Twice daily meditation for decades have made meditation so much a part of my routine, that I would no more consider writing about it than I would about brushing my teeth (oh dear, I think I wrote about that once….) – until my friend Roberta Hill asked me to. So I’ve been thinking about what I’d write.
There are plenty of studies showing the health benefits of meditation; how it reduces stress, increases blood flow, slows the heart rate, relieves muscle tension and headaches. What I like best are the studies that show how it has an effect on well-being; it releases serotonin (a “good feeling” hormone) and shifts brain waves to the left frontal cortex, an area of the brain that is considered calmer than others.
All of the studies on meditation’s health benefits should peak your interest, and may be enough to convince you to try it. Since I practice a particular form of meditation called TM, I’ve been watching the studies that organization has done since the 1970’s; I’m particularly interested in the benefits it might have for leaders in the workplace. After struggling with not wanting to appear boastful, I’ve decided to tell my story of the benefits I believe I’ve gained from regular meditation.
A disclaimer: I’ll do my best to illustrate what I believe are the distinguishing benefits of meditation for me and how they might benefit you as a leader. Although anecdotal, there is some connection to the research out there as well as what others who meditate regularly have reported.
The benefits I’ve noticed
Presence: As a child and younger woman, my family may have called me a dreamer. I was off in my thoughts a lot. I still sometimes do that, but I am aware of my thoughts and can make the choice to be fully present. In your role as a leader, there is a big advantage to your ability to be aware of your thoughts and to choose to be present in your work and for the people around you. The quality of the relationships you form are dependent upon your being present so that you can react and interact appropriately with those around you.
Fulfillment: I’ve noticed a growing personal satisfaction with “what is”. I am conscious of what I can and cannot change and am confident of putting efforts into what matters for me and those around me. The past and the future don’t cause as much stress as they used to. Rather than dwelling on the past poor choices I’ve made, I can (almost always) reflect and learn from them. Rather than fear the unknown future, I can (almost always) look forward to it. I am happy. What good leader wouldn’t want more of that?
Stillness: The best way that I can describe the experience of stillness is as an ongoing calm (some may call it reduced stress). Even in the midst of calamity, I seem to be able to be still. This is the best benefit of meditation for me. It helps me to feel resilient. People notice, and comment on, the calm they observe. This is not something that people would have remarked about in years past, so I believe it has something to do with regular meditation. In your world of moving from one catastrophe to another, I’m sure you can see the advantages to experiencing stillness (a sense of calm) and the resilience it can provide you; not to mention the physical effects of reducing your stress levels.
It’s simple but not easy
There are many forms of meditation, and one may work for you. Pick one. Learn about it and try it – but stick with it (this is the hard part). The real benefits come with the habit you develop of regular and ongoing practice.
Do you see how meditation might improve your leadership? What would be keeping you from trying it?