The other day I sat down with my client; we typically have only one scheduled meeting per week and it is packed in between many other things that we have to do. Often our meetings end abruptly or with hanging conversations as we both pack up our laptops or type out one last email before moving on to the next conference room. We’re busy and have a lot on our minds. In between the agenda, we’ll pause occasionally as if one of us needs to respond to a chat or put out a fire.
The hour that I get with her is critical to our success in partnering to manage our program, but what good is it if I am distracted in that meeting? I realize there is no replacement for that once per week connection. And it’s a lot to manage, considering the pace that most people are working these days. According to the World Health Organization, Americans are some of the most stressed workers in the world.
This past summer, it seemed I was inundated with this idea of meditation and mindfulness from some prominent entrepreneur, tech, and business magazines. They write about how meditation is helping employees be more productive, more creative, and cooperating better with their co-workers. From Wired magazine’slook into the world of enlightenment at some Silicon Valley campuses to Fast Company’s articles on how meditation can help in creativity, leadership, andeverything else.
This practice intrigued me, so I was willing to try a few steps that I learned watching this TED talk. Every day for a week I set a timer on my phone for 12 minutes. I sat still and closed my eyes in a quiet room, and breathed slowly, counting each breath. I was training my brain to slow down, to be present in my breathing. In doing that I recognized my own busyness, how full my brain was of deadlines and appointments, how it constantly jumped from one task to the next. The practice helped me focus again on what I was doing at that moment. I sat quietly counting in my head, and focused on my breathing as the constant din of impending tasks slowly quieted down. I was present in the moment. I didn’t feel like I’d done anything special (no lotus position, no mantras) but when the soft ring tone indicated the end of the 12 minutes, I wasn’t ready for it to end. I had relaxed my mind enough that I was no longer in a hurry and as I popped open my laptop to begin working again I could focus on exactly what I wanted to do.
In my meetings with clients, business partners, and colleagues it’s easy to get lost in the busyness of the brain. I have found that practicing meditation and being present in the current moment makes me more effective. I am not so easily distracted jumping from one task to the next and when I have somebody in front of me I can give them the compliment of my full attention.
Meditation has been a catalyst for businesses such as Disney and General Mills, training their employees in mindfulness and helping to enhance focus and clarity. The main business case, as one former CEO puts it, is that “if you’re fully present on the job you will be more effective as a leader, you will make better decisions, and you will work better with other people.”
It’s normal for all of us to become overwhelmed by circumstances and to experience it as stress. Meditation trains the brain to be aware of the present moment, and couldn’t we all use a little more time being present to one another?