Let’s agree that everyone experiences stress and tension in everyday life, but especially in the work environment. What would you say if I gave you a tool that would help make you a more effective leader, follower and just plain ‘Getting it Done Human Being”?
The first tool I am going to recommend (and then walk you through an entire exercise in next Tuesday’s blog), is meditation. WAIT! Before you groan and swipe your tablet, let me present my argument for taking a few minutes each day to just sit and turn your focus inside yourself.
First off, many people are operating under the misconception that meditation is concentrating on a particular idea or process to the exclusion of everything else. Actually, meditation is exactly the opposite of intentionally thinking of, contemplating on, or even daydreaming about an idea or situation. Meditation is a set of techniques that allows us to become aware of and then experience different levels of our own consciousness. I know this sounds all ‘New Agey’, but regular meditation will allow you insights into, if not the outright discovery of who your really are at the center of your consciousness. That’s one hell of a trip and you don’t even need to pack any bags.
Ok, let’s get a couple of things straight right from the start.
First, Meditation is NOT A RELIGION!
Having said that, I can also say that every religion we know of has, and encourages an aspect of inward reflection and exploration. One of the best metaphors I have heard is that prayer is when we speak to whatever it is we feel is greater than and beyond us, and meditation is when we listen for an answer.
However, you do not need to believe in God or a creator to meditate. You do not have to quit your job, shave your head, twist your body into a pretzel or chant silly sounding foreign words.
Meditation also does not involve hours of sitting on the floor staring at a wall or the floor (although you can do that if you want, but I don’t understand why you would). In fact, if you have 5 minutes you can have an impactful meditation. 5 minutes, three times a day will deepen and accelerate the rate at which you experience the positive results.
I have been meditating for over 45 years and while I don’t pretend to speak for the entire meditating world, I find that, like me, most other meditative practitioners meditate for 20 – 30 minutes, two to three times a day. Actually, the number of times I meditate each day is much higher if you count the ‘micro-meditations’ of a single intentional breath, I use instead of reaching through the phone and mind-strangling the idiot on the other end.
Meditation, when practiced on a regular basis, leads to a clearer, calmer and more focused mind that will place you exactly where you need to be to recognize and take action to combat irrational thinking. This just isn’t me saying so.
The International Journal of Neuroscience. (2006 Dec; 116(12):1519-38), cites two studies which examined the degree of coherence (how the different lobes of the brain interact), within the brains of meditators and non-meditators. Both studies were very clear in their results finding much higher levels of coherence in the meditators as opposed to the control groups. These increased levels of coherence are directly tied to more positive psychological traits (e.g. emotional stability, security, high self-esteem, easiness with others, inner orientation), and less negative thoughts and actions.
Meditation Can Make You Smarter
University students (and we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt) and therefore adults have also had their meditating heads shrunk. The researchers investigated for 2 years running the effect of participation in a special university curriculum, whose principal innovative feature is the twice-daily practice of Meditation. The intelligence measures were based on Cattell’s Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT) and Hick’s reaction time, correlating with general intelligence. The research results indicated a clear improvement on both scales for those 45 college students who were regularly practicing meditation.
Meditation Can Make You More Efficient
Another study compared employees of a wholesale company who had been practicing meditation for 8 months, to on-site controls. Employees who meditated regularly scored significantly higher on leadership inventories than controls. Both mediators and non-mediators noticed changes in those who practiced meditation which included greater work effectiveness; increased energy for activities at work and home; they were increasingly more likely to take the initiative or initiate action, and they had increased calmness in stressful situations.
Meditation can Lower Your Blood Pressure, Calm Your Distress and Increase Your Coping Skills
A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, (2009 Dec; 22(12):1326-31. Epub 2009 Oct 1.), describes a randomized controlled trial of 298 university students randomly assigned to a mediation program or wait-list control.
The study found that the meditation group significantly reduced their blood pressures as compared to the control group, with the group at risk for hypertension showing the greatest overall improvement. Furthermore, the meditation group showed significant improvement in their self-reported levels of distress and anxiety. They also scored significantly lower on measures of depression and anger/hostility. Finally, the meditation group scored significantly higher on measures of an individual’s ability to employ successful and coping strategies.
I could fill an entire book just reviewing the studies which show the incredibly beneficial results of a regular meditation practice…but I won’t. If you still need convincing then I suggest you go…query your favorite internet search engine. Otherwise, the rest of us will agree to the proposition that meditation tends to have a highly positive effect on those who practice it.
So, have I made you curious enough to try meditating a few minutes each day or are you going to stay on the hamster wheel chasing peace and inner contentment? After all,
The Choice is Always Yours