I just came back from attending the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco, which brings together leading researchers and practitioners who explore the intersections of wisdom and technology. It was an amazing experience to learn about all the scientific evidence that proves the benefits of mindfulness as well as meet people who practice it.
Now before you think, “that’s not me,” let me clarify that you don’t have be good at meditation. I’m certainly not, and the goal is not about sitting for hours on a spiritual quest.
It just means that you take a few minutes to sit still and start turning your focus inward on your body. It can be as simple as noticing how your feet feel on the floor, and how comfortable your stomach is. It might include just noticing your breath going in and out, and feeling the air move through your nose or mouth.
Even just a brief inner focus of getting present, or “being here now” can make a difference. And if you meditate a little longer, you will inevitably see your brain switch to thinking about your to do list or your worries or your anticipations. As soon as you notice you have done this, you refocus back on your breath or your belly, etc. Doing this for as little as 10 minutes a day can give you incredible benefits.
Dr. Richard Davidson, from the University of Wisconsin, shared the results of some really compelling studies on the neuroscience of contemplative practices. Meditation can shift the expression of our genes, even after just 8 hours of practice. This has lead to measurable improvements in both physical and emotional health.
In addition, people who meditate are more able to deal with stressful experiences, feel less upset during them, and recover more quickly from them than non-meditators. Learn more from his recent articles in Scientific American and Mindful magazines.
It’s clear that mindfulness brings people great benefits, so you might want to consider adding a little mindfulness to your life.
But it gets even better than that. Organizations, like businesses and schools, reap all kinds of benefits from mindfulness too. Businesses that offer classes on mindfulness or space for meditation see improvements in the quality of decisions their leaders make. People become more productive, take less sick days, and better navigate through conflict because they have the ability to stop, tune in, and be less reactive.
This happens in schools too. Children are incredibly responsive to mindfulness experiences and even ask for more once they learn how. Some schools have initiated mindful curriculums that teach kids how to tune in to their bodies to see what they are thinking and feeling. As you might expect, conflict goes down and kindness goes up.
Mindfulness, regardless of age, allows us to know ourselves better. And when we can tune in to ourselves to see what we are thinking and feeling, we can use that skill to be more tuned in to others. This is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence and it drives connection, collaboration, compassion, and creativity.
So how can you introduce mindfulness in to your life. It can be as simple as lying in your bed 5 extra minutes and noticing your body and breath before you get up. Or you could do a walking meditation over your lunch break, just noticing how your body feels as you walk. And you can certainly find a comfortable place to sit, light candles, and get all zen, if that’s your thing.
The point is to just do it. Try it for a couple weeks and see what happens. For me, I have noticed a big shift in my sleep (for the better), my attitude and my energy.
If you want a little support, try the guided meditations at The Chopra Center or with Jack Kornfield. There are lots of meditation apps too.
If you are in a leadership position as a manager, business owner, parent or teacher, consider sharing this information with others. You can also start every meeting or class with this simple instruction, “I realize we are coming from various activities. Let’s take 30 seconds to just breath and become present to being in this room now.”
Simple. And yet hugely effective.
Mindfulness is a journey to knowing our selves on a deep level. The more you do it, the more you will learn, which is why some people start expanding into longer and longer sitting time. They find that they can go to deeper levels of knowing themselves and hearing their inner wisdom.
If you want to learn more, watch the videos from the last few Wisdom 2.0 conferences. Personal favorites of mine this week were the sessions by Byron Katie, Dt. Otto Scharmer of MIT, and Brandon Stanton.