In this week's podcast Tim Cools speaks with Manoj Doss about the challenges in psychedelic science, and debunking central concepts in the psychedelic narrative.

– Manoj's Background
– Limitations of Psychedelic Science and Theory
– The Challenges of Translating Scientific Findings into Scientific Theory
– Understanding the Differences and Similarities Between the 'Mind' and the 'Brain'
– Debunking Neuroscientific Myths (example: The Default Mode Network and the 'Resting State')
– Psychopharmacology
– Concepts in science (e.g. proprioception, face processing, cognitive flexibility, memory…)
– Understanding Behavior and Perception Under the Influence of Psychedelics

About Manoj Doss
Manoj is a cognitive neuropsychopharmacologist at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins University. His research is at the intersection of cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychopharmacology with focuses on episodic memory and hallucinogenic drugs. Manoj utilizes complex cognitive paradigms, brain imaging, and computational modelling to explore what makes psychedelics unique compared to other classes of psychoactive drugs in terms of their basic and clinical mechanisms of action. Although Manoj is optimistic that psychedelics will soon have a place in psychiatry, he remains cautious of exaggerated claims and negligence to potential downsides.

About Tim Cools
Tim is a psychedelic integration specialist and legal psychedelic guide. He facilitates powerful, life-changing experiences for professionals, to help their professional lives come in alignment with personal ambition and values.

Tim is a Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teacher, a certified coach, and psychedelic advocate, educator and guide.

He founded Psychedelic Experience, an online non-profit platform for information surrounding psychedelic substances. It's a community based non-profit organization, created by and for psychedelic and plant medicine communities.

His personal interests are technology, meditation, metaphysical and eastern philosophies, shamanism and the healing power of nature and plants.


This week Tim Cools speaks with Don Gino Chaka-Runa, shaman, about the Andean worldview, working with plant medicines, and shamanic practice.

Don Gino's Background
Working With the Medicine
Peruvian and Shamanic Culture
The History and Uses of Ayahuasca
Don Gino's Spiritual Journey with Shamanism
The Responsibilities of A Shaman
Confronting Ourself with the Medicine

About Don Gino Chaka-Runa

Don Gino Chaka-Runa comes from Puno, the highlands of Peru and has extensive experience in working with Master Plants from the Peruvian Amazon and Andes.

This is the real deal: raw, ancient, powerful shamanism like no other out there. Discover why his ceremonies truly change people's lives and leave a deep, beautiful, permanent imprint in each and every one of them.

His grandfather was a Yatiri from the lineage of the Incas, which was the highest level for a Curandero or Healer. He solely spoke Quechua and passed away at the age of 100.

He initiated Don Gino in the Shamanic path at the young age of 15 and gave him the name of Chaka-Runa, which means The Bridge Man in Quechua. At that time he was introduced into the knowledge of Andean Cosmovision, Shamanism and the use of Sacred Medicine Plants.

Along his path following the Andean Ancient Shamanic Knowledge, he strongly felt the call of the Amazon and started doing Plant Medicine and Master Plants Dietas at the Munay Retreat in Pucallpa-Peru, headed by Don José Campos, by whom he was further trained.

Don Gino belongs among the Mestizo Maestros’ line. At the beginning of this lineage was Don Solon Tello, Don Guillermo Hojanama and Don José Campos (the first two already passed away). He also embraced the knowledge of the Shipibo lineage learning their practices and Icaros. 

Don Gino Chaka-Runa works in the Peruvian Amazon and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where he holds Plant Medicine and Master Plants Dietas.

Don Gino’s Shamanic work, based on ancient knowledge, includes the use of Plant Medicine,  Master Plants, Mapacho, Rapé, Kambo and Sananga. He also works with powerful Shipibo, Quechua and Spanish Icaros to create a unique healing vibration during ceremonies, bridging you to the spiritual realm.

His first value and priority is safety for everybody. Only in a safe space people are able to let go, and trust the Plant Medicine, allowing them to surrender and dive deep, which is necessary for the awakening process.

Don Gino’s honest and conscious healing work is renowned and acknowledged in several countries around the world, due to its unique style, which merges the Shipibo, Mestizo and Andean Shamanic knowledge of Peru.

But most importantly, he receives everyone with an open heart, and is always eager to personally solve any doubts or questions along the journey.


About Tim Cools

Tim is a psychedelic integration specialist and legal psychedelic guide. He facilitates powerful, life-changing experiences for professionals, to help their professional lives come in alignment with personal ambition and values.

Tim is a Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teacher, a certified coach, and psychedelic advocate, educator and guide.

He founded Psychedelic Experience, an online non-profit platform for information surrounding psychedelic substances. It's a community based non-profit organization, created by and for psychedelic and plant medicine communities.

His personal interests are technology, meditation, metaphysical and eastern philosophies, shamanism and the healing power of nature and plants.


In this week's episode, Tim Cools speaks with Gerardo Urias, author and writer, about the healing potentials of breathwork and psilocybin mushrooms. 

– Gerardo's background
– Taking back our mind with psychedelic mushrooms
– Breathwork and the Wim Hof method
– Breathwork and psilocybin
– Endogenous and Exogenous DMT
– Decriminalization of psilocybin in California
– The world opening up to psychedelics
– Combining Psychedelics, Breathwork, and Philosophy
– The psychedelic experience as (re-)birth, death and energy

About Gerardo Urias
Gerardo Urias grew up in San Diego, California where, at nineteen years old, he had his first psychedelic experience that would alter the course of his life forever. 

His recently published book, Taking Back My Mind: My Journey Out of Depression with Psilocybin Mushrooms, details his rise and fall of 2017 when, at the pinnacle of his successes, life delivered Gerardo some tough blows with a divorce, his fathers death, and major health issues. After losing everything and suffering a debilitating depression for ten months, in a matter of hours, psilocybin mushrooms once again put Gerardo back on track, dramatically and quickly altering the course of his life again, which he describes in his memoir. 

Gerardo is currently working on his second book, an updated second edition of Taking Back My Mind, as well as a documentary about his life and journey with psychedelics, recently filmed in various locations throughout Mexico. 

When Gerardo is in his hometown of San Diego, California, Gerardo teaches stress relief classes incorporating yoga, meditation, breathwork, and ice plunges, all important topics in his book. Gerardo also works as a volunteer for Decriminalize California, helping to gather signatures for the decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms in 2022 in California. With decriminalization right around the corner, Gerardo is working on opening psychedelic healing retreats in several locations throughout California incorporating the topics covered in Taking Back My Mind. He hopes to start running these healing retreats by the end of 2022.

To learn more about Gerardo Urias, follow his journey at, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and sign up for the Taking Back My Mind Blog & Newsletter to receive current news & updates on all things psychedelics, decriminalization efforts, psychedelic research, and health and wellness!

Help support Gerardo's mission to raise awareness for natural, alternative medicines and therapies for mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health here and here.

Help Gerardo raise awareness by purchasing a copy of Taking Back My Mind: My Journey Out of Depression with Psilocybin Mushrooms. 

About Tim Cools
Tim is a psychedelic integration specialist and legal psychedelic guide. He facilitates powerful, life-changing experiences for professionals, to help their professional lives come in alignment with personal ambition and values.

Tim is a Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teacher, a certified coach, and psychedelic advocate, educator and guide.

Furthermore, he founded Psychedelic Experience, an online non-profit platform for information surrounding psychedelic substances. It's a community based non-profit organization, created by and for psychedelic and plant medicine communities.

His personal interests are technology, meditation, metaphysical and eastern philosophies, shamanism and the healing power of nature and plants


In this week's podcast, Tim Cools speaks with Matt Pallamary, experienced psychonaut, psychedelic guide and psychedelic enthusiast, about different aspects of the shamanic experience.

– Matt's background
– Learning different lineages of shamanic practice
– The different aspects of plant medicines: history, anthropology and biology
–  Studying the Shadow
– The Spirits of plant medicines and animals
– The wave of 'guru-itis'
– Challenges in the Commercialization of Plant Medicines
– The Shamanic Dieta
– Shamanism is Energy
– Understanding our ego and our essence
– Embracing the universal aspect of different perspectives

About Matt Pallamary

Matthew J. (Mateo) Pallamary frequently visits the mountains, deserts, and jungles of North, Central, and South America pursuing his studies of shamanism for over twenty five years. He has seventeen books in print in multiple genres and has taught a Phantastic Fiction workshop at the Southern California Writers Conference and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference for over thirty years.

Mateo has also lectured at a number of other conferences and conventions throughout the United States and was a featured lecturer and performer at the Mysteries of the Amazon exhibit at the Appleton Museum and other venues throughout Florida as well as The Larson Gallery and other venues  in Yakima Washington.

About Tim Cools

Tim is a psychedelic integration specialist and legal psychedelic guide. He facilitates powerful, life-changing experiences for professionals, to help their professional lives come in alignment with personal ambition and values.

Tim is a Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teacher, a certified coach, and psychedelic advocate, educator and guide.

He is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Tools Of Awareness, a personal development center focussed on combining psychedelics and mindfulness to grow personal and interpersonal awareness though (online) courses and retreats.

Furthermore, he founded Psychedelic Experience, an online non-profit platform for information surrounding psychedelic substances. It's a community based non-profit organization, created by and for psychedelic and plant medicine communities.

His personal interests are technology, meditation, metaphysical and eastern philosophies, shamanism and the healing power of nature and plants


In this week's podcast, Tim Cools speaks with Sarah Tilley, psychedelic guide and integration specialist, about the many ways to practice sexual wellness and integrating couples therapy with psychedelics.

– Sarah's background
– Renegotiating the boundaries of the relationship with psychedelics
– Does being in a relationship prevent you from going deeper?
– The magic of psychedelic journeys with a partner
– Psychedelic therapy in legal countries
– Safety and credibility in research is a priority
– Erotic Intelligence
– Themes in Couples Therapy
– Medicine gives the opportunity to create a new story
– Other ways to achieve healing, continuing the journey beyond psychedelics
– Practices for improving sexual life
– Eroticism in the Psychedelic Experience
– Splitting up after psychedelic couples therapy
– Open Monogamy
– The Couple's Retreat (11th-15th April, 2022)

About Sara

Psychedelic guide, integration specialist and clinical therapist specialising in psychedelic therapy, modern relationships and sexual wellness. She is a long term student of Esther Perel and has been working with plant consciousness and altered states for 20 years with individuals and groups.

Expert in facilitating awareness to the root cause of a problem using a complex method of awareness rooted in regression, hypnosis techniques, breath-work, guided visualisation and psychedelics for complex mental, emotional, physical and spiritual disease.

Currently wellness director for Beautiful Space.

She has spoken at the NHS and the UN on topics of sustainable healthcare, complementary medicine and women’s equality, involved with the Women’s Equality Party and as a popular figure in the UK press for sex equality, consensual non monogamy and female empowerment.

Sarah has worked in education for over 30 years and currently writes and facilitates her own programs of relationship wellness for individuals, women, couples and mixed groups on and offline.

She has transferred her many years as a professional classical violinist to creating music journeys and soundscapes using generative music.
The many disciplines of philosophy and spirituality interwoven into her work, come from the deep roots of her inherited Asian history. Unraveling the story of her childhood has been a life long quest into shamanism, taoism, human consciousness and attachment theory.

About Tim Cools

Tim is a psychedelic integration specialist and legal psychedelic guide. He facilitates powerful, life-changing experiences for professionals, to help their professional lives come in alignment with personal ambition and values.

Tim is a Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teacher, a certified coach, and psychedelic advocate, educator and guide.

He is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Tools Of Awareness, a personal development center focussed on combining psychedelics and mindfulness to grow personal and interpersonal awareness though (online) courses and retreats.

Furthermore, he founded Psychedelic Experience, an online community-based non-profit platform for information surrounding psychedelic substances. 

His personal interests are technology, meditation, metaphysical and eastern philosophies, shamanism and the healing power of nature and plants


‘We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.’

– Albert Einstein

What is mindfulness?

Before we look into the link between mindfulness and creativity, let’s first define what mindfulness is.

A simple definition

Being mindful refers to one’s ability to be fully present and aware, without any interpretation or judgement.

Cultivating a state of mindfulness tends to be done by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly, and non-judgmentally acknowledging and accepting any feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations that may arise. Although it is a basic and innate human ability that we all share, reaching this mental state usually requires quite some effort at first.

Mindfulness and meditation: are they one and the same?

The terms “mindfulness” and “meditation” are often used in a similar context, so confusion is understandable; but while they embody many similarities and have incredibly intertwined practical applications, the terms are not exactly interchangeable.

You could see them as mirror-like reflections of each other, with the most obvious difference being that mindfulness is a state of mind that can be applied to any situation throughout the day, whereas meditation tends to be practiced for a specific amount of time only.

Learn more about mindfulness exercises for at the workplace.

Focused Attention and Open Monitoring: the two general categories of meditation

Focused Attention (FA)

Focused attention meditation involves focusing on one object or thought, like the flame of a candle or the repeating of a mantra.

This type of meditation helps to foster a state of stillness and is therefore also called clear mind meditation. Because of its effectiveness in preventing distractions, FA mediation is especially helpful for beginners.

Open Monitoring (OM)

Open monitoring meditation, on the other hand, requires unfocused thought and entails opening the mind and being receptive to all of the feelings, thoughts, or sensations that are present in one’s body.

Although the meditator does not purposely engage in thinking, thoughts will inevitably arise anyway. Whenever this happens, the thoughts are not stopped in a forceful way, but are merely observed with a non-judgmental attitude until they disappear. This practice can help practitioners understand that they are not their minds as it allows them to see that the mind has a will of its own at times.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a unique blend that encompasses techniques from both focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation. The goal is to remain aware and non-judgmental of whatever is experienced.

Usually, an attentional anchor point is used on which the meditators put their attention, like breathing, for example. At the same time, they also remain aware of their surroundings and have both a peripheral and internal awareness of all of the different sensations, thoughts, and feelings that are present in the body. All of this is done in a non-reactive way and practitioners refrain from casting judgment and simply accept everything that happens around and inside of them.

Mindfulness meditation helps people to accept rather than react and allows them to gain perspective on irrational and self-defeating thoughts. Because of this, it is often used in combination with psychotherapy.

What is creativity?

A simple definition

Creativity is a complex and multi-faceted concept for which an all-encompassing definition is hard to find, but we can describe it as “a phenomenon whereby something novel (i.e., original and unexpected) and appropriate (i.e., valuable and adaptive concerning task constraints) is created.” (source)

The connection between mindfulness and creativity

Numerous studies have shown that mindfulness has significant effects on both our body and our mind and can thus greatly affect our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. From better sleep, reduced stress levels, and a boosted immune system on a physical level, to improved mood and decreased anxiety, rumination, and job burnout on a psychological level, to name just a few.

Another aspect of mindfulness that is increasingly garnering more interest is its effect on and connection to creativity. However, as we currently do not yet have one definite and clear explanation of what exactly creativity is, studying this connection is not an easy task. Due to this lack of conceptual clarity, researchers tend to avoid addressing creativity as a whole and rather focus on its particular subcomponents and the different and dissociable processes underlying it.

One of the most well-known studies is the 2012 study by Lorenza Colzato and Dominique Lippelt in which they investigated the impact of focused-attention meditation and open monitoring meditation (which are both related to mindfulness) on creativity tasks tapping into convergent and divergent thinking. Another defining study is that of Baas in which he explored the importance of specific mindfulness skills in the creative process.

Convergent and divergent thinking

The terms convergent and divergent thinking were first coined by the psychologist J.P. Guilford in 1956.

Divergent thinking is the process of exploring and creating multiple possible and unique ideas. It fits best with problems that are open-ended and requires a context where more than one solution is correct. In contrast, convergent thinking represents a style of thinking that involves generating one right solution to a well-defined problem. It emphasizes speed and high accuracy and relies heavily on logic and less on creativity.

Although divergent thinking is definitely the more creative one of the two, true creativity requires both thinking processes as they, in fact, complement each other: divergent thinking helps us to generate novel ideas whereas convergent thinking evaluates them and selects the most useful ones. Or in other words: a creative and effective problem-solving process consists of divergent synthesis followed by convergent analysis.

What effect does mindfulness have on convergent and divergent thinking?

As mentioned earlier, mindfulness meditation combines techniques of both focused attention meditation and open monitoring meditation. 

Through their study, Colzato and Lippelt discovered that open monitoring meditation is highly effective in stimulating divergent thinking. This came as no surprise. More unexpectedly, however, was the discovery that focused attention meditation did not sustain convergent thinking. The researchers suggest that this could be because the meditation practice affected convergent thinking in two opposing ways due to the combination of its focused character and its relaxing aspect. Furthermore, both types of meditation techniques tend to elevate mood in comparable ways, which facilitates divergent thinking but not convergent thinking.

The importance of specific mindfulness skills in the creative process

A couple of years later, psychologist Matthijs Baas expanded on Colzato and Lippelt’s work and demonstrated that of mindfulness’s many different key elements and skills, only one is a clear predictor of creativity (source). 

The mindfulness-related skills he assessed were:

  • observation (i.e., the ability to observe internal phenomena and external stimuli);
  • acting with awareness (i.e., engaging in activities with undivided attention);
  • description (i.e., the ability to describe phenomena without analyzing conceptually);
  • and accepting without judgment (i.e., being non-evaluative).

What Baas discovered was that the ability to observe and attend to various stimuli was the only consistently reliable predictor of creativity. This observation skill, which is enhanced by open monitoring meditation, improves working memory, increases cognitive flexibility, and reduces cognitive rigidity and according to Baas, it is closely related to openness to experience, one of the five personality traits of the Big Five personality theory that is believed to be one of the most robust indicators of creative success. (source).

This shows that instead of a straightforward and all-encompassing positive correlation, there are actually particular mindfulness traits that stimulate creative performance. If you want to improve your creativity, it is, therefore, recommendable to focus on sharpening these specific skills.

Three ways to cultivate creativity

Besides honing your observation skills, there are many other ways to cultivate creativity.

Make time for the Aha! moments

Nowadays, we are constantly doing something. Be it checking emails and social media or worrying about what we will eat later tonight. This is detrimental to our creative flow as it is in states of daydreaming when we are most receptive to new ideas.

An Aha! moment (also known as the eureka effect) is a moment of sudden insight or discovery which usually occurs when your thinking brain is switched off.

Eurekas stem from new neural connections that are formed in your brain. They need time to incubate and usually happen on a subconscious level, when your brain is given the chance to idly integrate new information with existing knowledge. This way it can notice patterns and establish new connections that were not obvious to your conscious mind.


Try to build a habit of making time to allow your mind to roam freely. This can be done while showering, for example, or while going for a run.
Do make sure that these moments are not used to force creative insight as this will most likely have the opposite effect. Eurekas are usually not discovered deliberately and trying to do so can inadvertently stifle the entire process.

Boost your mood

The biggest benefit of uplifting your mood is that it improves your overall well-being and health, but it also affects many other facets of your daily life, such as your creativity. 

While feeling good may not stimulate convergent thinking, other aspects of the creative process, such as divergent thinking, greatly benefit from it.

Our mood influences our perception to a great extent and when we are in a relaxed state of mind, we tend to look at things in a different light and are often able to come up with new and unique ways of approaching a problem.


There are numerous ways to increase your mood, and mindfulness is just one of many. However, thanks to mindfulness’s innate relaxing character and its ability to help us become more aware of our constant mind wandering, it is by far the best tool at our disposal as awareness is the first step to change.
Deliberately letting our mind roam freely can be beneficial, but unintentional mind wandering, on the other hand, tends to quickly turn into rumination or worry. Our ability to think about what has, will, and might happen is a cognitive achievement than only we humans share; but, unfortunately, this achievement comes at an emotional cost and leaves many of us unhappy, worried, and anxious.
Being able to consciously choose whether we are fully present or absent-minded can, therefore, have a very positive impact on our well-being.

Practice later thinking techniques

Lateral thinking, also known as thinking outside the box, refers to the mental process of solving a problem or generating novel ideas and solutions by looking at something from a new and unique perspective. It tends to be creative, illogical, and unconventional and is the opposite of vertical or logical thinking.

The term was coined by Edward De Bono in 1967 in his book The Use of Lateral Thinking.


The PMI (plus, minus, interesting) strategy
PMI is a useful brainstorming, decision making, and critical thinking tool that encourages participants to look at things from more than one viewpoint by listing the positive, the negative, and the interesting.
The six thinking hats
The Six Thinking Hats model is a metaphorical representation of different thinking styles.
The ability to change the way you think about problems can lead to great discoveries and sounder and more resilient decisions. This is why “putting on a different hat” (i.e., examining things from different viewpoints) can be so beneficial.

It’s a common misconception that mindfulness requires you to sit with your eyes closed for hours, preferably surrounded by crystals and incense. But that’s luckily not the case, practising mindfulness does not require a lot of time, and you can even practice it at the workplace. Some companies: like Apple, Google, and Salesforce have dedicated meditation rooms. Although you can practice mindfulness easily at your own desk without the need for a formal meditation posture or a dedicated room.

Mindfulness is giving full attention to what is present right now, with full acceptance and without judgment. This can be practised many times a day, and the workplace is a perfect environment to do so. Making the practice a continued habit improves attention and productivity while reducing stress and reactivity. 

Practising mindfulness several times a day at the workplace is a really powerful way to reduce your overall level of stress, which builds up from when we wake up. You can practice mindfulness even when your time is limited! You might find yourself waiting for a meeting, a task on the computer or in the bathroom. Here, you will find 5 easy exercises you can implement throughout your work day. They will train your attention by bringing it to various objects, even while at work!

Awareness of the breath

Bringing your attention to the breath is the easiest and most accessible attention exercise. The breathing is both a conscious and subconscious action, it’s a movement in the body that’s always there. You can practice this several times a day

Take a deep breath into your belly while giving full attention to the sensation in the body. Notice how your belly and chest expands, then slowly exhale. You can repeat this a couple of times if desired.

Mindful Walking

Mindful walking is an exercise which can be done at several locations, this of course includes the workplace. When you need to walk to a meeting room, the lunch room, a colleague in another office, or even when you walk to the bathroom, you can practice mindful walking. 

The practice is that you bring your attention fully to the walking itself. Try to notice how your body feels as you walk, notice the movement of the muscles, take in the sights around you and be fully aware of your surroundings.

3-Step Arrival

The 3-step arrival is a short, more formal, exercise which you can use throughout the day. You can use it whenever you feel you have been triggered and need to relax. It only requires a few minutes of time to complete the 3 steps, 1 minute per step is already a good start.

The three steps of the practice:

  1. Bring your attention to whatever is happening on the inside at this moment. You might notice some persistent thoughts, strong sensations in the body or a strong emotion. Try to look at it from a distance and accept whatever you notice, without judgment and the need to change it.
  2. Narrow your focus to observe only the breath now. Observe how the breath moves in and out of the body, and when you notice you start thinking about your breath you redirect your awareness again to the breath.
  3. Expand your attention to include the whole body. Notice sensations that are present without the need to think about them. 

You can find an audio version of the meditation here: XXX

Check-in to a meeting

Most meetings require you to prepare by using your mind and logical thinking in order to be up-to-date with the content of the meeting. But you can also prepare yourself for a meeting by checking-in to yourself, in order to get more out of your time together. 

  1. Bring your attention to how you feel in the present moment. Not trying to change anything, while you observe briefly your body, thoughts and emotions.
  2. Reflecting on what the goal of the meeting is and how you want to be perceived by others.
  3. Set an intention to stay present during the meeting.
  4. Bring your attention to the full body and the surrounding room.

You can practice this by yourself, or in group, which helps to get everybody on the same page. Deloitte Assurance and Advisory Australia has a recorded pre-meeting meditation which you can use as an example.

Mindful Listening

How often are we really listening to someone when we have a conversation? A lot of times we’re more busy in our heads with how we will respond or with something unrelated, instead of fully listening to what a person has to say verbally, but also bodily.

With mindful listening we give our attention fully to the other person and what he says, while staying connected to what the impact is for ourselves. So you’re not thinking about what happened before or the email you need to send later. But you are fully focussed on the words someone is saying and what his body is telling you. This will result in a more productive meeting while building a stronger connection between you and your conversational partner. 


Practising Mindfulness does not require a lot of time, nor does it require you to sit still in a difficult posture with your eyes closed. You can easily tap into the benefits of Mindfulness several times a day at the workplace. I hope you enjoy these easy exercises, and look forward to hearing your feedback in the comments!

Mindfulness is more present than ever in the media and the workplace. Still, many people have no idea what mindfulness is, or they have a lot of wrong ideas. In this article, I discuss what Mindfulness is, how it fits into our working environment, and what science says about it.

So, what is Mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is a practice in which you give attention to your thoughts, emotions and your body. Practitioners develop awareness of everything that happens in our busy minds and bodies, and how we relate to the world around us. They report improvement in attention, relations and resilience to stress.

Through the practice and awareness of the present moment, practitioners learn to accept their feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This acceptance leads to more choice in how one will react in difficult situations and conversations.

Mindfulness, developing awareness of thoughts, emotions and body sensations
Mindfulness- developing awareness of thoughts, emotions and body sensations.

Why do people start practising Mindfulness? 

The most common reasons people start practising mindfulness are to feel more calm and relaxed, and for better concentration. This is really helpful for a lot of people, but others also look for more serious relief. Most commonly they seek to reduce anxiety, regulate emotions more effectively, and to be able to cope with difficult thoughts. 

What does science say?

Since the 1970s researchers have  been interested in Mindfulness. By now over 7000 papers related to Mindfulness are available in PubMed and this number is growing each year. Reviews of the studies report reduced anxiety, depression, and stress associated with completing a formal Mindfulness course. Because participants gain more insight into what is going on from the inside they become less reactive to triggers of stress. This also leads to more compassion and mutual understanding in communication.

More benefits of Mindfulness are validated by science, and are covered in the rest of the article.

Who practices Mindfulness?

All kinds of people practice mindfulness, regardless of occupation, religion or political preference. They all have in common that they want to learn more about how their inner world operates and how to gain more control of it.

Even Silicon Valley has started introducing Mindfulness into the workplace. Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion are the core mental qualities managers and executives need to develop in the 21st century according to the book The Mind of the Leader. No wonder many companies integrate Mindfulness into their culture these days. Employees of Salesforce, Google, Yahoo, Nike, Pearson, and HBO have access to meditation courses and meditation rooms at work.

It’s not only tech-professionals who turn to Mindfulness and meditation. More than 80% of the world-class performers Tim Ferris interviewed for his book Tools of Titans had some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice.

In a medical setting, Mindfulness is taught to people who suffer from chronic diseases, depression, and cancer. In countries like England and India, schools systematically teach mindfulness and are setting up their students to become emotionally intelligent.”

Read on to learn more about how mindfulness is practised, how it helps us to become better leaders in the workplace and what science says about it. Or book a spot for one of my Free Online Introduction Session if you want to experience what Mindfulness is all about, instead of reading dry material

What is my relation to Mindfulness

I’ve been practising Mindfulness since 2010, I started mainly to gain more control over my thoughts and emotions. But had to take a deeper dive into my Mindfulness practices while facing severe physical issues and the resulting psychological ones. After 8 months of having severe health issues and pain, which somehow were not diagnosable by the many doctors I visited, I got a diagnosis of Post-Infectious Fatigue Syndrome. 

A chronic diagnosis. Something that probably stays for a lifetime. It was, as you can imagine, a hard nut to crack. Mindfulness helped me cope with the negative thoughts, emotions, and bodily pain related to the whole process. I learned to accept every aspect of my life in which I had no control, like decreased health and fitness and the outlook of having this for the rest of my life.

Not that I gave up hope, I started to research and implement everything I could to improve my health situation. I’m proud that I made huge progress in my recovery and I’m able to enjoy life just as it is in the present moment.

Mindfulness helped me so much that I decided to teach the practice of Mindfulness to others, in the way that I would like to learn it. From a rational and scientific perspective but still reaching to the depths and warmth of the practice. If you want to read more about how it helped me you can take a look at the about page.

How to practice mindfulness?

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon

Mindfulness is experiential. You can only learn it through practise. When practising mindfulness we can make a distinction between formal practice and informal practice.

Formal Mindfulness practice consists of exercises in which the attention is trained by focussing on different objects. Many types of exercise exist, ranging in length from a couple of minutes to over an hour. Introduction exercises bring the attention to the breath and the body. More advanced exercises expand this attention to include sounds, thoughts, and emotions. These exercises are mostly guided by a live teacher or by audio recordings. Most people listen to the guidance of these with their eyes closed to avoid distraction. Although, depending on the exercise, someone with experience can also practice without guidance.

Informal Mindfulness practice is about practising mindfulness during day-to-day activities. It helps to create moment-to-moment awareness of what is going on inside us. For example, it can be practised during walking, sports, driving and eating. It can even be practised during social events and conversations. This is where the magic starts to happen. You become less reactive to stress and are able to respond from a balanced state of mind, instead of getting caught up in your emotions.

Moment-to-moment awareness throughout the day.

How to learn Mindfulness?

Mindfulness practice can be learned in various ways, the most common are meditation apps and courses.

  • Mindfulness and medical centres all over the world organize live in-person courses. These courses are mostly spread out over several weeks. Mindfulness teachers lead the courses in groups that vary from a few people to 30-40 people. A big advantage is the live support of the teacher and the group while going through the process of learning Mindfulness.
  • Some centres and Mindfulness teachers also give Live online courses. People attend from the comfort of their own homes but also have valuable interaction with their teacher to optimize their learning of the practice. You can attend and practice from wherever you are, while still having the personal support from a teacher and the group.
  • Meditation apps like Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer (my favourite) are good tools to get an introduction to Mindfulness and all kinds of meditations. They contain various recordings of guided meditations and courses.
  • Several good quality pre-recorded Mindfulness courses exist online, some are even free. Palouse Mindfulness is probably the best known one. And the De-Mystifying Mindfulness course is gaining more and more popularity lately. It’s obvious that this approach is very cost-efficient.
  • At the workplace different forms of Mindfulness courses and workshops exist, both online and in-person. They range from a short introduction session, to multiple day workshops, to full 8-week courses.

When you consider learning Mindfulness there are a couple of things to take into account:

  • The willingness to invest time to learn the practice. The longer the program, the more impact it has on a person. But take into account that personal practice at home and the attitude towards the practice is an even more important factor to success. Participants are suggested to practice daily at home for 30 to 45 minutes over the duration of the course.
  • Do you want it to learn by yourself, or do you want the support of an experienced teacher. The downside of learning by yourself is that this approach lacks support from an experienced guide, which can be necessary if one gets deeper into the practice, as explained more in the Is Mindfulness For Everybody? section below.
  • Where do you want to study? Do you want to meet people in-person and practice in a group? Or do you want to learn from the safety of your home, without the need to get stuck in traffic.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course is a standardized 8-week course and the oldest on the market. The MBSR courses can be attended in person or online and are considered the “Gold standard” in the medical world. They are also the most researched format in the western world.

The MBSR course is developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society in Massachusetts. Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He was the first to introduce Mindfulness in conventional medical settings in the 1970s. Based on his studies of Buddhist meditation he created an 8-week meditation course in a scientific context. He later removed all references to Buddhism and this course became the 8-weeks MBSR course, now taught all over the world.

You can read more on available on-demand courses for professionals on my website if this has sparked some interest.

Mindfulness against workplace stress

“Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.” 

― Meghan M. Biro

In Flanders only about half (49,6%) of the jobs are labelled as ‘workable’ according to recent studies into stress by the government (October 2019). In the U.K. a staggering 79% of the employees experience work-related stress. Even more concerning, in the U.S. 75% to 90% of doctor’s visits are related to stress-related complaints. While 80% of the U.S. workforce reports feeling stressed because of ineffective company communication.

Short term stress is related to many negative side effects such as: agitation, bad mood, worry, and a whole range of other emotional and cognitive problems. But it’s not limited to emotional and mental problems. Through the mind-body connection stress has an impact on a physical level as well as a mental one and impacts all organs in the body. Chronic exposure to stress is related to cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal problems, mental health issues- the list goes on and on.

Mindfulness gives people awareness of how stress is triggered in the mind and therefore in the body. Practitioners become aware of its negative impacts, both short and long term. With this awareness comes freedom to choose to reduce the triggers and the impact of the triggers.

A review of 209 scientific studies with over 12 thousand subjects validates the idea that Meditation reduces stress. They found that it does not only reduce stress, but also anxiety and depression and confirms it is an effective treatment for various psychological problems. A Cleveland Clinic study also found that Meditation at work reduces stress and boosts morale, showing a 31% decrease in stress levels and a 28% increase in vitality- a measure of how energized a person feels throughout the workday.

Mindfulness not only has an effect on a psychological level, but also improves physical health. It reduces cortisol production and improves autonomic balance and sympathetic nervous system reactivity.

Mindfulness in leadership

Companies worldwide implement Mindfulness into their culture these days. Big giants like Apple, Google and Salesforce, McKinsey & Co, have meditation rooms in their offices and others provide free Meditation courses for their employees. Google even developed its own Mindfulness program, Search Inside Yourself, which is taught all over the world. They aim to “teach practical mindfulness, emotional intelligence and leadership tools to unlock your full potential at work and in life.”

If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.

― Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was probably one of the first professional leaders to adapt meditation to the work environment. His own practice was based on Zen meditation. Jobs was a dedicated practitioner and claimed that it helped him to tap into his intuition to make radical business decisions. He also talked about how it enabled him to deliver the simplest designs for Apple’s products.  

Bill Gates says he uses mediation to improve his focus and to step back and get some ease with whatever thoughts or emotions are present.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

― George Bernard Shaw

There is a big discrepancy in how leaders and employees sense their engagement in a company. 77% of leaders think they do a good job of engaging their people. Yet 88% of employees say their leaders do a bad job with engagement. Even worse is the finding that 65% of employees would forego a pay raise to see their leaders fired.

Jacqueline Carter, together with Harvard Business Review, did an assessment of over 35,000 leaders in over 72 different countries. Based on the research she called the situation a leadership crisis. The research found that being mindful, selfless and compassionate are the essential traits of leaders in the 21st century. It also found that leaders who have higher emotional intelligence do a much better job helping people to find meaning, purpose, connection, and genuine happiness in their work. These are the traits one develops while practising mindfulness.

Even more research has been done on mindfulness and leadership. A review of 19 studies indicated encouraging signs that mindfulness and meditation interventions may improve aspects of leaders’/managers’ well- being and resilience, and leadership capability.

Would you like to learn more about how to engage your team with more awareness and a Mindful approach? My most efficient offering is 1-on-1 leadership coaching, for the leaders of the 21-century!

Is Mindfulness For Everybody?

Like all types of training, Mindfulness should be approached carefully. You don’t run a marathon without proper preparation and a careful constructed training plan. The same applies for Mindfulness, and mediation in general.

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Albert Einstein

When more awareness is gained about internal processes of the mind and what the current state of the body is, people might feel discomfort at first. Reactions to specific circumstances might not be how they want them to be. And when the body is observed regularly and then the body neglected for a while, a need for attention might become visible. This is quite common and part of the process of gaining more awareness. If you wouldn’t become aware of these things, you wouldn’t be able to change the way you (re)act and how you relate to these situations.

Starting this process requires some courage to become more familiar with your inner world, As well as the willingness to change. This will lead you to change how you react to stressful situations and to take more care of your body. Your behaviour becomes more aligned with your values, and in supporting a healthy body.

Some people are advised not to participate in a Mindfulness course or retreat. Especially people with severe mental issues like psychosis and schizophrenia. For people with other issues, like cancer, substance abuse or severe trauma, specific mindfulness courses exist and are given in a medical setting.


I hope you have gained a better understanding now of what mindfulness is about, and how it can fit into our workplaces. If you want to learn more, please have a look at my online courses or contact me directly with any questions.