Alane Daugherty, Ph.D. is the author of “The Power Within: From Neuroscience to Transformation” and “From Mindfulness to Heartfulness: A Journey of Transformation through the Science of Embodiment.”
Growing up, Daugherty says she was “really in tune with the fact that there were a lot important things to be learned and gained from the universe and our surroundings that weren’t always necessarily through processing and thinking.” She was “really into the body” with a career path focused on physiology and exercise science. In her personal life, she got deeply into spirituality and meditation because she felt of the science, “this is all really important stuff but it’s only a piece of it.”
When research began to show “really profound effects” of meditation, “all of a sudden my two worlds connected,” Daugherty said.
“For me, mindfulness is only half of the story,” she said. “Mindfulness is most often defined as being nonreactive, nonjudgmental, and fully present in every moment, which opens up beautiful spaces. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean engagement.”
Daugherty’s work is based on mindfulness and heartfulness: “The idea is that we can become very nonreactive, nonjudgmental, and fully present in each moment and that opens up the space to intentionally engage.”
Daugherty said, “Every moment that we can really become mindful and present and heartful, we’re not being ravaged by past thoughts or future worries. We’re just really grounded in the present. The more we can be aware of that, and the more we can train ourselves to be aware of that, the more we really become capable of being in that space.”
She cautioned us to remember, however, that it is not human nature to be fully present 100% of the time. “If we’re blaming and shaming ourselves for not being there, that’s decidedly different from being mindful and heartful,” she said.
Daugherty suggests that those interested in the research supporting mindfulness read a variety. “What we know from the research is different types of practices exhibit different outcomes.” Her work tries to take existing research “and synthesize it and put it in a way that a lot of people can understand it. I try to be the bridge so I can make it really understandable and accessible.”
Daugherty says that mindfulness can be beneficial for women in particular. “We are so ravaged about worries of the future, about the past, about ‘Am I good enough? Am I not good enough?’ Especially women that are trying to make their way in fields or areas that aren’t traditionally female. There’s so much self-doubt and second guessing. That all comes from decidedly different places than being mindful.”
When we cultivate mindfulness and heartfulness, she explained, we are “not so driven by those anxieties and those perceptions. Especially when you’re talking about women in leadership roles or women in business, we’re in an environment that has not always been very open and receptive to us. The way we are wired is to be caretakers of so much that’s around us and when that pressure is to function like that as well as worry about exceeding, sometimes women sometimes think to make it in leadership, they need to turn off those nurturing parts of themselves. Which I think is not true. For a woman to be effective in leadership, she needs to bring the strengths that women bring, not pretend to be a male.” Daugherty said, “Once we are fully present, we can draw on very clear strengths that a woman possesses and come out of that place with a place of strength and clarity and groundedness. Instead of trying to pretend to be something we’re not, we can really draw down deep into our own inherent abilities.”
When asked what advice she has for someone just getting started with a mindfulness practice, Daugherty said, “Every moment of every day, we think we see reality but what we’re really seeing is everything from our programmed perceptions. When we can understand that and then when we can step back from those in a nonreactive, nonjudgmental state, and create a heartful full presence, then we’re no longer controlled by those perceptions and we do have a sense of clarity and a sense of groundedness. The more often we can do that, the more that becomes our operating system. We can begin to thrive the way we’re meant to thrive.”
When sharing her approach with other people, Daugherty spends time “working people through their own personal experience and really inviting participants to take a personal look at what in our own habits and ways of being is good for us and what in our habits and ways of being is not so good for us.” As a result, “people walk away with a global understanding and a deeper understanding of themselves and their own processes and then very tangible tools that are easy and doable for most of us in our culture.”
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