Showering For Leaders
Everyone needs to bathe regularly, but what do you do to clean the inside of you?
Meditation is like an internal shower. It’s an almost effortless practice right from the beginning, that gives you a place to clean off. It’s like a cleansing shower for your thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions.
When I talk to others about practicing meditation, the first thing I usually hear is “I can’t meditate, my mind wanders off too quickly.”
This belief, while absolutely true, is the barrier to people being able to process and clean up what’s going on inside. We might think that meditation is sitting in a ZEN state and being at “one” with the Benign Indifference. Ha! How can I be at “one” when I can’t get these thoughts out of my head?
Buddhists probably have the most association with meditation. Buddha is a Sanskrit word: Bud = Thought. Dha = Above. Buddha, Above Thought. (you won’t find this definition in the dictionary)
This is the meaning of meditation. It means to keep putting your attention above thought. When you have a quiet mind, the thoughts dissipate and what’s left is your true nature—peace, love and happiness.
What could be better for a leader than to bathe daily in their true nature?
To lead effectively isn’t an afterthought of stuff that just falls into place. Leadership itself is a full-time job. Middle managers have a job to do, plus they have to lead. So that’s two jobs! No wonder people in these positions burn out at a higher rate than line-level employees or executives.
Daily time for quieting your mind is an essential practice for leaders. It’s one of the basics for leading that we talk about at the beginning of a coaching relationship. Half-hearted leadership happens when people don’t show up mentally and emotionally clean, ready to lead. To do that, you need some way to rid yourself of the internal chatter that constantly chirps away in your head.
Physical exertion is a preferred way for most people, running, working out, yoga…and, all of this can be meditation. So can sitting for five minutes, per day, doing nothing.
What are you doing right this second?
That little space you just took to answer this question is meditation. In a fraction of a second, you stopped thinking to observe what you were doing. Meditation is just making that fraction of a second last longer. Observation and thinking cannot happen at the same time.
Also, sitting for long periods of time in meditation is not necessary, people who do that, do it because their fraction of a second has turned into something they can control and the reward of sitting in love, peace and happiness is worth it.
If you think about it, everything you are pursuing in your life leads to love, peace and happiness. Meditation practiced over a period of time brings the realization that those things are inside of you, not somewhere outside for you to acquire.
We mortals, who have responsibilities and deadlines lingering, don’t have the luxury of years sitting in a cave, so how do we take the internal cleansing shower?
The water in this shower is your attention.
Think of your attention like a flashlight in the dark. The light moves around the darkness and illuminates just a circle of whatever it lands on, the rest is dark, and your attention is the little circle of light.
So, right now, close your eyes and put your attention on the bottom of your feet...feel a slight sensation there.
Now move your attention to your right shoulder, hold it there for five seconds...what do you observe?
Our minds are not supposed to keep attention on one thing; our mind’s primary objective is to protect us, that’s why your attention jumps around so much. It’s like standing by the train tracks and putting your arm out, whatever train comes by you grab and are whisked away on a new thought and it goes wherever it wants.
Most people, when they concentrate, close their eyes and focus on their forehead and above the eyes. This is where most of your conscious thinking is, it’s a highly active part of the brain, thoughts zip through this area at the speed of light. Put your attention there for ten seconds and see what you notice.
Either you experienced a million zooming thoughts, or most likely, you sat there trying to do the exercise and thought, “I can’t do this,” (that was my ten second experience just now).
Now, move your attention to the back of your head, hold it right where that big bump is directly across from your forehead.
Not much going on there; in fact, if you held attention there for a minute, you’d see there is nothing there, it feels a bit like dead space. This is where your attention can go during meditation.
An easy and effective meditation practice:
First, commit to doing this for one week, five minutes a day and then compare your own experience to what I’ve said. In other words, give it a test drive, and determine for yourself if there is a benefit. I believe five minutes a day will provide you enough benefit to determine if this is for you.
Set an alarm on your phone for five minutes, so when you think, “I wonder how far along I am,” you can just notice that thought and go back to observe thinking.
For the next five minutes, just try to hold attention on the back of the head and watch. Things will come up, thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions. When they do, just notice them, let go and redirect your flashlight to the back of your head.
Don’t try to meditate, don’t resist anything, don’t give any effort except the effort of redirecting the flashlight once you notice your thinking. Thinking is perfectly natural and you can’t stop it anyway, so stop trying. Just notice - notice how you create endless story after story about things that don’t have any real benefit. All you need to do is be intimately aware of your current direct experience.
A Buddhist analogy is that your true nature is the sky and the thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions are the clouds. Meditation is the process for seeing the sky through the clouds as they (like thoughts) appear and disappear.
You are probably aware that meditation is said to have a lot of great benefits; it’s getting so popular there are many apps you can get to help you stay on track.
One benefit is, the second that you have no thought, your internal organs begin to repair themselves. As long as thoughts are running through your brain, your organs are in a kind of survival—output mode, the second you turn it off repair begins. That is also what deep sleep is, no thought.
This is fairly new in our culture so we don’t have up-to-date language and meaning for the simplest of things, like taking a daily internal shower.
Here is a great movie about the power of your mind and your ability to heal yourself. It’s on Netflix right now https://www.healdocumentary.com
Our folks taught us how to clean the outside of ourselves, that’s half of the job!