I have been fortunate over the last year to engage in some great conversation on mindfulness and what one should do to stay focused on the practice. It’s an appropriate time to share tools to support the practice.
Let’s start where it all began, my white paper from 2018 “Creating a Leadership Legacy.” Below is an excerpt on mindfulness.
In the 4 part series from Harvard Business Review Press on Emotional Intelligence, the book on Mindfulness was hard to put down. By definition, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, which may be used as a therapeutic technique. What is inspiring about this is that we have to focus and be present to truly be effective in the uber connected world in which we live. Our role as leaders has always been to cut through the noise and help prioritize–that was easier when we only dealt with office meetings and an occasional phone call. Leaders today are reacting to situations and information coming at record speeds and from endless sources. However, being mindful brings calm to the storm. I have read the learning content and team based focus from id8te. They start with teaching the team mindfulness and its health benefits. I know that I am going to check them out with my team. If you are struggling and looking for a place to start, begin the simple practice on mindfulness. How, you ask? Personally, I started with the app Calm. I also read some books and listen to mindful audio books.
That was a great time for me as I really started to explore what mindfulness meant as a person and leader. There is so much talk about mindfulness and it’s finally being embraced by the business world.
Ellen Langer is a pioneer in the mindfulness space, and she gives a simple description of mindfulness.
It is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to content and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement.
It’s important to add that mindfulness is not mediation. You do have distractions enter your thoughts. What’s important is to recognize them and let them float away. Each person uses different techniques to stay mindful. Some use their breath or music to concentrate on. Some meditate. Meditation takes a great deal of practice and if you’re new to this, you may want to start with guided meditation.
Without question this has to be the hardest part of the practice. We have been programmed to multitask and have up to 10 tabs open on our browser at any given time. We have multiple chats going, while listening to a podcast, and we’re half engaged in a conversation. This happens at work, at dinner, or at home with potentially different distractions.
So how do we stay focused on the path? Make it a priority and fundamental to our life today. In the present. When we fully commit to something and make it part of our routine, it becomes part of who we are. You know there’s progress when your wife and colleagues have noticed the growth. My wife has even asked me about a book that really grounded me ( Zen and the Art of Happiness) and she would like to share it with some friends who are searching for a way to re-prioritize their lives.
Most learn that they need three part alignment. Mind, body and spirit. For example, my routine goes something like this. Every morning I get up at 5:15 and have coffee with my wife. From there exercise consists of either cardio or yoga. After getting ready for work there is an hour of time by the ocean in spiritual meditation. During the day I try to get 10,000 steps. Also it’s important to find time for those moments to close your eyes and get centered. Twice a week I go to Tai Chi. My evenings are filled with family or reading. I do not watch television anymore as a habit. Listening to soothing music and reading helps nourish me and gets my body ready for sleep.
My journey started by reading a series of books on happiness, mindfulness and meditation. Below are the titles and descriptions.
Zen and the Art of Happiness. Cutting-edge science and spirituality tell us that what we believe, think, and feel actually determine the makeup of our body at the cellular level. In Zen and the Art of Happiness, you will learn how to think and feel so that what you think and feel creates happiness and vibrancy in your life rather than gloominess or depression.
This book is so deep that you will most likely read through it twice before setting it down. I gave a copy to a friend and all 3 of my daughters. From there I read After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path “Enlightenment does exist,” internationally renowned author and meditation master Jack Kornfield assures us. “Unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the divine . . . these experiences are more common than you know, and not far away.” That book really puts you to work.
The third took me back to a book that started this journey a few years ago. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. When Wherever You Go, There You Are was first published in 1994, no one could have predicted that the book would launch itself onto bestseller lists nationwide and sell over 750,000 copies to date. Ten years later, the book continues to change lives. In honor of the book’s 10th anniversary, Hyperion is proud to be releasing the book with a new afterword by the author, and to share this wonderful book with an even larger audience. This is just a great foundational book that I find helps me come back to center.
After reading these books and engaging with friends on these topics, you may find yourself more open to understanding all religions and practices on meditation and mindfulness. Exploring Buddha you will realize that our impression was wrong. Buddha was simply a royal who left the family and sat under a tree and explored the mind and found enlightenment. Followers of Buddhism don’t acknowledge a supreme god or deity. They instead focus on achieving enlightenment—a state of inner peace and wisdom. When followers reach this spiritual echelon, they’re said to have experienced nirvana.
Another book that really challenges beliefs is The Third Jesus, bestselling author and spiritual leader Deepak Chopra provides an answer to this question that is both a challenge to current systems of belief and a fresh perspective on what Jesus can teach us all, regardless of our religious background. There is not one Jesus, Chopra writes, but three. When we take Jesus literally, we are faced with the impossible. How can we truly “love thy neighbor as thyself”? But when we see the exhortations of Jesus as invitations to join him on a higher spiritual plane, his words suddenly make sense. You will learn that Deepak’s is a christian.
Harvard Business Review has published a 12 volume book on emotional intelligence that gets to mindfulness, resilience, listening and all the key topics for today’s workforce and leaders. What you will love about these is they are easy reads. If you remember from my first white paper, they originally released the first version of four. Mindfulness was the very first book I read in that series.
Mindfulness will help your EQ. Being present more often allows you to pick up and hear more than ever before. You also become way more observant with your eyes. It allows one to be more empathetic, listen better, react to situations with more information and you will find you’re more resilient in life.
Through practice your health will improve. Studies suggest that mindfulness practices lead to an increase in gray matter concentration in the parts of the brain that affect learning, memory, emotion regulation, self-referential processing and perspective taking. I can tell you I have lost 18 pounds and I am in better shape from even 15 years ago. You have more energy will be perfectly fine running all over for family or friends. You see, you think and act differently and you appreciate life and the opportunity you have to impact people all the time and more importantly in the now.
Another part of this practice is not dwelling on what is wrong in the world and replaying negative thoughts that haunt us as humans. You actually make a real time commitment to focus on the good and you begin to seek good information to support your growth. You may find yourself listening to relaxing music, practicing yoga, reading and getting away from screen time. You become focused on making a difference and being happy that we get a chance to make the world a better place.
The last thought is this: Give mindfulness a try for 3 daysThe worst thing that happens is you make time for yourself. That one act of self care will feel good. We owe it to ourselves to become a better version of ourselves each day we are blessed to wake up. In fact a recent article in the Wall Street Journal talked about the wave of traders who are leaning on meditation to improve their health.
People are seeing the effects daily when mindfulness is a practice. Also we need to lead with LOVE. Listen to your people and those conversations taking place around you. Observe your surroundings. Have a voice for those who do not. Practice empathy. Being present and putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes is leadership at its finest.
Thank you for reading and you can follow my thoughts at bobsellethehrgyuy.com or read my published work at thriveglobal.com