Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, thinking about a work problem you’re struggling with? Then, did you lie there for an hour, tossing and turning, thinking about how you might resolve the issue, but not come up with a solution, only to end up more tired and stressed the next day trying to deal with what kept you up?
If so, you’re not alone.
There’s an ancient Zen tale about a man who went to visit a teacher to ask about enlightenment. On his way to visit the teacher, he walked past a dead donkey, that was smelly, decaying, and just an unpleasant experience. The teacher, when asked about enlightenment then invited the student to “stop thinking about the donkey”.
Have you ever tried to “stop” thinking about something?
One of the core tenets of the NLP coaching model is “energy flows where attention goes.” So, how much control over your attention do you have? Are we forced to keep waking up in the middle of the night to rehash our problems? Are we forced to keep thinking about the donkey?
As managers, we are constantly having our attention dragged in a million different directions. We have the core work that we need to accomplish (planning, tracking and communicating), but then we have our boss demanding a new report, our employees asking for help, and the customer calling asking for something too. We try to multi-task, hoping to keep all of the balls in the air, but struggle with determining what’s going to create the best benefit for ourselves and the company. Often we only respond to the person who’s right in front of us, because they are calling the loudest for our attention. Our attention is what we need to control most, to be able to focus on the work that makes the biggest difference for the team and for the company, but how do we control it?
Mindfulness meditation is a 2500 year old practice that is all about training our attention. Science has been studying its effects now for over 10 years, and there’s a growing body of evidence that it makes real changes in our brain chemistry. Meditators are less stressed, they have a lower “biological age”, they have improved memories, they are more adaptable, and in some cases are just plain happier in life. And, all of this (well, minus the happier bit) is observable through the many brain-scans that have been done with meditation practitioners. This isn’t new information, so what’s the hurdle?
The hurdle is the practice itself. I would bet you’ve heard at least one interview, and read at least one article (if not many headlines) about the benefits of meditation. But, do you know how to do it? Many people have tried something, and many feel they have failed. It seems too confusing, to complicated and too difficult. It’s uncomfortable to sit in the lotus position on the floor, and its hard to shut of our minds.
I want to show new practitioners how to create a practice that works for them, that is enjoyable, and is repeatable.
On Saturday at 1pm EDT, I’m hosting a Google Hangout to discuss three things about meditation: what are the top 5 misunderstandings that keep people from practicing, what is the neuroscience and psychological basis for why meditation makes our lives better, and then describe a 7 week course on how to create a lasting meditation practice that I’m going to run starting in September. If you are interested in attending the presentation, please e-mail me at James.Mondry@gmail.com, with the subject line “Mindfulness Meditation”.
Our attention is critical for our work and our lives. It can be the difference between finding opportunities and solutions, and staying stuck in our problems. And beyond the “mindhack” benefits of meditation on our attention, it helps us be better communicators and listeners, which makes us better managers, friends, parents and lovers. I can’t think of a better benefit than that.
1Pm EDT, on Google Hangouts. E-mail me at James.Mondry@gmail.com, with the subject “Mindfulness Meditation”.
I hope to see you there.