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Mindful : February 2014
58 mindful February 2014 Perhaps you recall that it stopped you dead in your tracks and held you in its beauty, all of you, for what seemed like forever but in clock time might have been just a couple of seconds. In those seconds, you became aware of the shades of pink and ora nge, the intricate play of light and shadow, your body’s absorption of the waning energy of nature, and the feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself. Maybe you were at the coffee shop in the morn- ing, your mind racing through the details of the upcoming day, and you looked up from your coffee and actually noticed a piece of art on the wall or the wa rm, comforting aroma of the shop. Whatever it was, it interrupted the busy mind, and you were living that moment of your life more fully. Such moments—when we fully inhabit our bodies and our senses are at work on more than an internal storyline, checklist, or rehea rsed conversation—are what give life true mea ning. Beyond that, for those of us who hold positions of influence, the ability to be present, to embody leadership presence, is not only critical for us as individuals, but it also has a ripple effect on those a round us: our families and friends, the organization we work within, the community we live in, a nd potentially the world at large. Just as a pebble thrown into a still pond can create ripples spreading throughout the whole of the pond, so too can the cultivation of leadership presence go far beyond the effect it has on us alone. When the Institute for Mindful Leadership works with a n organization to bring mindful leadership training to its employees, we witness an example of the ripple effect. We often start with retreats or courses for the more senior leaders, a nd as the training begins to change how they lead, those around them notice the change and soon ask to enroll in the training as well. It’s not unusual to hea r people tell stories of the transformation they noticed in their ma nager. As leaders we know that we often underestimate the impact, for better or worse, that we have on those a round us. When we are present a nd engaged, the effect is very different from when we a re distracted and on autopilot. But it isn’t enough to want to be more present, to want to Most of us spend a great deal of time sitting behind our desks, or in conference rooms or colleagues’ offices, so having a shor t practice that helps you relax while at work can be beneficial. What I call the desk chair meditation gives you a way to incorporate a short mindfulness practice into your day. You may need to be creative to find the quiet place. Many people have told me that they’re best able to do this practice by first leaving their office and finding an empty conference room, or even leaving the building to sit in their car during par t of their lunch break. The desk chair par t need not be taken literally. This meditation can be done any where you are able to sit quietly and practice, even an airplane seat. Meditate Right Where You Are The main par t of this practice involves what’s called a “body scan,” which is ver y simple to do. Begin by bringing your attention to the sensations of your breath. When you’re ready, direct your attention to the soles of your feet, opening your mind to whatever sensations are there to be noticed. Perhaps you are noticing the pressure on the soles of your feet as the weight of your legs rests on them. Perhaps the soles of your feet feel warm or cool. Just notice. No need to judge or engage in discursive thinking. If your mind is pulled away or wanders, redirect your attention, firmly and gently. Move your attention nex t to the tops of your feet, ankles, lower legs, knees, and so for th. Gradually scan through your body, noticing sensations, noticing discomfor t, and noticing areas of your body where you detect an absence of sensations. You simply don’t notice any sensations in your shoulders right now, for example. No need to search for sensations; just keep scanning through your body, taking your time and being open to what is here. From Finding the Space to Lead We can no longer make decisions with distracted minds, reacting instead of responding or initiating. ILLUSTRATIONBYJASONLEE