Sit There. Do Nothing.

What do the Seattle Seahawk players and the managers at Aetna Health Insurance have in common with the Dalai Lama?

They meditate.

Really.

They sit on cushions, close their eyes and go “Om.”

Why, you might ask, would burly football players and corporate execs bother?

Because they’ve discovered the power of mindfulness.

This is not some new fad. The ideas of meditation and mindfulness have been around since before the time of Siddhārtha Gautama, Shakyamuni a/k/a the Buddha, more than 500 years before the birth of Christ. What is new is finally a mainstream recognition that these ancient principles have a powerful impact on the way we live every day of our lives… and the way we conduct our businesses.

Culturally, we’re told that in order to get ahead, we need to work longer and harder and faster; we’re taught that busy is good; that faster is stronger; and that the more that we can do and be and accomplish, the more successful we will be. (All of which is bullshit.)

Part of this, of course, has come as a ‘gift’ of the technological revolution. With computers and laptops and tablets, we are (we think) capable of productivity beyond anything the Buddha could have comprehended. But here’s the rub: We’re not built like computers; we don’t have the capacity to be ‘always on;’ and despite vehement beliefs to the contrary, we can’t focus on multiple things at the same time. We just can’t.

We work in pulses. Most of us are not capable really of more than 5 high-quality hours of work a day on any given objective. We are scientifically incapable of multi-tasking. And we need our sleep.

And, in order to be truly successful, we need to be mindful; we need to slow down and get clear.

Meditation and mindfulness have been shown, though countless peer-reviewed studies, to dramatically improve:

➢ Cognition
➢ Attention
➢ Focus
➢ Memory
➢ Emotional wellness, and
➢ Physical health.

And at the same time, to significantly decrease:

➢ Stress
➢ Symptoms of depression, and
➢ The sense of always being scattered and distracted.

All of which, of course, leads to deeper presence, keener engagement, enhanced mastery, … and yes, greater productivity and profit.

Now, I can teach you all of the intricacies of meditation and mindfulness… I have been a Vipassana practitioner for 20 years… and the benefits have been staggering. But intricacies are unnecessary to get started. All you need to do is step back, step out… and get quiet. A regular 5 to 10 minutes a day can shift up your entire game. images-2

Close your eyes and breath. It’s that simple.

So convinced of the compelling science and the significant benefits, Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s chief executive, incorporated mindfulness and meditation into his corporate wellness program. And the Seattle Seahawks, to improve the emotional health of their players, brought in Pete Carroll to teach them to get quiet and focus their attention.

The Dalai Lama, of course, had an earlier heads up on all of this.

So whadda think? This is a pretty simple success strategy. If doing less would get you more, wouldn’t it be worth a try?

Space Exploration

I’ve been puttering in my garden. I love my garden. But I find puttering to be a challenge.

You see, I’m a big believer in action: Doing, achieving, accomplishing; moving like a shark lest I perish from inertia.

Steeped, as I am, in the cultural paradigm that, in order to succeed, I need to work longer, harder, faster, it is difficult for me to slow down.

Puttering sometimes seems aimless; pointless; wasteful.

But it’s not.

By puttering, I open up space for myself. I allow my mind to relax. I give myself the opportunity to think, reflect, create… and be.

Just be.

Every business leader we consult with, every professional we coach wants more time; they want – they yearn – for space.

The greatest crisis of our age is not terror in the world; it is the terror that we allow within ourselves.

The greatest crisis of our age is not that we don’t have enough, but that we have too much: too much information; too much noise; too much stimulation; too much to do.

The greatest crisis of our age is that we have lost touch with that that place of quiet, that still point within us.

We’ve lost the capacity to sit still, to be still, to know the beauty and the grandeur of the here and now.

We’ve lost the capacity to be: To just be.

When we give ourselves the gift of quiet, when we open up that space, our sense of possibility expands. We see the opportunities that we miss when we are racing to that imaginary finish line.

When we allow our minds – and our bodies – to relax – ideas flourish, insight lights, we create the ground for moments of “ah-ha.”

Commander Mark Divine, author of The Way of the Seal, teaches that we need the power of silence in order “to set the conditions to win.”

“Silence creates the space for you to think and thus see reality more clearly.”

“If you’ve ever noticed how good you feel after coming out of nature after an extended stay without your cell phone and laptop,” writes Divine, “here’s the reason why: It’s because you’ve slowed down enough to quiet your outer mind, allowing your inner wisdom to poke it’s head out a bit.”

And it is that inner wisdom that truly sets us apart; that allows us to excel and truly succeed at extraordinary levels.

Habit 7 in Stephen Covey’s celebrated business classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is Sharpen the Saw. “Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have—you,” Covey said. FinalFrontier

Self care, self-renewal.

Opening up space.

Puttering.

What can you do right now to create that space… for you?

Do You Do This During Sex?

He leaned in and whispered. Conspiratorially. I thought, perhaps he was going to tell me that he had taken up with his secretary; or that that he had fallen in love with heroin.

“I’m going to leave my cellphone behind,” my colleague confessed.

Dangerous. Foreboding. Uncharted.

Imagine, a vacation without a cellphone! (And he’s a lawyer!)

But likely difficult for too many of us to imagine. Really

Our phones have become like appendages… Indeed, without them, some of us actually experience phantom ringtones or vibration. We check them continuously: Studies suggest, on the average, 150 times a day; 6 to 9 times an hour; every 7 or 8 minutes.

Eighty percent of folks sleep with them. We grab them first thing in the morning. We look at them right before going to bed.

Twenty percent check their phones during sex. Some actually take calls during sex; or even update their Facebook statuses. (Seriously? During sex?)

The consequence is that we live in a constant state of distraction and overwhelm.

We find it difficult to focus; to listen; and to be truly present.

We miss the time to think, reflect, create, and be.

It’s impossible to be mindful.

Our productivity suffers; our intimacy too.

We dishonor our work; we dishonor our relationships; we dishonor ourselves.

We lose touch with that still point within us, that place of quite where our power dwells.

Experiment with giving yourself the luxury of some time away from your cellphone. Maybe just for a dinner, or a day? (Or during sex?)

My lawyer friend will likely feel a bit antsy for a time. Cellphone detox can be an unsettling thing. But, without that constant stimulation, think of the quiet, the deep relaxation… the peace and the chance to re-create.

Will you give it a try?

The Secret Power of White Space

He was overwhelmed. Stressed out. “Slammed,” he said.

Of course, my client, a young lawyer, is not alone. The Economist reports that, in a recent study, 45% of executives cite lack of time as their biggest challenge in achieving their career goals.

I looked at a screenshot of his Google Calendar: A sea of colors; back-to-back appointments all week long. WhiteSpace

No breaks; no respite.

No white space.

White space is the key to creating a saner life.

In my weekly planning, I deliberately create lots of white space on my calendar.

I create white space because sometimes things take longer than I think they will.

I create white space because unexpected interruptions crop up.

I always leave a big block of white space on either side of a coaching appointment. Beforehand, I want to have time to review my notes and think about my client; what we worked on in the last call; and where we want to go. Afterwards, I want time to finish up my notes, reflect on the work we’ve done, and consider where we need to go next.

White space allows us the time to:

  • Think
  • Reflect
  • Create
  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Hydrate
  • Enjoy some quiet
  • Breathe
  • Be

White space is a powerful time management secret.

With white space, we’re not as frenetic. We slow down. We’re more mindful. We’re more aware of the beauty and the majesty that surrounds us. We’re able to connect more deeply with others. We’re able to recognize what’s merely urgent; and what’s truly important. We’re more resilient and resourceful. And happier too.

If you really want a life that is rich and full and deeply satisfying; if you really want to serve the people you’re meant to serve; if you really want to make an impact in the world, then create more white space!

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AND if you’d like help with this, I have a powerful system. Email me today! walt@walthampton.com