Spirit At Work -- Meditation's Many Rewards

Contemplative practices provide valuable coping mechanisms.

As leaders we may often talk about and even claim to embrace change, yet we are seldom as keen about changing our own practices to deal with the ever-increasing pace of life. The pace quickens without a compensating physiological release. We simply go faster and faster, continue to complain about it, and keep cramming more and more into our lives. The dramatic rise of technology is considered to be a likely reason for the equally dramatic rise in contemplative practices, such as meditation and prayer. Few people have the constitution to cope with today's turbocharged pace of life and the changes brought by technology without a compensating mechanism -- the capacity to go within to recharge and renew the mind, body, and soul. Companies including Nortel Networks Corp. have recognized the benefits of meditation by building nondenominational meditation rooms for employees. CEOs such as Bill George of Medtronic Inc. have practiced daily meditation for many years. Meditation is one more way for us to become whole humans. When practiced regularly, meditation can help to lower stress and blood pressure and enhance our state of awareness. Studies have shown that it may decrease the risk of heart disease, possibly because we are able to release stress and fatigue, rest the body, and thus allow it to heal naturally by reducing the toxic chemistries of stress. There are many different forms of meditation, each with techniques appropriate for different temperaments and personal needs. The best-known practice in the West is Transcendental Meditation, which is based on ancient Hindu writing, typically using a mantra, a phrase with no obvious meaning that keeps the mind, at least for a few minutes, from being embroiled in the pressing matters of the day. Some meditation practices involve concentrating on one's breath or an object such as a mandella, a flower, or a candle. Try several forms of meditation practice until you find the approach that best meets your particular needs. You should begin with five to 10 minutes of meditation each day and increase the time as you grow in practice. The best attitude in meditation is to have no expectations; otherwise, unnecessary strain is created. The rewards soon will become apparent with daily practice. And with practice any venue -- in the airport, waiting to take off or land, before making a speech or beginning a meeting, while commuting on the train -- can become a sacred space for meditation; even a few minutes can relieve daily stress. Here are some tips:

  • Try to find an area free from distractions. Where this is difficult, learn to tune out distractions.
  • In your office or home, decide whether you'd like to have soothing music in the background.
  • Avoid stimulants (coffee or liquor) or eating immediately prior to meditation.
  • Select a comfortable chair or place to sit -- the floor will do; too -- and assume a sitting position with your spine relatively straight. You may find it helpful to lean against a wall to provide greater support for your spine.
  • Close your eyes. Remove eyeglasses if you wear them.
  • Breathe in deeply, allowing your chest and stomach to expand as you inhale.
  • Exhale fully and slowly.
  • Concentrate your awareness on your breathing and the feelings of deeper relaxation.
  • Allow thoughts and feelings to enter your mind. Acknowledge them, allow them to pass through, and then return your focus to your breathing.
  • When you are ready, open your eyes and enjoy the feeling of being more relaxed and centered. Allow yourself time to return to your daily routine.
Leaders who inspire others recognize and embrace every advantage they can find. One of them is that delicious point when the world stands still, wisdom and creativity flow, and emotions that slow us down simply dissolve. Lance Secretan is an advisor to leaders, a public speaker, and a recipient of the International Caring Award. Author of nine books, including Inspirational Leadership, Destiny, Calling and Cause (1999, CDG Books).
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