How to Use Mindfulness, Meditation, and the Mysterious to Support Business
Part of business coaching and mentoring involves helping employees mange stress levels. Any interventions that help with stress, depression, and addiction are impressive. Introspection promotes psychological flexibility, awareness, resilience, job performance, better decision-making, reduced absence rates, and the ability to learn new tasks. No wonder businesses are interested in developing leadership programs that actively promote these skills.
Mindfulness is all about paying more attention to the present moment, to your own thoughts and feelings and to the world around you. Until recently, the term was confined to Buddhist texts and meditation retreats, part of a spiritual path to awakening. But the practice is no longer seen as simply spiritual or a New Age, tree-hugging fad.
Instead, it’s rapidly being welcomed into executive boardrooms. The list of blue-chip businesses that have adopted mindfulness programs continues to grow, and it includes well-known companies such as Apple, Google, IKEA, and Sony. Apps and web courses on mindfulness proliferate, as do reports on new ways in which the practice can do good and benefit the individual and the organization.
The basis of mindfulness and meditation in its many forms is to enable individuals to achieve a greater self-awareness, to quiet the hectic mind, and to allow a person to be more present and in the moment.
Many similarities exist between the mindfulness approach and that of flow, a term coined in 1975 by Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, one of the founders of positive psychology. He noted that the act of creating seemed at times more important than the finished work itself. He was fascinated by what he called the flow state, in which the person is completely immersed in an activity with intense focus and creative engagement.
Csíkszentmihályi identified five factors of flow:
- Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
- Merging of action and awareness
- A loss of reflective self-consciousness
- A sense of personal control over the situation or activity
- A distortion of temporal experience
Flow is the fourth choice in the fight-or-flight patterns. If you look at the factors identified by Csíkszentmihályi, you see why the flow state is such a useful state to practice entering on demand, not just in stressful situations but whenever you and clients want to perform at your best.
Follow these instructions and experience mindfulness, being present, in the now, and in the state of flow all in one simple exercise:
- Stand up, feet shoulder width apart, facing forward.
- Quiet the internal dialogue by saying out loud in a soft whispering voice, “shh, shh, shh, shh, shh, shh” (six short) and then “shhhhh, shhhhh, shhhhh, shhhhh, shhhhh, shhhhh” (six long).
The mind quiets down. Let it stay quiet and allow any thoughts that might drift in to simply drift out.
- Do the 7/11 stress reset exercise. You are now standing perfectly physically relaxed with a quiet mind.
- Imagine extending in front of you at chest height from left to right a line that represents time.
The past is to the left, and the future is to the right. Immediately in front of you, at heart level, is the present moment, the now.
- Reach out with your arms at shoulder width and imagine taking hold of the timeline and quickly bending it by pulling back with your hands to create a point in front, with the past going behind you to the left at 45 degrees and the future behind you to the right at 45 degrees.
- Slowly pull this line inside of you so the present moment is now in the middle of your body.
- Let your hands drop to your side and relax in the present for a moment.
This technique uses timelines and visualization to reorganize how you process a quiet mind and being present. Many people experience a sense of quiet stillness, of time slowing down, of being aware yet detached — all the characteristics of flow. Use this exercise and coach your clients to use it whenever they want to access the state of flow.