You Can Weather The Storms In Your Mind With Simple Mindfulness Practices

by | Uncategorized

You awake to the sun streaming through your windows after a good night’s sleep and you begin to get ready for the day. You feel calm and happy. Then, the phone rings with an emergency message from your co-worker that means the likely destruction of the project you have been working on for 6 months. And, your four year old wakes up cranky and slightly feverish which means no preschool and you now need to find alternative care for her. Your heart starts beating louder, and you begin to feel the all-too-familiar panic setting in. Everything seems to switch into hyperdrive with your mind racing for solutions amid the inner critic thoughts that are muddying the waters.

 

Sound familiar? In the blink of an eye, events seem to have the power to flip us from calm to crazy. We lose sight of everything except the immediate, unexpected event. We let ourselves become less of who we are and, as a result, we often don’t make the best decisions at a time when we need to make good decisions. Our mind’s ability to create excessive worry and anxiety hijack our capabilities to be focused, clear and compassionate.

Fortunately, we can begin to interrupt this conditioned behavior with a few simple practices:

  1. Notice that you are beginning to get overwhelmed. Mindfulness training teaches you to pay attention to the way your body experiences stress. Do your neck muscles get tight? Do you clench your jaw? Do you get queasy? These physical sensations are ‘early warning signals’ that tell you that you need to de-escalate so you don’t react badly.
  2. Learn simple mindfulness practices to help you regain a sense of stability. I teach Purposeful Pauses as powerful ways to interrupt the mind’s ability to generate excessive stress, and cloud our ability to see things clearly. Purposeful Pauses can be a simple as feeling the sensations of your breath for a few minutes, or walking down the hall paying attention to the feelings of your feet as you move. Learn more about Purposeful Pauses at the end of this post.
  3. As you begin to feel more centered and calm, take a few moments to challenge some of the thoughts and worries that were arising. How many of them are true? Is the evaluation of ‘disaster’ necessarily true? What is called for now (rather than the reaction you were about to do)?
  4. On an ongoing basis, a good way to meet stress differently is to try to keep things in perspective by ending each day with a journal entry noting 3 things for which you are grateful. Try not to repeat anything and see how many days you can go. I suspect you will be surprised.

Why Should I Meditate? For Starters, Here’s 3 Reasons

by | Uncategorized

Reason #1 : Resilience

Burning a candle at both ends is not sustainable, and you know it. Your body and mind tell you in clear messages when you need to recharge. Here are some common signs that something has to give: trouble sleeping, headaches, muscle pain, impatience, silly mistakes, zoning out in meetings, struggling to pay attention. Daily meditation is a simple way to cultivate resilience and encourage your body and mind to deeply relax. In the complexity of our lives today, this is not a ‘nice to have’, it is an essential part of living well.

 

Reason#2: Clarity

In this world of continuous distractions, we rarely pay full attention to anything. It is easy to become conditioned to a certain way of living and thinking, especially when we are only partially present for our lives. But to grow and to be creative, we need to see clearly the areas where we, or our organizations, are stuck. We need to see where courageous leadership is needed to break the status quo. And to do so, we need to see with greater clarity and wisdom. Meditation practice teaches us to cultivate the spaciousness we need to tap into those innate abilities of the mind. Little by little, we begin to become adept at noticing our own biases and barriers, and at learning to quiet the busy mind so that our wisdom can be heard.

Reason #3: Compassion

More than at any other time in my life, the ability of meditation to teach us about compassion is sorely needed. Cultivating compassion for ourselves and others reminds us of our shared humanity and our inter-connectivity. During the height of the pandemic, we saw amazing examples of compassion. And, you may have noticed how such acts had the ability to touch your heart. Not just figuratively, but you may have noticed that hearing/seeing such stories created a warmth in the center of your chest. Compassion is powerful. Compassion in meditation is the invitation to deeply understand what is here, and to open yourself up to the pull toward an act of kindness. And you should never underestimate the ripple effect of an act of kindness.

Meditation is training for your mind/heart. It requires the same commitment as training your body, and it has transformative benefits for you and for those around you.

To Learn More Join us in October for the:

One Day eLearning Workshop: Mindful Leadership to Build Resilience©

 

3 Courageous Questions To Eliminate Double-Booking Calendars

by | Uncategorized

It’s Monday morning and you are starting your day by looking at your calendar. As you scan the days ahead, you notice that, once again, you are double-booked. This has become the norm for you and for your organization. How can you be expected to be in two places at one time? And when you make a choice of one meeting over the other, what is the cost of your decision? How much precious time is wasted with explanations about why you can’t attend a meeting, or with chasing down information from the meeting you missed? And how often do you sit in meetings that are boring or irrelevant to your core responsibilities?

 

Is it time for you to ask some hard questions and take the courageous leadership actions needed to challenge the status quo and eliminate some meetings -for you and for your colleagues? If so, start with these three questions:

When you are the organizer of a meeting:

  1. Do you need a meeting? Is it simply a routine meeting that no longer serves its purpose in its current form? Is there a more efficient way to distribute information or gain consensus? Technology, like polling or video messaging, may be a helpful ally here.
  2. Are the right people in each meeting? Too many people create cluttered confusion and make it less likely that the best decisions will be reached. Do you need more than one person from the same department? Are there people in attendance who have historically been invited but really play no active role? Can you disseminate notes to those not needed for a decision?

When you have been invited to a meeting:

 

  1. Why are you attending? Is ego the only reason? Can attendance be delegated to someone who can benefit from learning something you already know? Can you ask if notes can be distributed? Do you have the courage to ‘decline’ the invitation so you can prioritize what is important over ‘what screams the loudest’?

 

Imagine the gift of giving yourself and your colleagues some space by cancelling meetings, or enhancing a meeting’s effectiveness. Take another look at your calendar for the week. Where is one opportunity to eliminate or modify a meeting? Be courageous!

Five Simple Ways You Can Bring Mindfulness To Work

by | Article

Mindfulness training is about learning to be awake for the moments of your life. This sounds easy, but is it? For most of us, our daily lives are so jam-packed with meetings and constant distractions, that we are more often on auto-pilot than awake. We just put our heads down and plow through the day as best as we can.

 

When we begin mindfulness training, we usually learn to practice while sitting quietly. This is an important part of the training but it is not enough. We also need to learn to bring our training right into the midst of our day. And the good news is that you can explore this aspect of the training without adding anything on to your ‘to-do’ list. I call this part of the training Purposeful Pauses and it has been an integral part of the Institute for Mindful Leadership’s training for more than 15 years.

Purposeful Pauses invite you to notice what is here to be noticed when you intentionally bring your attention to a moment in your day. For example, you notice that you are drinking a cup of coffee-the warmth in your hand, the aroma, the taste on your tongue, etc. Your full attention is on the experience of drinking that cup of coffee. And, it is also about redirecting your attention when it takes off into the future or the past while you are taking a Purposeful Pause. For example, while you are paying attention to your coffee, you notice that your mind starts to worry about tomorrow’s presentation. In that moment, you redirect your attention back to the taste of the coffee on your tongue. A Purposeful Pause only takes a couple of minutes but it breaks the autopilot way of living and helps to train your mind to be awake.

These mini-trainings are a continuation of the attention training you experience when you are practicing meditation on your cushion or in your chair. Purposeful Pauses allow you to turn off the autopilot and find some spaciousness in the day to make conscious choices…when you are awake, you are present for your life.

Here are a few other examples to get you started:

 

  1. Choose to start your day rather than letting the day start you-begin each day be noticing the sensations of the breath for a few breaths before jumping out of bed. What is your intention for the day?
  2. Use transitions wisely-choose to drive to and from work without listening to music or phone messages. Just drive-pay attention to what you see, hear, smell and touch. What do you notice about how you arrive?
  3. Nourish yourself-mindfully eat your lunch without looking at your computer screen or phone. How are you taking care of your body’s needs today?
  4. Just walk between meetings-no emails or texts. If you are telecommuting, use the time between meetings to take a few breaths, stand up and stretch or walk down your hallway. In just a few moments, you can let go of the last meeting and feel more centered and ready for the next meeting.
  5. As you turn off your computer for the day, ask yourself What Went Well? We have a tendency to focus on what didn’t go well so we need to be intentional about bringing our attention to what did go well.

What other Purposeful Pauses can you find? Look closely, where would a break in your day serve you?

2 Mindfulness Steps To Setting Boundaries

by | Article

Do you feel as if there is no delineation between work time and personal time? Has the culture of your workplace made it seem that being available 24/7 is the ‘norm’. If your answer is ‘yes’ to one or both of these questions, you are not alone. The demands of working (on site or from home), connecting with loved ones, caring for children or elder parents, and attempting to stay connected with friends can be overwhelming. The days and nights seem like a blur of computer screens and smartphone notifications. Your body and mind begin to feel under siege and, without setting some boundaries, you will feel exhausted and burned out.

Learning to meet life in a more compassionate and productive way is possible. All you need is an intention to explore some new ways of learning to be more mindful, and the discipline to follow through with some small steps.

This simple mindfulness approach to boundaries comes in two forms:

 

  • Transitions between segments in your work schedule:

Look for the natural breaks in your scheduled day and create an intentional boundary. Boundaries require conscious, disciplined choices. For example, your 10 am conference ends at 11 am. When you leave that meeting, take a few minutes to stand and stretch at your desk. Take a few deep breaths and exhale with a sigh each time. Invite your mind to let go of the interactions in that meeting and pay attention to how your body feels as you stand up and stretch. These few minutes belong to you. Use them to care for yourself and re-center your mind and body so it is ready for the next segment of your day.

A second example involves making the choice to really nourish yourself during the day. When it is time to have lunch, it is also time to transition away from work. Close the computer, leave your phone on your desk and mindfully walk to the cafeteria or kitchen. Feel your feet on the floor of the hallway and redirect your attention to those steps every time your mind begins to pull you back to work. If you are home with other family members, invite them to join you as you prepare lunch and connect with one another over a meal.

These short breaks are important ways to help you cultivate resiliency in a hectic schedules. Look for the ones that support you and make a conscious choice to integrate them into your schedule.

  • Transitions between tech time and no tech time:

Although it may seem strange to even think about it, your smartphone and laptop have off switches. Choose to use them. At some point in your day, at least 2 hours before bed, and ideally more, turn them all off. And keep them out of your bedroom. If you have been relying on them to wake you up in the morning, consider investing in an alarm clock. Having tech right next your head while you are trying to sleep often interferes with deep, restorative sleep because a part of your brain is waiting for it to be ‘notified’. You take great care to keep your technology recharged. Do the same for yourself by disconnecting from technology for set periods every day.

This choice to leave tech behind for a while also will allow you to connect more deeply to yourself, family and friends. For example, trying to authentically connect with someone during a conversation or meeting with one eye on your phone is disrespectful. Think about it, when you are speaking with someone and they keep glancing at their phones, how does it make you feel?

Finally, create a ‘no tech zone’ for your house, and set aside ‘no tech hours’ for your entire family. You will all soon find that tech connections are no substitute for human connections.

Taking these small steps to draw some boundaries between work time and replenishment time is not a ‘nice to have’, it is an imperative if you want to live your best life.