In an age where trends come and go, mindfulness has captured the hearts of many but also raised questions about its longevity. Is it just another passing fad, or does it possess a deeper significance in our lives and society? In this exclusive interview, we take a deep dive into the world of mindfulness with none other than Sapan Shrimal, the visionary creator behind the ground-breaking Mindfulness Index, known as MEx.
Sapan is not just a proponent of mindfulness; he is a true pioneer, leading the charge to demystify and quantify this age-old practice. With his wealth of knowledge, long practice and expertise, Sapan offers a unique perspective on the enduring value of mindfulness, dismantling preconceived notions and revealing its significance in our lives and society.
Question: Many people love Mindfulness, but at the same time many also consider it to be a
fad. What’s your thought on this?
Response: A fad is generally an overnight sensation, which spreads through hype rather than with real value and credible fundamentals. During the COVID era, we witnessed trends like fidget spinners that burst onto the scene but quickly faded away. Fads like this keep coming and going. It’s natural to inquire if Mindfulness is any different. Afterall, what big we can achieve with simply staying aware of the present moment? But let’s dive deeper. Mindfulness, unlike a fleeting fad, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. It began to gain scientific credibility around 50 years ago, thanks to Dr. John Kabat-Zinn’s pioneering work. Since then, it has steadily grown, with research papers, dedicated departments at prestigious institutions like MIT and Harvard, and numerous studies, including neurological research. Even highly evolved organizations like Google and SAP have embraced mindfulness. Google had a department of mindfulness, SAP has a CMO – chief mindfulness officer! In the world of sports, elite athletes practice it. Novak Djokovic has dedicated a significant amount of time to his mental training and has worked with experts to incorporate mindfulness. Quoting him, “I do it for about 15 minutes and it is as important to me as my physical training.” Over the last 50 years, Mindfulness has steadily grown with credible research and deep adoption; and it seems we have just scratched the surface. So, quite difficult to label Mindfulness as a fad; it’s here to stay and grow further.
Question: Mindfulness has been more about emotions and stress reduction. Can you share more about what you mean by Mindfulness beyond wellness?
Response: Around late 1970s, when Mindfulness started gaining scientific ground, the initial studies focused on stress. One of the techniques developed during that time –Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) – still continues to be the most quoted Mindfulness technique. No surprise that Mindfulness has got more associated with stress and emotional wellness.
But think about it. If mindfulness is about being present in the moment, isn’t it to do more with productivity, keen observation, sharp listening and deep insights; than about feeling calm for a few minutes? Mindfulness is actually a quality of mind denoted by sustained, effortless awareness. It enables you to maintain heightened awareness effortlessly for extended periods. This heightened awareness not only keeps you calm but also helps in various aspects of life, including work performance, self-management, and building better relationships.
Question: Mindfulness seems very subjective, even mystical sometimes. Can it be measured?
Response: You’re right; the subjectivity and mysticism around mindfulness have caused confusion. While most people’s experience with mindfulness has been quite rewarding, its conceptual understanding is still mystified. Contrast it with emotional intelligence (EI), which has a well-defined model and a measurement system. Mindfulness still lacks one, making it seem elusive.
Our idea behind developing Triple Trait Model of Mindfulness was to address this fundamental gap. Now we have a structured and comprehensive model of Mindfulness detailing its constituting elements – Awareness, Attention and Acceptance.
Besides model, Mindfulness lacked scientific measurement tools. This made it difficult to take up any structured development regime. It is almost like saying that one is on a weight loss journey without knowing what is the starting point and how they are progressing. It is all hazy. The critical aspect here is measurement. To improve oneself, you need to measure where you stand and from there on, track your progress. We developed MEx (Mindfulness Index), based on the Triple Trait Model, specifically to bring out an objective measure of Mindfulness level and to bring out comprehensive insights on one’s Mindfulness profile.
Question: It’s good to know my Mindfulness score. But can MEx (Mindfulness Index) really bring any tangible changes?
Response: This is a very important question. While it’s useful to know the scores, we need to go beyond. A report needs to give insights into the deep personality aspects and a clear way forward for further development.
About five years back when we started working on MEx, our core focus was to turn metrices into meaningful outcomes. Knowing your mindfulness score is just the beginning. MEx expands the mindfulness score into awareness, attention, and acceptance, and further divides each of these into internal and external traits. This not only shows where you stand currently but also what’s powering your Mindfulness and what’s pulling it down. It delves into your intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal faculties, providing insights into your strengths and areas for development. Finally, it provides personalized practical recommendations, making it actionable.
MEx isn’t just a static measurement but a catalyst for change. By helping individuals embrace mindfulness tools in their daily routines, it sets in motion a chain reaction that positively influences various aspects of their life. Stress reduction is often the first notable change, but it also visibly impacts productivity, innovation, team dynamics, inclusivity and conflict management.
At the organizational level, a mindful culture fosters higher performance, engagement, wellness and collaboration.
Question: Where all do you see the application of MEx?
Response: Currently, MEx is primarily helping organizational leaders in incorporating the peak leadership model of agility, insights, resilience and influence. MEx gets blended with leadership coaching and retreats.. We are also coming up with Organizational Mindfulness Index, to help organizations decipher how mindful are they, with specific insights on their strengths and development areas. We are also launching certified MEx coaching program to help HR professionals, coaches and mindfulness practitioners further enrich their solutions and contribution. This way, we hope to help a larger community of professionals in adopting Mindfulness in a systematic and scientific way. We hope to expand the application of MEx to a variety of domains, including healthcare, mental health, sports, performing arts, and even students. We are looking to partner with like-minded organizations on these initiatives.
As the world of work is evolving, organizations have begun to take pride in calling themselves Mindful Organizations. We would like to continue our catalyst role with the progressive organizations.
I must add that Tthe role of Mindfulness is not limited to corporations, rather it has a much pivotal role to play in society. As countries are going beyond GDP and looking at happiness index, we hope that soon cities and countries will compete based on their Mindfulness Index. Our vision is for MEx to become a powerful accelerator in creating a Mindful world for a thriving humanity.
We at Wrightree would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Sapan and his dedicated team for their time and expertise in this interview. Their insights on mindfulness have added depth and richness to this discussion, and their commitment to promoting mental well-being is truly commendable.
We look forward to continuing this important dialogue and exploring the transformative power of mindfulness further. This conversation gave us so much more to understand the deeper meaning of mindfulness and its wide applications. We hope to inspire one mind at a time towards creating a mindful world.