Success in business requires action. The multi-tasking of phone calls, emails, meetings, spreadsheets, contracts, and social media are regular samplings of day-to-day operations. Yet, every leader knows that greatness takes focus, consistency, dedication, and tremendous doing.
So, imagine the surprise, when a business professional walks into his office, closes the door, turns off the phone, and for 20 minutes, does absolutely nothing. What he, and a growing number of leaders are discovering, is that the simple practice of meditation has an extraordinary power to drive success.
“Meditating every day,” says Dave Bluth, owner of Investec Realty located in downtown Asheville, “allows me the space to ground, center, and get completely still. From that place, I can clearly manifest the business results that I desire.”
While meditation may look like nothing from the outside, on the inside it is an entirely different matter. It is a powerful practice that trains the mind to come to a single point of attention, again and again, until it can be held effortlessly. This takes discipline, focus and consistency, as well as gentleness and ease. The result is a clear, calm, and tranquil mind—positive virtues for any leader in the business world today.
For most beginning meditators, this tranquility of meditation seems utterly unattainable. Sitting down the first few times allows a novice to see how truly frenetic the mind can be. It jumps from one thought to another like a drunken monkey. Occasionally it sits still, but instead of clear and bright, it feels sluggish and dull, more like a water buffalo. Frustrated with the experience, many give up in the first few days, or seconds.
Yet, patience is key. Like building any muscle or learning any new skill, it takes repetition. Yo-Yo Ma didn’t pick up the cello for the first time and play Bach Suite No.1; Tiger Woods didn’t pick up a club and hit under par; and Tom Brady didn’t throw his first pass in the NFL. They all started at the beginning.
[quote float=”right”]Meditation is the same. We start with a distracted, doubtful, and often anxious mind, and refine it until it becomes focused, clear and full of insight—a sharp tool for business, life, and success.[/quote]Meditation is the same. We start with a distracted, doubtful, and often anxious mind, and refine it until it becomes focused, clear, and full of insight—a sharp tool for business, life, and success.
Meditation has given leaders such an advantage, that businesses around the country are investing in programs for employees to develop their skill. Top tier companies like General Mills, Deutsche Bank, Yahoo, and Apple host meditation programs on-site. Merrill Lynch includes meditation programs in corporate meetings, and small business owners weave it into employee board meetings and incentive programs.
Meditation is not just good for an employee’s state of mind and productivity; it is also good for business. Today’s market requires businesses to get creative with their benefit packages to enhance employee retention. Young, eco-friendly, health-conscious, app-enhanced employees want more than just health insurance, job training, and pretax benefits. They want quality of life benefits.
One local builder who learned to meditate relates that 10-15 minutes each day simply smooths out the rough edges. It brings more ease to the challenges and frenetic pace of his workday.
Wellness programs help address this need. Yet while ROIs show benefits, some critics, like Al Lewis, co-author of Surviving Workplace Wellness with Your Dignity, Finances, and Major Organs Intact, see some wellness programs designed to simply allow employers to “pry, poke, prod, and punish” high risk employees, i.e. those who smoke, have high blood pressure, or are considered overweight.
Instead, leading-edge programs incorporate tools like meditation because it enhances work-life integration and optimal well-being, which links directly to quality of life.
Progressive leaders want to learn to meditate because of the promised benefits. Learning to meditate is simple. Yet, to effectively and efficiently address the drunken monkey or water buffalo mind, guidance is helpful. Some turn to guided recordings utilizing visualization. One simple technique, which can be employed almost anywhere, is:
— Find a quite space. This could be an office, conference room, or even a bathroom or closet. Close the eyes.
— Sit comfortably. Use a chair or cushion on the floor. Make sure your spine is straight, and your hips, knees, head, and neck are all comfortably supported.
— Breath deeply. Take four or five deep breaths, allowing the inhale and exhale to be equal in length. Notice how it feels in the body. This also has the added benefit of initiating the parasympathetic nervous system—that part responsible for relaxation.
— Relax. Systematically relax the body, from head and shoulders to ankles and feet, letting go of tension. Then relax the mind by letting go of other times and places, and resting in the subtle sounds and sensations around you.
— Focus. Gently take your attention and rest it on the natural rise and fall of the breath. Every time the mind wanders to anything else, simply notice and gently guide it back to the breath.
— Practice. Continue for three to five minutes. Use a soft alarm so you know when you are finished.
The practice can take less time that it takes to brew or stand in line for a cup of coffee, and it can be done anywhere there is a quiet space.
This technique, though simple in theory is not always in practice. It takes patience, will, determination, and also gentleness. Jack Kornefield, an American author and teacher of Vipassana meditation, states in his book, A Path with Heart, that learning to meditate is like training a puppy to sit. We tell it to sit. And it runs away. We chase after it, return it to the same spot, and tell it to sit again. We might have to repeat this process a thousand times each second, but if we are consistent and kind, eventually the puppy learns to sit.
Sandy Anderson, faculty of the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Sciences, uses another analogy. She equates learning to meditate to driving a large team of horses. Each horse has tremendous power to run in any direction it desires. A skillful driver knows how to harmonize them so they will all to go in the same direction, pulling more than they ever could alone. Similarly, the senses and the mind have an extraordinary ability to go almost anywhere. With focus we can harness their power to achieve greatness.
By gaining insights to the nature of practice and engaging simple techniques, meditation becomes more approachable and accessible. An easy way to get started is to utilize a recorded guided meditation. Another, is to employ a teacher, just as YoYo Ma, Tiger Woods, and Tom Brady did to improve their techniques. An experienced guide can help avoid those initial bad habits while refining skills more quickly.
This mindfulness training filters into professional and personal life. We take the full power of our attention and apply it to setting goals, finishing projects, writing reports, engaging in sports, or simply listening to our colleagues or loved ones. The emails, phone calls, meetings, spreadsheets, contracts, and constant doing of day-to-day operations start to have more ease and spaciousness. It becomes effortless effort, and this is part of how greatness is made.
Jackie Dobrinska is the owner of Life Balance Designs—providing work-life balance tools for professional & personal success.