There is a full global pandemic. Infection risk is on the rise, financial markets are crashing, the economy is about to recession across the world and every company is in turmoil. You can feel exhausted, depressed and frightened.
This is normal. This is usual. We encounter danger and our attention is diminished by the survival portion of our brain (main of the amygdala). It is beneficial when dealing with an imminent threat, but it also means that our thoughts may follow productive patterns: We will more likely indulge in worst-case thinking or otherwise dismiss the threat; our capacity to empathize, listen, and connect to other sections of the brain is less available.
Sadly, these are the exact skills that in times of crisis we need as leaders. We need the full power of our brain to evaluate our decisions, challenge our assumptions, find innovative and inventive ways to do things and remain calm so that staff, clients and business partners can rest assured while listening to and taking seriously their concerns.
In moments like this, meditation can be of immense support. Practicing meditation has been shown to alleviate anxiety, relax the amygdala, to enhance our capacity to think with imagination and empathy. Steve Jobs, an early meditation user, summarized his experience as follows: “You begin to see things better and to be more present. Your mind is only slowing and at the moment you see a wide expanse. During my research with the administrators, I found three behaviors that aid during crisis time. You see much more than you might previously see.
First in the morning meditate
There is a good tentation to start the day by reviewing your email and news in times of confusion. Yet when we do, we are pulled into reactive mode, always fire after fire. Rather it will help you focus and relax fear-based thought to begin the day with a few minutes of meditation. You can use an app like Insight Timer and lie in bed listening to a guided meditation. There’s a lot more to do. It was most pleasant for me to get up and sit on a couch or chair after a taste of coffee and perform a quick meditation of consciousness.
You will find over time that you begin the day with transparency and understanding of the possibilities you otherwise would not have seen. This “mind for beginners” was identified by Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, one of the founders of meditation in the USA, when our minds are settled down and open to seeing the world today with less judgment and with less conception. Marc Benioff, a good meditator, Salesforce CEO describe this impact as follows: ‘The mind of beginners asks me to step back in order to build what they want and not that which they have. I know the past doesn’t suit the future. I feel I will be here right now. “I agree.
Begin with a few minutes of meditation for every meeting
During moments like these, we are inclined towards action which might be good intuition often. Nonetheless, taking a moment at the start of a meeting (virtual or in-person) to get up to date will allow teams to think more about problem-solving, to note their feelings and to start working with an improved listening capacity.
Some people may consider this as a “touchy-feeling” experience for a new experience, so to begin, tell your team that you need them completely present and concentrated during the meeting. Then suggest an experiment: ask them to focus only one minute on their breath. If distracted, simply suggest your focus is returned to your breath. For much of the first few days, the challenges and complexity of one minute’s attendance were shocking. After doing this, most of them should feel calmer and more present. And the essence of a meeting can change for one minute. As one executive explained, “While we always speak at each other’s meetings, team members seemed to be more involved, listening, listening and being prepared to know.”
Move back if you are trapped in productive patterns of thought
Taking a moment to relax and look at your feelings if you feel nervous all day. You would definitely have abandoned the present moment and gone through possible possibilities into a rabbit hole of thought. It is important to make it through presence and calmness, analyze the facts and not get carried away by a fictitious mind, while scenario planning is crucial. In action this is what it feels like: sit in your chair, close your eyes and focus your attention on your belly movement, breathing in and out. You’ll feel more present and alive after a moment, calming up your mind. And you will find the possibilities and opportunities are being opened up.
One of the main benefits of meditation is that we can step away from ourselves by thinking about survival and communicating empathically with others. This is important because research shows that we exhibit greater self-centeredness when we are afraid and it is harder for us to take a view of other peoples. Yet people within the company and outside are still in distress. This gives you the ability to show your team and community who you are as leaders in tough times with humility and care.