“Mindfulness is the Secret to Success”
By: Marjorie R. Johnson, LCSW, PCC, President of Ascend Consulting, Inc.
“How do you stay present in the midst of your busy day?” asked a client, who is a successful executive. Through coaching, the client began to recognize the importance of staying present during day to day interactions. Acknowledging the need to listen instead of speak and ask instead of tell was the first hurdle. Now, the client wanted strategies. Staying mindful requires discipline in order to listen with openness, instead of being in your head, thinking up a response. Recent findings in neuroscience show that when we don’t fully listen, when we focus on telling, the other person will tend to become defensive and shut down. (see, Conversational Intelligence, by Judith Glasser) This neurological response is not in our conscious mind, but occurs at a hormonal, biological level. The reaction is based on a primitive fight, flight, freeze or appease response system deep in the brain. None of those behaviors are the response we want.
How did I finally answer my client’s question? I told them, keeping a present mindset is challenging! For me, and many of my clients, mindfulness is both the path and the practice that again and again, helps guide us back to the present moment all day long. As an executive coach and therapist, I see Mindfulness as the organizing force that helps us to establish high emotional intelligence, to be resilient in the face of stress and to lead and communicate effectively. Practicing mindfulness meditation is not some panacea- ask anyone who knows me! But, it is a simple method I use to calm down, be open and become more aware of my thoughts, emotions, choices and surroundings. A great benefit; Mindfulness helps us to manage common problems like anxiety, insomnia and ADHD.
So, where to begin? Start small! Allow yourself 10 minutes a day to simply be still, in a quiet place if possible, and focus your attention on your breath. A simple pattern to use is the 4-7-8 Breathing Pattern taught by Dr. Andrew Weill. Inhale for the count of 4, through the nostrils, hold the breath for the count of 7 and exhale slowly out rounded lips for a count of 8. The counting keeps other thoughts at bay and helps us stay focused. The body’s natural relaxation response begins to settle in after 3-4 rounds. What a nice, calm respite from the day! Then, simply try to keep your attention on the breath wherever you feel it in the body. Focus on the rise and fall of the chest or the belly. Even try focusing on the sensation of air flowing in and out of the body.
Your mind might wander. That’s ok! The mind is constantly thinking. Just the fact that you become aware of your mind wandering means you are aware, or mindful. Keep returning to the breath again and again as you sit for 10 minutes. Practice makes better, not perfect. As you expand your daily mindfulness to 15 , or even 20 minutes, a change is noticeable. You will begin to become aware as your mind wanders when simply speaking with someone, in a meeting or even leading a meeting. You will start to listen better, improving your relationships. All of these steps will allow the process of becoming present in the middle of your busy day.
The next Mindfulness Meditation group begins on January 17, 2017 at 7:30pm. I welcome you to join me and we can practice being more mindful together!