I have been fascinated by Mindful Meditation for years and feel as if I have failed miserably at my practice of it in a formal, structured way. ‘Monkey Brain,’ that’s what I call it and I have it. I often have trouble shutting off my thoughts. However, I find that when I am gardening – when I’m playing in the dirt – I release my ‘monkey brain’ and am so present that I do not notice the activity or hear the noise around me. I feel more firmly grounded in who I am and how I want to show up after being in this meditative zone.
Recently, I had a coaching session with a client who is results-oriented and whose Strengths are heavily weighted in Executing with a few in Strategic, the Task Domains. They recognize they are stressed with an over-full calendar and can’t see that they have any time to relax and reflect because they would not get through their overly ambitious ‘to do’ list every day. They even feel stressed thinking about how to ‘fit in’ mindful reflection even though they ‘know’ they need it for long term sustainable, strong leadership. How many of you can relate to my client’s dilemma?
This is part 2 in the 3-part series on Mindful Reflection by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.Practicing mindfulness requires dedication while demanding vulnerability and heart. Click To Tweet
One approach to mindful reflection is a recognized practice – Mindfulness meditation. It has long been practiced by those seeking calm and peace of mind. A Buddhist-trained HR professional, Michael Carroll encourages stressed-out executives to meditate to become more open and, consequently, more effective.
In his book, The Mindful Leader: Awakening Your Natural Management Skills Through Mindfulness Meditation (2008), Carroll explores the key principles of mindfulness.
How to heal toxic workplace cultures where anxiety and stress impede creativity and performance.
How to cultivate courage and confidence in spite of workplace difficulties and economic recession.
How to pursue organizational goals without neglecting what’s happening here and now.
How to lead with wisdom and gentleness, not only with ambition, relentless drive, and power.
How a personal meditation practice develops your innate leadership talents.
Many workplaces are adopting mindfulness meditation:
Companies like Raytheon, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nortel Networks, Comcast and law firms offer employees classes in mindfulness meditation.
Executives like Bill Ford Jr., Michael Stephen, former chairman of Aetna International, Robert Shapiro, ex-CEO of Monsanto, and Michael Rennie, of McKinsey & Co., consider meditation beneficial to running a corporation.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Recent research highlights the many benefits of mindfulness meditation:
- Repaired immune system
- Heightened emotional intelligence
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Sustained levels of joy and satisfaction
- Greater resilience
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Fewer days lost to illness and stress
But practicing mindfulness requires dedicating the practice to obtain these results. It demands vulnerability and heart, rather than ambition and achievement — a tall order for many hard-driving, results-oriented people who Strengths are clustered in the Task Domains of Executing and Strategic.
A Framework for Practicing Meditation
In brief, mindfulness meditation is a friendly gesture toward ourselves, in which we take the time to sit still and focus on breath for 10 – 25 minutes or longer. Be gentle with yourself and do what you can each time you practice the breathing exercise. 5 minutes is better than none. Gradually challenge yourself to add a minute when you can to each session. You can meditate in your office, sitting in your chair. Here are some essential guidelines:
- Sit upright — relaxed, yet alert.
- Close your eyes or maintain a soft, relaxed, downward gaze.
- Place hands palms down, resting gently.
- Tuck in your chin.
- Breathe normally.
- Observe your thoughts gently, without judgment.
- Label your thoughts as “thinking” and dismiss them. Let them go.
- Return your focus to your being, breathing and bodily sensations.
- Be still.
- Experience being you in the moment — in the now.
Have you tried meditation or mindful reflection? What has been your experience? What have you found to be successful for you? What have you noticed about yourself when you have taken the time to pause and reflect? I would love to hear from you. If you are curious or have questions, please contact me here or on LinkedIn.