No longer considered as “woo-woo” as it once was, mindfulness is now getting the attention it is due. Its benefits are documented and confirmed by empirical research. Well-known and high performing leaders such as Jack Dorsey, Russell Simmons and Tim Ferriss are naming mindfulness practices as part of their daily rituals. Like those leaders, you too can add to your high performance with a daily mindfulness practice. And that practice can be quick and easy – right in your office.
So what exactly is mindfulness? Put simply, it’s being conscious of the present. Mindfulness practices come in a variety of forms such as mediation, yoga and qigong, just to name a few. Even walking, which is easily accessed, can be done with mindfulness. Regardless of format, the practices center around a state where attention is not distracted by anything other than what is happening right now.
An awareness to your energy offers a painless way to be present at and during work. Tapping into the the present state of your energy involves awareness of the four centers as described below:
- Physical Energy: awareness of body sensations
- Mental Energy: awareness of thoughts
- Emotional Energy: awareness of feelings
- Spiritual Energy: awareness of breath
By learning to observe these energy centers without passing judgment, you can cultivate the skill of mindfulness. That skill is what helps you manage energy, which as Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz note underlies high performance.
“Managing energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Performance is grounded in the skillful management of energy.” – Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
As a meditator and yogi, I know first-hand that managing energy can be challenging. I also know that with practice, the constant flux of energy between balance and imbalance becomes readily noticed and more easily adjusted. How?
The walking meditation below offers an easygoing way to start. This meditation can be done in your office, in a hallway or outside. A couple of minutes is all you need to tune-in and recalibrate. Are you ready to give it a try?
Mindfulness – Walking Meditation
Begin by releasing expectations of what your practice should be and what it should provide. Set an intention to be in the moment as an oberver:
- Be where you are in the moment. You are not where you were yesterday or where you hope to be tomorrow. You are here in the now.
- Be an observer, like a fly on the wall, to what is transpiring in the four energy centers. Avoid getting caught up in what you notice.
Next prepare to move into the walking meditation.
- Stand and let your feet ground into the earth below.
- Close your eyes or gaze softly ahead.
- Bring awareness to your four energy centers:
- Body: notice physical sensations such as hunger, soreness, fatigue as you move your awareness from head to toes. Label what you notice and let the labels go.
- Mind: notice thoughts coming and going. Are they clear or cloudy? Racing or smooth? Do your thoughts want to stick around? Are they distracting? Label what you notice and let the labels go.
- Emotions: notice the emotional state you are experiencing. Where are you feeling that state in your body? Are you satisfied with the state? If not, tune into the state you want to experience. Label what you notice and let the label go.
- Spirit: notice the sensation of your breath. Is the texture smooth and even or jerky and uneven? Is your breath fast, slow, somewhere in between? Does it feel deep or shallow? Label what you notice and let the labels go.
- Keep your your eyes closed or maintain the soft gaze. Take two deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale
- Begin to walk, taking steps that correspond to inhales and exhales. Inhale while stepping forward with one foot. Exhale while stepping forward with the other foot. Continue this mindful walking pattern of synchronizing the breath with each step you take.
- If you find that you have stopped synchronization, that’s ok. Observe without judgment. Turn in the opposite direction and begin again.
- After a couple of minutes, return to a standing position and scan your energy centers again.
- Make note of any shifts from the first scan to the second. What did you notice about your awareness during the walking meditation?
Try this a couple times a day for a week. See what happens. Breaking in the day for mindfulness is healthy. You may notice you are more attentive, more focused and more vibrant after a break. With practice, you can grow your ability to tune into what is happening within you and around you. In turn, you will be better at using the information you have gathered to recalibrate your energy throughout the day.
With the many benefits of a mindfulness practice, might there be a place for it in your leadership?