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Staying Calm Amidst the Chaos



What’s one of the simplest ways to achieve high-performance leadership and well-being at work? Here’s a few hints. It’s something that doesn’t even involve your job. You could do it at home, at the beach, in the park, or even in your car. You could be working your first job or have been the CEO for 20 years. Anyone can do it and they can do it anyway they like.
 
The answer is meditation.

For years, people would tell me I needed to slow down. Perhaps you’ve heard the same. The world has never moved faster than it is right now. We are all constantly connected to and constantly bombarded by news, social media, emails, phone calls, etc. There’s always something that needs doing. It can be easy to fall into a steady adrenaline rush and always be on the go. However, that can actually harm our performance and cause stress at work, even if we don’t realize it’s affecting us.

 

I certainly was resistant to slowing down. I thought I didn’t have time to do it.

 

In the past, when I tried to meditate, I would think I was unable to do it correctly. My mind was always racing and thoughts were popping in and out of my head like bees coming and going from their hive. I had to learn later that a part of meditating is going with whatever thought comes into your mind. Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not always relaxing or serene. Sometimes it’s a whirlwind of thoughts.

 

During Covid, I found someone who led meditations globally. He would host over 5,000 people sometimes and do a meditation. During the whole session, all he would do is talk about a subject for about five minutes, then go silent for fifteen minutes and leave you to your thoughts. While it sounds so simple, I was hooked. I liked it so much that I went and got trained in meditation in the middle of Covid and I’ve been meditating almost every day since.

 

Meditation allows me to tune into my soul, my spirit, my calling, and my purpose. It allows me to connect my gut, my heart, and my head, and start my day with this level of grounding that I would otherwise be lacking.

 



When you meditate, you wake up your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your body’s rest, relaxation, and digestive responses. If you can train your brain through meditation on a daily basis, you can develop the ability to turn on your parasympathetic nervous system and calm down, even in adrenaline fueled and/or stressful states. In the workplace this is especially useful, particularly if you’re having trouble maintaining your happiness and well-being at work.

 

When you are in a dream state between wake and sleep (theta), your brain is more likely to be calm and open. The goal of achieving this state of theta is that you have a higher level of access to your ability to calm down and get into higher levels of consciousness. You can recalibrate when you’re feeling stress at work, or struggling with some other area of your life. This is the state your brain is put in after successful meditation.

 

The opposite of this is waking up and immediately reaching for your cell phone and scanning instagram or the news. This immediately puts extra cognitive load on the brain, and we don’t even know we are doing it to ourselves. It becomes a habit and a dopamine hit, so we end up starting each day off with extra cognitive load, which causes extra stress and even burnout in the long run, lowering our performance.


Stress turns on our sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for fight or flight response. When activated, the sympathetic nervous system increases alertness, heart rate, and blood pressure. It redirects blood flow to the muscles, dilates the pupils, and inhibits non-essential bodily functions like digestion. This is not a state we want to be in all the time.

 

People are always saying they want to be calmer and less stressed, but they aren’t giving themselves the opportunity to do that. Their sympathetic nervous system is constantly taking control. Regular meditation allows you to chill out, get present, and stay present. It trains you to prevent or recalibrate when your sympathetic nervous system takes control.

 

When you are able to calm yourself down on command, you can optimize performance and maintain focus. Constant stress and anxiety does not contribute to anyone’s well-being at work or in life. Meditation enables you to put yourself in a situation where you can be and feel safe and clear with what’s going on around you.

 

It doesn’t have to have a major impact on your time. Even just 10 minutes a day is better than nothing at all. High-performance leaders across many different fields consistently practice meditation. Oprah meditates twice a day. Bill Gates meditates multiple times a week. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant would both meditate daily. The more you train yourself and make it a habit, the more the body will be able to put itself into that rest and digest mode when you need it.




Now that you know more about how meditation can benefit you, how do you go about practicing it? It’s really all down to preference. You may want to try a few variations just to see what works best for you or what you enjoy the most.


Here are a few ways to meditate:


Mindfulness Meditation:

●      Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit.

●      Focus your attention on your breath or a specific aspect of the present moment.

●      When your mind wanders (it will), gently bring your attention back to your chosen point of focus.

          

Body Scan Meditation:

●      Lie down or sit comfortably.

●      Gradually direct your attention to different parts of your body, starting from your toes and moving up to your head.

●      Notice any sensations or tension, and allow them to release as you breathe.

          

Loving-Kindness Meditation (Metta):

●      Sit comfortably and close your eyes.

●      Begin by sending feelings of love and compassion to yourself.

●      Expand these feelings to include loved ones, acquaintances, and even those you may have conflicts with.

          

Transcendental Meditation:

●      Sit with your eyes closed and silently repeat a mantra.

●      Allow your mind to settle into a state of restful awareness.

●      If your mind starts to wander, gently return your focus to the mantra.

          

Guided Meditation:

●      Listen to a guided meditation, often available in audio format.

●      Follow the instructions provided by the guide, who may lead you through visualization, relaxation, or mindfulness exercises.

          

Zen Meditation (Zazen):

●      Sit in a comfortable yet alert posture.

●      Focus on your breath, counting each inhalation and exhalation.

●      Allow thoughts to come and go without attaching to them.

          

Walking Meditation:

●      Practice mindfulness while walking slowly and deliberately.

●      Focus on the sensations of each step, your breath, or your surroundings.

●      This can be done indoors or outdoors.

          

         Mantra Meditation:

●      Choose a word, phrase, or sound (mantra) and repeat it silently or aloud.

●      Focus on the sound and let it guide your awareness.

          

Breath Awareness Meditation:

●      Sit comfortably and pay attention to your breath.

●      Observe the natural inhalation and exhalation without trying to control it.

●      Notice the sensations of each breath.

          

Visualization Meditation:

●      Picture a calming scene or scenario in your mind.

●      Engage your senses by imagining the sights, sounds, and feelings associated with this visualization.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to meditation. Experiment with different techniques and find what resonates best with you. Consistency is key, so try to incorporate meditation into your routine regularly to experience its full benefits. Your body and mind will thank you.

 

To slowing down,

Magi

 

P.S. If you want to learn more ways to adapt to this constantly changing world with power, freedom, and ease, check out my FREE Response Agility Workshop. In it, you learn how to maintain high-performance leadership in the face of adversity, stress, and pressure, as well as strategies for leading and handling change in your organization and the world at large.

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