I am qualified to write this post because Jack Kornfield bowed to me. It happened several years ago on a 10-day silent meditation retreat that ran over Thanksgiving at Spirit Rock, an insight meditation center about 90 minutes North of San Francisco. Several days in, with my subconscious letting go and all my senses heightened to extreme sensitivity, the emotion of walking, alone, into the Thanksgiving meal, with one of the meditation instructors softly playing the guitar, was just too much for me. I cried as I walked through the meal line. Jack Kornfield was helping serve the meal and saw my tears. He looked into my eyes and bowed. In Buddhism, bowing is an acknowledgment that self-and-other are not separate. Now that I have established my credibility, lets move on to the credibility of meditation in general.
Fast Company reported the Three Reasons Everyone At Google Is Meditating. The tech giant offers “Search Inside Yourself” and “Neural Self Hacking” as part of its employee training offerings. They even have areas for walking meditation on its corporate campus. And, as further evidence of meditation’s popularity among the business and technology elite, more than 2,000 people attended the Wisdom 2.0 summit this year in San Francisco.
It’s not that new. Oracle’s former CEO, Larry Ellison, requested that his executives meditate three times a day. In Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson, Issacson shares that Jobs used Zen meditation as a brain training technique. He quotes jobs as saying,
“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things–that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”
With all this mindfulness-based activity, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of meditation. These include the ability to pay focused, nonjudgmental attention to the present moment. Meditation also promises to improve powers of concentration, unlock productivity, enhance creativity and deepen self-awareness. It is scientifically proven to help reduce stress, manage emotions and reducing emotional reactivity. Meditation has also been proven to increase compassion and empathy via what some believe includes a higher level of energy vibration inter-connectedness.
If you are ambitious like me you may be tempted to say, “give me that” and go for it full gusto to achieve all those benefits ASAP. I want life changing insights, joy in this very damn moment and no worries about my future or unhealthy attachment to the past. Oh, and I want to be calm under fire. And, I want that now please. Ironically, striving to reach those goals via meditation may be counterproductive. The practice is just to be and notice what is there in this moment. The Buddha instructed, “not too tight, not too loose.” You have to go Nike and Just Do It and eventually you will notice these natural results of practicing meditation.
A popular reason to begin mediating is for stress reduction. Part of VisiTech PR’s employee training program includes taking Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a program founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
I highly recommend the Institute for Mindful Leadership, which covers the aspects of mindfulness for leaders, including mindful listening and communication. The workshop I attended, taught by Janice Marturano, founder and executive director of the non-profit organization, was an inspiring reminder of how leaders can change the world one organization, or department at a time.
So, I am going to add one more benefit of meditation to the mix, which is specifically applicable to every business and marketing executive – strategic processing abilities.
There is a long list of meditation benefits that are foundational skills for strategic and critical thinking. The list includes analytical processing, creativity, multi-level listening, clarity, focus, sharpened intuition, innovative insights and understanding of human behavior and motivations.
Each of these skills don’t work independently to deliver brilliant strategy. It is the integration of these capabilities that drive true, deep strategic thought. With that in mind, you realize strategy is not a skill that can be taught. You can teach the research level and the methodologies of strategy. As a result, many people believe they are delivering strategy when they are actually delivering disconnected ideas that will not work because of a missing element. You can’t teach an integrated strategic analysis process that results in insights. Strategy is an ability that must be trained for and developed in the most inner workings of the human mind.
So, if you want to work on your ability to deliver great strategy, the first step is to sit there and just be.