychological space in which we can evaluate our moment-to-moment impulses, choose our actions, and remain in contact with what truly matters to us at any given moment.

The Center for Mindfulness recently graduated its 20,000th participant and there are now over 740 MBSR programs in hospitals, clinics, and health centres worldwide. Mindfulness is now being taught not only in health care settings, but also in corporate wellness programs, in the armed forces, and in training programs for elite athletes. Health care professionals, teachers, and mainstream media are following the growth of MBSR closely. In fact, during last week’s retreat, a photographer from Time magazine was on site shooting photos for an upcoming story about Jon Kabat-Zinn. Not bad for a guy who started teaching meditation in the basement of a hospital 43 years ago!

Dr. Joe Flanders is a Psychologist, Mindfulness teacher, and Director of the Numinus Clinic

4 Insights From Motivational Psychology That Can Re-invigorate Your Meditation Practice

February is Mindfulness Month at Numinus.

In an effort to re-invigorate our meditation practices, Numinus is dedicating February to Mindfulness meditation. The idea is to use some basic scientific principles from motivational psychology to promote consistent practice.

Here they are:

1. Set intentions

Develop a clear, realistic, and measurable targets for your meditation practice. Maximize your chances of success. Mine is to sit 6 out of 7 days each week in the month of February. If you don’t meet your target, don’t worry. Learn from the experience, rest your intentions, and move forward.

2. Connect with others

We are more likely cultivate intrinsic motivation if our activities involve a social component. While meditation is a solitary act, we can still connect with each other through sitting groups, phone calls, and online platforms like Facebook. It’s a great space to report on your practice, ask questions, discuss issues, and post/check out interesting media.

3. Make it yours

This isn’t a homework assignment. There are no deadlines. Your practice is for you. Be flexible, do what works for you, and reward yourself for maintaining your discipline. A sense of autonomy promote intrinsic motivation.

4. Enjoy

Activities that provide us with a sense of pleasure and competence tend to promote intrinsic motivation. For some, Mindfulness is something they “get to do” rather than “have to do.” Can you find positive energy in your practice?

5 Remedies for Post-Holiday Blahs

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 1, Chapter 1
Those lines always express my own ambivalence about the holiday season. It is hectic, festive, de-stabilizing and once it ends, there is a feeling of being letdown as the new year starts. Similar to returning from an exhilarating vacation. Now, what?

The ebb and flow of my daily routines hardly seem adequate. But it may be exactly what I need. Otherwise, how could I appreciate the difference? But, the temptation to spice up my humdrum everyday life by filling every moment with activity, interactions or entertainment is great.

And yet, it is the opposite that leaves me space to recognize the wealth and beauty of every moment of life I am given. So, I go back to five basics to keep me awake.

Beginner’s Mind for Mindfulness in Everyday Life

The opposite of mindfulness is mindlessness. Whereas mindfulness involves paying purposeful attention and meeting experience with openness and curiosity, mindlessness means functioning on automatic pilot—following routines without paying attention, without appreciating, and without awareness of what’s happening inside and around us.

It’s easy to be mindless and it takes effort to be mindful. Here are two ways to avoid mindlessness and increase mindfulness in everyday life:

Beginner’s mind: We usually perceive everyday people and situations without appreciation or awareness, and through the lens of what we think we already know or understand about them. In contrast, beginner’s mind means experiencing people and situations as though for the first time, without the filter of history and established beliefs.

There are several advantages to consciously cultivating beginner’s mind. First, it allows us to appreciate things and people we take for granted. Think about the first time you see your partner or a beloved family member after a long separation. You notice every new freckle or wrinkle; you appreciate his or her smile and scent—that is, you see and appreciate your loved one as if he or she were new. Think about when a friend comes to visit your town or city and points out and appreciates features you barely notice anymore because you see them every day; that’s beginner’s mind. When we talk about beginner’s mind in MBSR, I ask participants to try to experience their morning shower as if for the first time—to imagine being from a planet where there are no showers, and to feel the amazement of stepping into an abundant stream of hot steamy water.

Second, beginner’s mind can be helpful in difficult interpersonal situations. We usually see our friends, partner, boss, colleagues, parents, and children through the cloudy lens of our history with them and our feelings about them. Beginner’s mind means seeing people as they actually are in the moment and not making assumptions. I used this technique to cope with a former colleague who drove me crazy; rather than assuming that she would react negatively or do something irritating, I waited to see what would happen, as though I’d never interacted with her before. Using beginner’s mind allowed me to approach our interactions with greater equanimity and to avoid unnecessary advance frustration.

Break your routine. Routine promotes automatic behaviour, and automatic behaviour is the death of mindfulness; eating the same thing for breakfast, shopping at the same stores, and taking the same routes to work every day doesn’t exactly inspire careful awareness and attention. I recently read a book that suggested that novel experiences can promote mindfulness and add excitement and meaning to life.

In the weeks that followed, I made an extra effort to switch up some of my habits: I went into stores I’d never been into, tried food I hadn’t tried or hadn’t tried for years, switched up my running routes, and spent time with different people and in different parts of the city.

Did breaking out of my routine dispel mindlessness and increase meaning? Yes. When I was discovering an area of the city I’d never visited before or spending time with a new friend, I felt more present and aware. I had to pay more attention because I had no history to predict what would happen—and that was exciting. To be sure, it was also uncomfortable and effortful. At restaurants, my instinct is to order the same dish I always order so I can be sure I’ll like it; when I go running, I like to run my same old routes so I know the exact distance covered and the precise location of public drinking fountains. It wasn’t easy to change my routine, but it was worth it. Two experiences in particular stand out:

a) After years of dedicated avoidance, I discovered that I like fish after all and don’t hate cilantro;

b) I had an unforgettable run: I’ve been running on the mountain in Montreal for nine years and always run in the same direction around the loop at the top. One morning, I purposely ran around the loop in the opposite direction and was rewarded with a stunning sunrise—slanting through the trees and beaming in my face—that must have been at my back on every other morning run. It actually stopped me in my tracks; it was as it were my very first run on the mountain (beginner’s mind).

Bringing beginner’s mind to routine and breaking up routine are can’t-miss routes to mindful awareness and appreciation. The next time you interact with your boss, parent, partner, or child, imagine that you’re seeing him or her for the very first time. The next time you have to decide where to go, what to do, or what to eat, try something different.
What do you notice?

Sarah Roberts is a psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher at the Numinus Clinic.

Top 6 Apps for Your Mindfulness Practice

Here are some apps that people from around the Numinus community have found helpful for their Mindfulness practices.

1) Insight Timer:
You can see who is meditating with you around the world!

2) Mindapps – Mindfulness (blue icon)
American female voice which has the following:
– Arriving and centring
– Silent meditation
– Personalized mediation with timer, bells and/or centring (you decide)
– Guided Meditations led by the female voice 3, 5, 15 and 30 minutes
– Body scan 5 minutes

3) Mental Workout – Mindfulness meditaiton app (green icon)
Male American voice with several guids:
– Guided Meditations 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 minutes
– Guided relaxation (10 min body scan)

4) Getsomeheadspace.com app
10 free guided meditations then you have to sign up for the 365 day extravaganza!! (but it is excellent)

5) Mindfulness TS (orange icon)
– Some interesting exercises involving the touchscreen
– Also provides some feedback about the quality of your focus

6) Meditate (my personal favorite):
This is a very simple meditation timer. I really like it for the aesthetics of the design and the sound options available for marking the beginning and end of meditations.

Mindfulness Improves Insight Problem Solving

Eureka! Mindfulness improves insight problem solving.

When was the last time you had a eureka! or an aha! moment? When after struggling to find a solution to a difficult problem the answer dawned on you in a moment of clarity like a light switching on in your head? Perhaps you were trying to figure out how to resolve a sticky interpersonal dilemma or solve a challenging problem at work. Maybe you were trying to find the solution to 32-across in the Sunday New York Times crossword. Psychologists refer to these sorts of problems that lack a clear solution and require a shift in perspective to be solved as insight problems. If you ever wished you could be more insightful and creative in solving problems, recent research suggests that maybe you can be.

In psychology research people’s insight problem-solving abilities are usually assessed by asking them to find solutions to problems such as this: A prisoner was attempting to escape from a tower. He found a rope in his cell that was half as long enough to permit him to reach the ground safely. He divided the rope in half, tied the two parts together, and escaped. How could he have done this? Solving this and other insight problems requires more than just linear and logical thought and standard intelligence. It also requires the ability to reconsider how the problem is framed i.e. to “think outside the box” and consider multiple possible approaches to finding a solution. Once the problem is framed correctly, the solution pops out suddenly, creating the eureka or aha effect: the feeling the answer was right under one’s nose all along.

So how might we become more creative and insightful when faced with life’s puzzles? Two recently published studies in the journal Consciousness and Cognition show that mindfulness may help.

The first study showed that people with higher baseline levels of mindfulness (i.e. people who scored higher on a mindfulness questionnaire) had better scores on tests of insight problem-solving ability. This effect was not due to improved mood or the ability to solve other sorts (non-insight) of problems better. The second study provided evidence for a possible causal association between mindfulness and insight problem-solving ability and suggests that insight problem-solving abilities can be developed. This study showed that after a brief 10-minute mindfulness training session in which participants to bring non-judgmental awareness to bodily sensations, people’s performance on insight problems improved. They were able to solve more problems like the prisoner’s escape problem but not more non-insight problems.

So why might mindfulness help people solve insight problems? There are several possible reasons. One may be that when we practice mindfulness we practice beginner’s mind: seeing things with bare attention as if for the first time. When we are not mindful we may be constrained (or imprisoned!) by habitual ways of perceiving events in the world around us based on past experience. Usually when we divide a rope in half we cut it into two even pieces. Unless someone points out that an alternative is possible it’s easy become mentally trapped in the perspective that this is the only way to divide a rope! However, this habitual response will not free the prisoner. Solving an insight problem requires seeing things in a new way to generate a non-habitual response. If we were to see the rope with a beginner’s mind we might come to the realization that there is more than one way to divide a rope. Mindfulness may help us solve insight problems because it may allow us to “forget at the right time” and let go of our habitual ideas about how things are and how things can be done. Through practicing mindful awareness of the present moment we may allow become aware of a wider range of possibilities and enhance our creativity and insight problem-solving abilities. For example we may become aware of the possibility of unraveling the rope lengthwise and tying the remaining strands together. Similarly, bringing beginner’s mind to an interpersonal dilemma or a problem at work and practicing non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts and feelings about the situation may improve our perception and discernment of problem components and allow us to flexibly and creatively experiment with new ways of perceiving the situation (i.e. reframing). In this way regular mindfulness practice may not only improve our ability to solve tricky riddles but also to solve real-life insight problems.

Ostafin, B.D. & Kassman, K.T. (2012). Stepping out of history: Mindfulness improves insight problem solving. Conciousness and Cognition, 21 (2), 1031- 1036.