About two years ago I established a morning routine that includes 20 minutes of meditation. Although I had meditated on and off for about five years, it has now become an important and joyful part of my life.
I sense that many of you already meditate or have tried it (or thought about trying it). After all, meditation and mindfulness have been well researched and much has been reported about the benefits.
As Jon Kabat Zinn, founder of the renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, explains mindfulness is “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
Meditation is one practice that supports us in developing our capacity for mindfulness. Other ways we can develop this capacity include yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, or walking in nature.
As Henna Inam writes in her book Wired for Authenticity, meditation has been linked to boosts in focus, mental clarity, productivity, emotional stability, and a reduction in anxiety and stress. For me meditation is a one mindfulness practice that is easy to integrate into my daily life.
So although I am relatively new to meditation, I can reflect upon these five key ways it supports me as a person and a leader:
- Reducing Judgement
- As human beings we naturally judge ourselves, others and circumstances. Meditation helps us observe the present moment with detachment and without evaluation. For me it is powerful to observe how many thoughts I can have in 20 minutes and to understand that I can simply observe them and let them go by. Throughout my day this lesson helps me to remain unattached and be more agile.
- Increasing Trust
- Meditation helps us increase our sense that we can trust ourselves and trust that things will work out in life. Recently I was assisting in a 6-day leadership retreat. My co-assistant and I were responsible for completing many tasks to support the learning environment. We needed to learn new skills and to complete these tasks quickly. There was a moment where we just couldn’t get some technology working. We could have easily gone into panic mode. Instead we both were able to pause, take a breath, and try something else. Afterwards we reflected on how powerful that moment was. Leaning into trust allowed us to find a solution that worked.
- Improving Focus
- Research shows that experienced meditators have less brain activity in areas related to mind-wandering. Since I started meditating I have noticed I am better able to do one thing at a time and more conscious of creating times where I unplug. There are still many times when I am trying to complete a task and notice I am jumping from email to social media sites rather than focusing. Still a work in progress and yet I think I am able to notice these distractions and recover faster.
- Creating Energy
- We all have experiences in our day that drain our energy. When these experiences take place back to back then we usually perform worse or give up more easily on the second task. Taking time to meditate can recharge you and counteract these effects. Even if I don’t have time to meditate between tasks, I try to remember to breathe and be in the moment.
- Connecting to Others
- One thing that I love about my daily practice is that it takes place with a small group of leaders, including my Fundraising Leadership partner David Langiulli. It turns out our instinct to meditate in community was powerful because meditating with another person boosts feelings of social connectedness, which improve our health and happiness. Sharing this daily ritual with David gives our relationship more dimension and depth. Our connection is key to our ability to co-create experiences that have impact on others.
If you haven’t yet developed a mindfulness routine, then I challenge you to start one today. If meditation and mindfulness are part of your life, then share with us how it supports your leadership.
“In the practice of meditation, there is continuity in the journey. You begin solidly, you progress solidly, and you evolve solidly. Don’t expect magic on the meditation cushion. The idea of a sudden magical “zap” is purely mythical.” ~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Janice Cunning is a Leadership Coach who is passionate about partnering with fundraisers to help them create an inspired vision that transforms lives. She is a Certified Relationship Awareness Facilitator who uses SDI to strengthen team dynamics.