“What are you doing?” It is a question often posed by Thich Nhat Hanh, a venerable Buddhist monk, teacher, poet, author and peace activist. “Thay,” as he is commonly called, interjects this query when he sees students engaged in a myriad of tasks that frequently cause their minds to wander, which could be as simple as washing dishes. Thay knows full well what they are doing, but the question serves as a prompt for them to focus and appreciate the moment. It is the essence of “mindfulness,” which is a practice that is rapidly gaining acceptance in the West and in the business world.
Many believe that mindfulness traces its roots to Buddhism and, essentially, is a form of meditation. However, one does not have to be a Zen master to embrace it and the basic tenets also can be found in Taoism, yoga, the writings of Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman, and Native American wisdom. Jon Kabat-Zinn, an acclaimed author and teacher, described the concept as follows in Wherever You Go, There You Are:
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