How Can A Simple, 2-Step Mindful Gratitude Practice Change My Life?

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Our everyday lives are often sources of difficult, stressful challenges. It is easy to understand why those challenges, and the uncertainty and dangers we hear about each day generate feelings like fear, anxiety, frustration, isolation and sadness. And these are precisely the reasons why starting a daily practice of gratitude can make a big difference in our quality of life, and the peacefulness with which we meet each day.

Gratitude Is Not The Same As Thankfulness

Gratitude is not the same as thankfulness. Gratitude does not come as a response to something you have been given or earned. That is “being thankful.” Gratitude is a much deeper way of living that comes from an awareness of being in the moment. For example, think of the millions of moments and people and circumstances that have come together for you to simply be here, right now, alive in this moment. Stop and consider this for a minute. Look back at this last year and recall a memorable moment. If just one event was slightly different, or one person made a different decision, or one storm had a different trajectory, how would that moment have changed?

And, of course, you can go back even further. What if one ancestor made a different choice, or was received by their new country in a different way? Or what if an illness or injury occurred?

It really is quite an amazing miracle that we are who we are, where we are, and doing what we are. Gratitude is the deep feeling we get when we acknowledge that things are pretty amazing, and in response, we choose to meet our life with an open-heartedness and presence that comes from that recognition. A formal gratitude practice helps us cultivate those qualities and pay attention to the many sources of joy and peacefulness that are all around us, even when the day is chaotic.

The practice steps below are simple and can be done individually or as a family:

  1. Choose a time each day to sit quietly and write down 3 things for which you are grateful. Whatever you notice that day is fine. There is only one rule-you cannot repeat anything. If you notice the beautiful colors of a summer flower, or the delicious crunch of your favorite apple today, you can not use them again. Keep looking. How many days/months can you keep this up? If you are using this practice with your family, create a Family Gratitude Journal and leave it on the table. It may become a treasured keepsake over time!
  2. Pay close attention to your body sensations while you are writing. What are you noticing as you bring your moment to mind? Warmth, lightness, tingling, openness, softening etc.

After you have been practicing gratitude for a few weeks, what do you notice about the way you are meeting your life? Has it affected your choices? Thoughts? How might gratitude change the world?

If You Believe You Don’t Have Time To Learn Meditation, Try This

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There is nothing mystical, religious or difficult about learning to practice mindfulness meditation. It does not require any special equipment. Meditation is a simple way to train the innate capacities of your brain to pay attention, to see things more clearly and to act with greater compassion. Just as you know you can strengthen innate capacities of your body through physical training, you can also strengthen innate capacities of your brain through mindfulness meditation training.

Without training, you can find yourself living your life on autopilot, constantly feeling distracted and overwhelmed. And when that is your reality, you begin to burn out, react instead of respond, and generally feel disengaged. Meditation is one of the fundamental building blocks of mindful leadership training. It develops focus, and helps leaders begin to see their own conditioning and reactivity more clearly.

Mindfulness meditation helps you to expand your repertoire of how you meet each moment of your life, and it allows you to make more conscious choices about who you are and how you want to be at work and at home. As our world throws more and more challenges your way, don’t you want as much brain capacity as you can get?

So, here they are, the 4 simple steps you need to get started in the next 10 minutes. And, to make this even easier for you to learn, here are the instructions and a simple training in audio form to get you started. Press play and enjoy! If you prefer to read the steps, they are below.

If you prefer to read about the simple steps you need to learn to meditate, here they are:

Step 1-Sit comfortably-no need to sit on a cushion or on the floor, just find a sitting posture that allows your body to feel supported.

Step 2-Begin to feel the sensations in your body that arise from the breath

Step 3-Bring an attitude of open curiosity to the sensations you are noticing

Step 4-Whenever you notice your mind wandering, redirect your attention back to the breath sensations.

With each redirection of your attention, you are strengthening your ability to notice when you have become distracted, and to focus on the present moment. It is only in the present that you can positively affect your life, at home and at work. Use this simple practice for 10 minutes each day and soon you will find yourself looking to learn more!

How Can Mindfulness Help Me Get Some Sleep? 3 Steps To Try Today

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“If you want to understand someone’s sleep, ask them about their day.”

Long ago, I heard a sleep specialist say these words and the longer I teach and practice mindful leadership, the more I experience them as true. The quality and duration of our sleep is a direct result of the choices we make each day. We are a society with an epidemic of poor sleep. And with all the uncertainties and changes in our lives, it is not surprising. But sleeplessness or poor quality sleep was an epidemic even before today’s many challenges. Just look at the vast array of sleep aids available in the market. How many have you tried? But the best, most rejuvenating sleep does not come from a bottle. It comes from allowing the body to naturally ease into sleep, and then to allow ourselves to sleep undisturbed until we are well-rested.

Does that sound like an impossible task? Well, it is actually quite simple if you are willing to be patient and consistent. If you follow these mindfulness steps, you might soon find that you have learned the secret to sleeping more regularly and more deeply. Sweet dreams may be right around the corner!

Step 1 Unplug at least one hour before bedtime

The blue light of most technology stimulates the brain which is the last thing you want to do before bed. You need to turn off the technology to signal to your mind that it is time to rest. As importantly, the information in emails and social media can often trigger our minds into a loop of worries, judgments and planning. Choose to turn off technology at least an hour before bedtime and then see if you can let your mind unwind with some recreational reading, a hot bath, soft music or a chat with a good friend.

Step 2 Keep technology out of your bedroom

Once you disconnect from technology an hour before bedtime, be sure not to bring it to your bedroom. When you have your phone or laptop a few inches from your head at night, a part of your brain can stay ‘on alert’ waiting for the next notification. Give yourself (mind and body) some space to fully disconnect and settle into bed.

Step 3 Get to know your breath

As you settle into bed, see if you can begin to notice the sensations of your breathing. Just feel the stretch of your muscles as the breath enters, and then feel the softening of your muscles as the breath leaves. There is no need to control or alter your breath. Just pay attention to each breath until you fall asleep. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the breath’s sensations. This is a time to rest and rejuvenate, not plan for tomorrow’s challenges. You cannot be at your best if you are exhausted.

If you are someone who awakens at 3am, bring your attention back to your breath sensations. Each time your mind is pulled away (e.g. by worries or planning), redirect your attention back to the breath. Stay with this mindfulness practice until you fall asleep again. Be patient and consistent with the redirection. Over time, you are retraining your mind and body to sleep more consistently and more deeply.

I teach this practice on my mindful leadership 4 night retreats and by the end of the retreat, most people have begun to see marked changes in their sleep habits. Give these steps a try for a few days and see what you notice.

How Do The Best Leaders Find ‘Win-Win-Win’ Solutions? A Mindful Approach

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Very early on in my life I learned that it was best to find a “win, win” solution. At first that meant sharing the last cookie with my little sister so that there would be none of the fighting that would lead to tears, or worse yet, lead to Mom’s solution that “if you can’t get along, no one will have any.”

Over the years, the training involved more complex issues, and wasn’t always a matter of compromise. Rather, I learned that understanding another’s perspective, their wants or needs, made it much easier to find the “win, win” than if you remained fixated on what you wanted or needed. Acquiring this understanding took time up front, and it took the willingness to connect with the other person or group on a level that was broader and deeper than seeing them only as the other party. But, without exception, in the many years that I would ultimately negotiate multi-million dollar deals, agreements and settlements, if I could make this connection and speak in terms that addressed the other’s objectives, it led to a more creative and ultimately satisfying resolution for my client, and for the other party.

Today, in a world that measures time in Internet seconds, and that fills every moment with potential distractions, the discipline needed to take the time to do a truly great job and to make these deeper connections takes specialized mental training, the training of mindful leadership. Just as an athlete needs specialized training to excel, those in positions of influence need access to the mental training needed to allow them to bring all of their capabilities to bear.

Our frequently chaotic days entice us to live in an autopilot mode just to get through the day. We react quickly so we can try to find the light at the end of the tunnel. And yet, these are the times when I have found it is most necessary to stop, when I need to see clearly what is around me and how I am meeting what is here, and when I often most need to skillfully choose to respond with focus and compassion, rather than mindless reactivity. When we meet opportunities and challenges with skillful choices, we lead with excellence, rather than simply get things done.

This mental training is about more than making good deals. The women and men who make daily choices that affect others and that affect our world are also an underleveraged resource for addressing many of society’s issues. Not only do these people have the capacity to find the “win-win,” these people have the potential to find the “win-win-win,” the solution that is good for their organization, good for the other organization, AND good for the community.

It isn’t an impossible dream; in fact it may be our best hope. In the decades of working with influencers from government, for-profit, NGOs and non-profit organizations, most of the leaders I met were people with warm hearts and bright, analytical minds. And the ideal solution for all of them often included creating something that would benefit the organization they worked for and address the community issues in their neighborhoods, or in the world. But the ideal too easily can get hijacked by overloaded schedules and too many distractions, and it takes more than great analysis and a warm heart to change what has been decades in the making.

We need greater awareness from everyone, including those who already have a large ripple effect on society by the very nature of their current roles.

Mindful leadership training develops each person’s capacity to be fully aware of what is all around us and equally aware of what is deep inside. As we bring together the training of mindfulness and its specific applications to leadership challenges, we begin to develop the potential to lead with excellence-to lead with focus, clarity, creativity and compassion. We notice when we are on autopilot and when we are not really listening. We learn to stop, to ask what is called for in this situation rather than react by giving an answer from the “old playbook.”

In the stopping, we are able to listen deeply to our sense of right and wrong, our sense of equity, our caring hearts and the creativity of our minds. We can begin to ask the question, ‘Is there a ‘win-win-win’ here?” We can ask if it is possible today to make a choice that will have a positive ripple effect for our organizations, for our clients, customers and patients, and for our communities.

If you care to try a small taste of mindful leadership training, begin by taking a few moments right now to stop, allowing the body and mind to rest in the stillness and to touch the values at the core of who you are, and then ask yourself if an issue before you right now might have a “win-win… win” solution?

Can 3 Mindful Pauses Halt Your Runaway Mind?

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What does your runaway mind look like? Is it the worrying mind that shows up at 3am? Or the ‘to-do’ list that never stops growing? Perhaps it is the mind filled with anxious thoughts about your work or your family or your very survival in the midst of today’s unprecedented financial, political and wellbeing challenges.


Whichever runaway mind plagues your day and your night, its effects are detrimental. When your mind is incessantly busy, it can trigger a ‘fight or flight’ reaction to everyday moments. And that reactivity shows up in ways that do not support you or those around you. Rather than bringing your best self to these moments, you react with impatience, poor decision-making, anger, forgetfulness, exhaustion or sadness. And later, perhaps in the middle of the night, you find yourself wondering ‘why did I say that?’ or ‘why didn’t I handle that better?’. Your reactivity is understandable, but you can begin to meet the stresses of the day more skillfully with these 3 mindful leadership practices. I call these practices Purposeful Pauses and they are an integral part of the Mindful Leadership training that I have taught around the world.

  1. Start your day from a place of clarity. Rather than beginning your day by reacting to the alarm by jumping out of bed and indulging your runaway brain from the moment you awaken, try being intentional about the start of your day. Check in with how your body is feeling as you head to the shower-are you still tired, well-rested, achy? And check in with your mind-are you already rehearsing for a meeting before you even get to the shower? Instead, bring your attention to the physical sensations of awakening and getting ready for the day. Let your mind and body feel connected and grounded. When you are ready, see if you can form an intention for the day. What is truly important for you to attend to today? This Purposeful Pauses only takes a few minutes but it can set up the entire day.
  2. Stop at midday to reassess. It is important to stop at midday to reassess and to reconnect with your body and mind. When you are in fight or flight mode, reacting to the mind’s runaway train of thoughts, and to your body’s continuous busyness, you often begin to slip into living on autopilot. You run around putting out fires but you rarely are really present for these moments of your life. It is important to step off of autopilot and reinhabit your life more fully. So, at lunchtime, even if you have only 10 minutes, stop and reassess. Unplug from all technology and just eat your lunch. Nourish yourself. Then, if possible, sit quietly or go for a short walk. How are you doing with your intention for the day? If needed, make some modifications to reset your course.
  3. Transition from work to home by setting boundaries. Leaders often have a hard time setting boundaries and, as a result, it begins to feel as if they are working 24/7. And, in fact, if you don’t learn to set some boundaries, you may actually be working 24/7. This is exhausting, and it is not sustainable. Learning to be very intentional about the transition from work to home can help you set boundaries and cultivate the space you need to be at your best. Whether you work from home or you commute, make the transition from work to personal time clear and routine. Turn off the computer and stay away from the desk if you work from home, or drive home without listening to voicemails or trying to read texts, or take whatever steps make sense for you. Defining a transition helps you to take the needed break between work and home so your body and mind get the signals that it is time to relax and let work go for now. These boundaries are at the heart of maintaining your resilience.

Practice with these 3 Purposeful Pauses each day to train the runaway brain to be more focused, clear and compassionate.