My Day of Meditation
A few years ago research at the Harvard Business School led to this quote from the Harvard Business Review:
“meditation and intuition are the two most valuable executive tools for the 21st century”
Today, I read another interesting article in the Harvard Business Review all about managing the ‘attention economy’:
‘attention economics’ where human attention is being treated as a scarce resource and where consumers have access to overwhelming amounts of information, causing them to become skimmers rather than readers. Our rapidly declining ability to manage and direct our attention (where and when we choose) is having detrimental consequences on productivity and well-being.
I am sure you can resonate with the dilemma: we wake with an alarm and our mind (body and soul) are triggered to immediately react, we then often choose to start our day with a dose of social media (a treasure trove of negativity, comparisonitis, FOMO and overstimulation) and the rising stress resulting from not attending to what needs to be done before we have to rush out the door to a long list of tasks and projects .. and along the way, as the day rapidly unfolds we realize we are behind, and try to catch up and get it ‘all done‘. Our modern-day commitments however, continue to deliver a constant dose of noise and information overload, until finally and very late in the day, we arrive home exhausted and confused, never truly disengaged from our online world (we reconnect again at home fearful of missing something) .. and then we wonder, where did the day go?
people spend almost 47% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing – because we operate on autopilot
It is autopilot-mode that saves us from being consumed by the 2,000,000+ (that’s 2M+) stimuli that assault the human mind/body every day. Every day. And luckily, somewhat, we have this complex and smart brain, that is able to filter most of that distraction .. but still .. we still carry a little stash of information not yet been processed, deleted or trashed – similar to that inbox that never seems to empty. And we carry around with us, subconsciously, a sense that it will never all be DONE.
And then, we need to add the sense of overwhelm, lack of sleep and rising stress levels .. and yes, we have some serious challenges in staying focused and productive at work, home and play.
Thankfully, having a personal meditation practice for most of my life .. throughout my corporate career, in a challenging and competitive feast or famine sales focussed industry, I had a secret weapon – my meditation!
So, now as a meditation teacher when I share these powerful life tools and time-tested practices with my corporate clients, I make sure that I include a range of simple, brief and immediately beneficial Meditative Exercises that can powerfully re-engineer our day, our mood and our focus.
And I also share HOW to find the time to include meditation and mindfulness into every day (every day) to self-manage stress when you need to, cultivate greater focus and awareness, tap into deeper intuitive thought and problem solving – the most importantly – reconnect with yourself and others.
Here is my Day of Meditation:
*Morning Meditation: setting the best possible foundation for the day
I wake just before sunrise, and most mornings this just occurs naturally after many, many years of practice. In the dark early morning .. the world is extraordinarily quiet. I meditate for 20+ minutes with a timer to watch the clock. As my mind and body settle, I rest in complete sublime stillness and peace, and as I finish and slowly re-enter the world I am serenaded by the waking world and local birds. I then confidently move into my day knowing that I have established the best possible foundation for a brilliant day – one grounded in deep stillness, a calm mind, and body.
*a sweet mantra: on the train to work
This can be the nicest practice of all .. especially if you are not looking forward to the day ahead. Instead of getting consumed by a to-do-list of epic proportions, I would put on my headset (no music) and settle back for a rocking journey with my mantra .. almost like a lullaby for the mind. I arrive feeling refreshed rather than frazzled.
*standing meditation: aka waiting for my coffee
We apparently spend around 20 minutes a day just waiting .. for our coffee, the printer, someone to return our call. I use any of these moments to get out of my head and into my body, because our body is grounding and eager for our attention. As I stand, I notice ‘standing’ and as I breathe, I notice ‘breathing’. I also observe, where am I holding stress? can I breathe into that space and let it go, soften, relax my grip? Rather than allowing physical symptoms of stress to take up residence and harden like cement .. I allow that tightness to float out of my body with each exhalation .. let it go and do a little self-care recharge.
*Mindful Breath Awareness Exercise: before any meeting
One of my favorite practices for corporate teams is to start EVERY meeting (or a difficult telephone conversation, sales call or presentation) with a Mindful Meeting Minute. We gather and allow one full minute for our minds to catch up with our physical bodies; becoming truly present to where we are and what we are about to do. I also encourage setting an intention to be present and focused on the task at hand. Invariably, everyone and every meeting is markedly improved.
*Mindfully Eating lunch: oh yes, the best!
Once we have triggered the stress response, which we often do before we even land at work, by the time we eat (again, more stress as we consume quickly at the desk or while racing between meetings), our gut simply cannot digest effectively .. hence the proliferation of tummy aches and lack of concentration (afternoon slump). Mindful Eating is a beautiful and healthy way to refuel mind and body. I often share the Chocolate Meditation as a special and inspirational treat .. but any food is more delicious and engaging if you are actually present to the act of eating!
*Power-up Meditative Breath Exercise: beat the afternoon slump
Our brain requires a significant amount of our oxygen intake, something like 25%, so we often slip into afternoon brain-fog because our lunch is still not digested, we are dehydrated, and we are not breathing effectively (impacted by our posture and stress). I have a range of practical Meditative Breath Exercises that can be effective tools for circuit-breaking ineffective breathing pattern .. and help us to power up the breath .. simple but powerful ways to re-engineer our mood and refresh our mind.
*home time Mantra: traveling home
Put in earphones. Close eyes. Feel the train as it pulls away from the platform, and consciously leave all the day’s dramas, challenges, and urgencies behind on the platform. Settle into the magic of moving toward home – a spacious time of self-care when nothing is required of you. A relaxing pause at the end of your day.
*Mindful Walking practice: to the car or home
This is walking with an intention to just walk. No thoughts about what happened at work, conversations or projects now closed for the day .. just being HERE and NOW and WALKING with full awareness .. of the inhalation and raising one foot, floating through the air, placing back on the ground, shifting weight, a long slow deep exhalation, adjusting to next foot, and the next inhalation. I am always reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh’s words .. ‘step by step, each step a meditation’
*Mindful Arriving practice: before entering home and family life
Mindfully transitioning between the two big parts (and worlds) of our day – work and home. Consciously stepping out of autopilot or work-mode can radically improve our sense of connection with the most important people in our life. Stop at the front gate, or front door, and notice where your mind is. Hold an intention to truly be present to the world that exists inside your home. Allow a mental pause to reconnect and then proceed with a sacred commitment to the physical, mental and spiritual shift taking place.
*Evening Meditation: releasing the day before sleep
Meditation in the evening (better still early afternoon) allows for a winding down. As the world around us also slows, we can pause to purge the body and mind of any stress that may have accumulated during the day, and gift ourselves a purposeful space for reflection. An evening meditation will support improved sleep, and on rising the next morning feeling more rested .. at which time we are ready to begin our morning meditation again.
So many wonderful moments to reconnect and refresh. So simple yet profound.
What about you?