Below is the second in a series of three posts about leadership best practices. If you missed the first part, you can read it here. Stay tuned for the next and last article at the beginning of May.
It’s remarkable to learn how many highly effective and high-ranking executives have a regular meditation practice, or time for focused awareness. Most of them credit their focused awareness practice with building their ability to focus, to deal with stress, to be present in the moment and to have a broader perspective on issues. Only 15 minutes a day can give you these benefits over time.
Many people find that 15 minutes of focused awareness or meditation are too much to bear at first. The research has good news about this: Just 5 minutes a day of focused awareness can bring you some of the benefits listed above. Of course, 15 minutes is ideal. DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP if you can’t do 15 minutes at first. Do what you can and try to build up your awareness muscle by gradually increasing the duration of the exercise. As Ram Dass says, “The only bad mediation is the one you didn’t do.”
The point of focused awareness is to still your mind a bit, to focus on one object or process (your breath is the most common focal point)and to observe and let go of any thoughts that creep in (and there will be thoughts!). The act of observing and letting go of thoughts, then directing your attention back to the focal point, is the discipline that builds focus and awareness.
To do this, sit up straight in a quiet place and close your eyes. Your back should be straight so your belly area can expand. Scan your body to make sure that you are relaxed in every spot you might hold tension: your shoulders, your face, your stomach, your legs. Take several deep belly breaths, making sure you fill your entire lungs. Now, turn your attention to your breath and observe it. As you pay attention to your breath, count your breaths. An inhale and exhale equals one breath. Count from one to ten and then start over. If you find yourself mindlessly counting past ten, just say to yourself, “Oh well,” return your attention to your breath and start over at number one.
I like to think of focused awareness as the still spot within you that is always available. If you equate your life, with all its drama, concerns and fret, to the surface of the ocean where there are waves, storms and squalls, then focused awareness is a place that is three miles below the surface of the ocean. Here, it is always tranquil. The surface storms do not touch you there.
I teach all of my clients a quick form of focused attention called HeartMath. It is a good way to start your focused awareness session, but is best used as “mini” focused attention sessions during the day. Give us a call at 817-577-7030 if you want to learn more about HeartMath, or visitwww.heartmath.com.
Lastly, give focused awareness a chance. This is not a practice that delivers immediate results. Give it at least eight weeks before you judge it. After eight weeks, you will begin to notice that you don’t react as quickly to trigger situations, that you feel more calm even during stressful situations, and that you see broader perspectives when presented with a problem. You will also begin to look forward to your quiet time as a refuge from the storms of life, a safe place you can go within yourself.
In Part Three of this series, I’ll cover Aerobic Exercise and the Plus Three.
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