Listening to silence

I’m listening to Eckhardt Tolle’s audio book Peace in the Present Moment. Being present and having a clear intent about how you spend your time is only a small part of what I talk about in my Organizational Zen presentations – so it’s awesome to hear six or seven hours on this one topic!

My big takeaway yesterday was on silence. We all know we could use more of it – but then what do we do with it? In our society, silence is an uncomfortable state. If you’re at a meeting or a party where everyone is quiet, there’s almost a race to fill the void with talking, a joke, data… Or when we get home to turn on the radio or TV. It almost feels sinful to be caught somewhere without something to do or something to think about or to listen to. When we have a quiet minute, we grab our phones or a magazine or a book. We dare not be caught in a moment of silence! Continue reading

The Science of Meditation

New scientific studies on meditation liken it to a workout for your brain. When you pair meditation with a healthy lifestyle, what can’t you accomplish? And, if you look at exercise, eating right, and meditation as three legs of a healthy lifestyle stool, meditation takes the least amount of time and effort. You just need to carve out a quiet moment to get started.

Still not sure? Ponder this. Science says meditation can help you:

  • Improve your memory
  • Hone your focus
  • Increase your brain size and density
  • Increase blood flow to your brain
  • Decrease your blood pressure
  • Regulate your emotions
  • Release antibodies
  • Decrease stress
  • Improve your mood
  • Be less bothered by physical pain

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All magic – and no magic potion

I was giving a talk this week on Organizational Zen and asked the participants to jot down what their intent was for attending. There are a couple of things I like about focusing on intent.

  • When you have a clear picture in your mind of why you’re doing something – whether it’s working, going to a meeting, taking a class, or having a conversation with an old friend or with a complete stranger – you listen differently. When you know what you’re looking for, you’re more attentive which makes whatever you’re doing a great use of your time. As Eckhardt Tolle says, whatever you’re doing now is the most important thing you can be doing. So choose with intent, and then show up.
  • When you don’t have a clear picture in your head of why you’re doing something and can’t for the life of you remember why you chose to be there – leave. This probably isn’t a great use of your time. Even if this is something you used to love, if you feel your energy drain even thinking about participating, it’s time to do something else.
  • When you don’t have a clear picture in your head of why you’re doing something AND you feel in your gut that this is meant to be – stay put. There’s magic at work.

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Take a breath

I’m loving listening to Sharon Salzberg’s free daily meditations this month. I met Sharon in 2007 when she was speaking at an Omega Institute Conference in NYC. Of all the classes I took that weekend, Sharon’s is the one that has stayed with me the longest. Sharon lives a Zen life, and her advice and teaching are always about finding the middle path – not too relaxed and not too tense!

sharon-salzbergIn her meditation prompts this week, Sharon focused on breathing, something we barely notice and yet… try not taking a breath! I start each of my talks on Organizational Zen with quiet breathing. This is a great way to help you feel focused. And I like how even five minutes of quiet breathing helps transition you from one space, or project, or idea, to another.

Here are a few of Sharon’s exercises to get you breathing. Start each of these sitting quietly in a comfortable chair or on the floor. Make sure your back is straight. There’s something magical about having a straight back when you breathe. Your backbone is like an antennae to the Universe! However you sit, you don’t want to feel either too tense or too relaxed. You want to feel attentive and alert. Continue reading

Changing habits

If you place electrodes in a rat’s brain and put him in an unfamiliar maze with a piece of chocolate hidden at the end of a path, you see an amazing thing about how habits affect your brain. I’ve personally never tried this, but Charles Duhigg talks about it in detail in his AWESOME book The Power of Habit.

cute-ratBut back to the rat. The first time he’s in the maze, he wanders through, sniffing the walls and working his way down the path. When he finds the chocolate he happily settles in for a quick snack. All this time, his brain activity is high. He’s learning something and his brain wants to capture every minute. Continue reading

The importance of spending time alone

An artist needs time to create. A writer needs time to work out a story. A musician needs time to play and to compose. A saint needs time to pray.

Alone-time lets you refill the pitcher of your life from all the little daily leaks and keeps your soul from running dry.

moon-shellSuch are the musing of Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift from the SeaAnne was married to Charles Lindbergh and was a fellow aviator and accomplished author. She survived the abduction and murder of her first child, went on to have five more children, and outlived her famous husband by decades finally passing at the age of 94. Continue reading

Spend time with your senses

If you’re looking for a way to decelerate for a few minutes, I’d highly recommend spending time with your senses. I work my way through some or all of these when I meditate.

buddha-eyesStart with the senses you’re most familiar with, then work your way into the senses you don’t think about as often. That’s where the sensations really get interesting! Continue reading