The Sound of Silence - Building a Successful Business
I would be willing to bet that meditation is not the first word that comes to mind when you're thinking about how to build a successful business. Business is action oriented; it's about doing and getting things done. Meditation, on the other hand, is about sitting in silence.
Which begs the question, how can sitting in silence help you grow your business, operate creatively and efficiently, or prepare you to quickly respond to changes necessitated by new trends in the marketplace?
Stress - Just repeating the word seems to create the feeling within us. Stress in the workplace creates mistakes, absenteeism, poor productivity, workplace fatigue and burnout. Chronic stress can ultimately lead to emotional and physical breakdowns and has been shown to be the root cause of many medical conditions, such as, heart disease and some forms of cancer. Meditation is an antidote to stress.
Oliver Ryan wrote in Fortune magazine in July of 2008:
"The crowd of Harvard Business School alums who gathered at their reunion to hear networking – expert Keith Ferrazzi speak…might have expected to take up strategies on how to work a room, remember people's names, or identify mentors….Instead, Ferrazzi let his fellow alums in on a little secret…meditation. Exercise and prior work to," he said, "but meditation has been so effective that he now spends 10 days every year at a silent meditation retreat. In other words, the man whose latest book is ‘Never Eat Alone’ credits much of his success to alone time."
Stress-reduction programs are becoming more common throughout the corporate world. Yahoo and Google have offered meditation practices in the workplace as have Morgan Stanley, Rodale Publishers and Pricewaterhouse Cooper's and these are just a few and an ever-growing list within the Fortune 500.
Of course this doesn't mean you have to be the CEO of a multibillion dollar organization in order to gain the benefits of meditation.
There are very few of us, which are fortunate enough, to not need, at least a little stress reduction in our lives. The opportunity to "sit without an agenda," for most people in business, who are constantly embroiled in activity and day-to-day demands, simply, does not happen.
New York Times bestselling author Jon Kabat-Zinn, in a program entitled, “Mindfulness @ Work,” described an experience he had at a business workshop in Chicago:
"I was once teaching a business workshop in Chicago in a big hotel. It was billed as a two–hour workshop on practical applications of mindfulness in business. As I entered the room, people were sitting around dressed in suits, reading the Wall Street Journal and typing on their blackberries, cups of coffee in hand. I casually said, by way of an opening: ‘why don't we just take a moment and sit quietly with no agenda?’ I didn't give them any instructions; we just sat quietly for about 10 or 15 min. I noticed that during this time, a few people began crying. When it was over, I asked them about it. One of the executives said, ‘you know – we never do anything without an agenda.’ The others agreed. It was a real eye-opener for them, just to sit and be still. It is a reclaiming of what I call the domain of being. Usually, we are so driven by all the doing that, after a wild, we forget who is doing the doing and why, and even what the doing actually is."
The Benefits of Meditation
As authors and meditation teachers, Ed and Deb Shapiro, in their book "Be The Change," said, "many business people think of meditation as being a bit weird and wacky; they feel embarrassed if people know they're doing it, and yet at the same time, there is a really yearning for something to help them relax feel more easeful.”
In their practice, the Shapiro’s, found that using descriptive words such as silent space, mindful awareness practice or mindfulness, instead of meditation, to be more “accessible.”
Meditation or mindfulness is a way of developing greater awareness of other people, their behavior and emotional needs, as well as bringing that same attention to ourselves.
Some of the other benefits that a few minutes of mindfulness practice can bring are:
- Improvement in communication and listening skills
- Increased efficiency, effectiveness and focus
- A greater sense of awareness of self and others
- Enhanced problem-solving skills
- A greater sense of purpose and self-awareness
- A deeper sense of inter-connectedness
- Improved health
The last benefit mentioned, improved health, is a result of the body shifting into a state of restful awareness, a natural counterbalance to the physiological fight/flight response (stress response). The benefits that we experienced during meditation are:
- Decreased heart rate
- Normalization of blood pressure
- The studying of the breath
- Reduced stress hormones
- Strengthened immunity
While the Shapiro's are aware that is not possible to get everyone at work are in business to meditate. They do say when we personally meditate, "We become who we really are – our authentic self – and this is the person we take to work. Meditation means we become more balanced in our approach to difficulties and able to inspire others."
Working with Meditation
Tami Simon, CEO and founder of Sounds True, a Global Multi-Media publishing company, uses three different techniques to interrupt unconscious and stressful thinking.
The first of these techniques is called “Attending to Sensations;” in this process, whenever you become aware, during any interaction, of the feeling of becoming impatient or agitated, bring your attention to the part of your body that is holding the tension. This is easily done by scanning your body from head to toe and focusing in on the part that seems contracted or tense. When you discover where it is that you're holding the tension, use your in breath to connect with the sensation and then on the out breath, simply release, relax, and let go. Let your tension ‘ride the out-breath’ out of your body into space.
"Bringing attention to the back of the body" is a process best described by Tami Simon directly:
"Different physical and energetic postures carry different modes of being. If you want to exert and express yourself and move forward into action, you can bring your energy to the front of your body. If you want to make space for other people, listen deeply, and avail yourself of new creative ideas, just lean back slightly and bring your attention to the back of the body. Have you ever been in a meeting in which everyone was interrupting one another and it felt as if no one was really being heard? If even one person in the group brings their attention to the back of their body, a quality and receptivity is introduced that can change the tone and course of the meeting."
"Begin meetings with silence" is the third technique which is a way to stop, for a few minutes, the seemingly non-stop train of action that makes up the majority of our business day and a way of interrupting our “tendency for habitual reactivity.”
Often the first few minutes of a business meeting are chaotic, people on their phones and blackberry’s, getting paperwork together and connecting in conversation. Way to break up the chaos is to create space by introducing silence into the workplace. The simplest way is to begin your meeting with a few moments of being quiet together, creating two or three minutes of silence.
Tammy explains, "people use this shared silence in different ways – to breathe and relax, to appreciate a few moments during the day that are common spacious, to let go of previous work concerns, or to connect in a silent, energetic way with everyone else in the meeting."
You don't have to be in the board room.
Meditation can be done anywhere or at any time. Whenever you feel stress and tension growing within you, take a couple minutes to find a quiet place, the bathroom it is the only place available, sit down and breathe.
An Easy Counting the Breath Meditation
Find your quiet spot and get as comfortable as possible.
Take three deep breaths. Breathing in slowly from the diaphragm to the top of the lungs, comfortably holding it for a moment, and then releasing gently back down into the belly.
Shut your eyes and become aware as you do, of the feeling of a deeper sense of relaxation, and allow your breathing to flow naturally, finding its own rhythm.
Count each breath …one on the inhale and two on the exhale…three on the inhale…and so on, until you reach ten, and then start the count over again.
When you realize that your mind has drifted, just gently return to “one” and start again.
In the beginning, you may find it helpful to softly pronounce the numbers to yourself, drawing the sound out to match the length of the inhalation or exhalation, later gently ‘think’ the numbers.
Continue with this practice for about ten minutes to start.
Over time as you continue to develop in this meditation exercise, begin extending the length of time of your practice until you are comfortable sitting and counting your breath for twenty minutes or more.
Once you have become comfortable with the extended time period, you can experiment with just counting the inhalations while “watching” the exhalations.
You start by counting one on the inhalation then silently ‘watching’ your breath on the exhalation, then counting two on the next inhalation, and so on, once again to the count of ten, before starting over at one.
Reaping the Reward
Yes meditation helps us relax us but in this turbulent world of stress it offers access to an inner sanctuary of quiet centered awareness, allowing us to create a space where creativity, joyfulness, solutions to our problems, and awareness of the larger picture and personal happiness.
So if you're looking to start a successful business remember, when we meditate magic happens, even in the business world.
To Your Success,
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