Mindfulness might seem like a touchy-feely way to train future corporate executives in management skills, but research supports the idea that mindfulness – paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment – is essential to becoming an effective leader.
Mindful meditation or awareness is the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical and mental and emotional experiences. Practicing mindfulness meditation has scientific support as a means to reduce stress, improve attention, boost the immune system, reduce emotional reactivity and promote a general sense of health and well-being.
I made an intention a few weeks ago to attend the meditation group on Monday nights. It seemed simple enough. I’d come home from teaching a yoga class at 7, get a light bite to eat and head on over to the studio. In my mind, I was in heaven.
What I discovered was that making an intention to meditate was not that simple. I was tired. I hadn’t planned my dinner. My mind kept racing to how late the meditation was going to last and would I be in bed at a decent hour and all those resistant thoughts that crowd out what we want to do, need to do, desire to do and then never do them because there is some inconvenience, some roadblock we put in front of us.
I set up my mat in the studio drew attention into myself to settle my mind and focused on how abundant my life was in the present moment. The meditation lasted an hour.
As soon as I stood up, I began to feel a lifting of what I surmised was a mild depression and anxiety levels too high to sustain on a daily basis. Studies have found that mindfulness meditation can cut the recurrence of depression by 50% and neuroimaging scans have shown significant positive change in brain activity of long-term meditators. Scientists have researched how mindfulness has an affect on the brain, in particular UCLA’s Imaging Center and through their mindfulness meditation studies, but they haven’t exactly known how until recently. I could have been one of their volunteers at that moment.
The pattern of depression manifests itself by negative preoccupations, through worries and thinking that tears at the fabric of our well being. Instead of disengaging and moving on, human beings just find ourselves digging deeper into negative thought patterns at work or in our private life. We just can’t help ourselves. Why the negative loop is so attractive is beyond me. Maybe we are all more comfortable being self-obsessed. Maybe we’ve come to believe that negativity is our comfort zone.
How can we ourselves regulate attention so that it doesn’t become a negative bias toward negative physical sensations and thoughts, as in a depressive state. Interesting to the history of mindfulness meditation is that the early Buddhists advanced a similar theory 2,500 years ago in a practice called “Mindfulness of the body and breath.” They knew a thing or two about depression way back then and they didn’t even have the brain scans to track the alpha rhythms, which organize our sensory information in the brain.
Mindfulness meditation is a simple and efficient technique to realize, acknowledge and surrender to what we are feeling. Letting go of the negativity, letting it slip away, or as my master yoga teacher said, “let these thoughts pass like clouds in front of you without attaching any importance to them” is a way to relieve stress and anxiety from our lives. It’s really as simple as letting the mind go, relaxing it and not filling up our mind with murky thoughts that provoke the negativity. It’s abundance we want to create in our lives. Negativity means scarcity and scarcity is mental gridlock.
Mindfulness meditation as a management skill is a powerful tool to bring about a subtle and profound change in the work force. A meditation practice produces a culture of listening and staying present, enhances clarity of thought, improves communications, inspires creativity and decreases reactive behavior. What follows from acquiring these personal attributes increases professional performance and action accountability.
Everybody gets happy!