Inner knowing, or the 5 literacies of mindfulness

Peter Hofmann

The potential of mindfulness is much more than a practice in strengthening individuals to deal with stress, regulate their emotions and become happier.

Then most commonly used definition of Mindfulness is the one by Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the founders of secular mindfulness: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, in a non-judgemental and accepting way, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.” Daniel Rechtschaffen is one of the leading reference people in the field of mindfulness in education. The author of “The Way of Mindful Education” has run programs on and around mindfulness in hundreds of schools already in the US but also Europe. In his practice he has three strong principles: 1. To cultivate mindfulness in schools, the headmaster and teachers also need to engage with the practice; 2. A full program on mindfulness needs to address all “5 literacies of mindfulness”: somatic literacy (mindfulness of body); cognitive literacy (mindfulness of thoughts); emotional literacy (mindfulness of feelings); social literacy (interpersonal mindfulness); ecological literacy (mindfulness of interconnectedness). 3. Any program on mindfulness should always start with somatic and cognitive literacy.

I came across mindfulness for the first time in 2012. After five years of having lived in a small village on the coast of southern Italy, we moved back to resettle in the big city of Vienna, throwing me into great change and transformational process. Whilst also seeking for inspirations work-wise I came across Theory U, by then a very well-known model and practice for transformation processes on individual, organizational and systemic levels. In the middle of the five key phases of the Theory U process is a stage called “Presencing” – an art word combined of ‘present’ and ‘sensing’. In this phase one is invited to, “…go to the place of silence and let the inner knowing emerge.”

I was both puzzled and intrigued at the same time; I understood the words and they even resonated with me, but how do I actually do this? Together with other practices it was proposed to engage in a practice of mindfulness. So there I went!

I learnt to trust that my inner knowledge leads me to places, to people, to activities relevant for my process right now

At that time mindfulness for me was identical with meditation. So I started going to small retreats and seminars and developing a personal meditation practice. Sitting still on a cushion OK, but what to do with all these thoughts? And how in the best of cases, “… emerges inner knowing?”

After some time of practice informed by patience, acceptance and more teaching, I started to get a sense what this inner knowing could be about. Certainly I became clearer of what it is NOT: knowing generated through thinking. This is something I felt and still feel very comfortable with and drawn to, but for real transformational shifts it no longer helps by producing the same results, just in different shapes.

When mindfulness becomes an attitude it becomes a major factor in determining how one connects and interrelates with the world around us, near and far

So I learnt to trust. I learnt to trust that my inner (or intuitive) knowledge leads me to places, to people, to activities relevant for my process right now; without a clear plan, without clear objectives yet with a clear intent.

Thereafter I wanted to bring the quality of mindfulness into schools. I made myself familiar with the “ b – Mindfulness in Schools”-program (UK) and studied the work of Daniel Rechtschaffen, founder of the Mindful Education Institute in the US. It was through the engagement with these programs and making first experiences facilitating workshops with youngsters and teachers that I started to realize the full potential of the practice. When mindfulness beyond being a personal practice becomes an attitude; an attitude one brings ideally into all aspects of our life, it becomes a major factor in determining how one connects and interrelates with the world around us, near and far. When we manage to get some distance to the stories our mind is telling us constantly through our thoughts, a connection to intuitive or inner knowledge can appear; and then fruits such as compassion, trust, generosity, acceptance, non-judging and sense of interconnectedness can be harvested.

1. Where is the place of stillness and silence you regularly attend to?

2. How do you relate to the stories your thoughts are telling you every day?

3. Where is your source of intuitive or inner knowing?

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Innovative approaches in learning for Sustainability
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