Photo: Eric Charlton

Meditation’s time has come. Long viewed with suspicion in the West as a mainstay of hippies, gurus, mystics, and new-age nuts, meditation has finally battled its way into the boardroom.

The benefits of meditation have long been touted, but in the “get’r done” mindset and culture of the world we live in, sitting and doing “nothing” is a bit hard to get your head around.

Once you’ve experienced it though, it can quickly become addicting, and when you become aware of the scientifically proven effects that is has on your mind, body, health, wellbeing and performance, suddenly sitting and doing “nothing” seems like a pretty compelling idea.

Steve Jobs: Need I Say More?

More and more people in high-pressure leadership positions are taking advantage of the powerful effects of regular meditation. They realize that it is the mental equivalent of taking your brain to the gym. Articles and blogs about meditation regularly show up in magazines like Forbes, The Harvard Business Review and Inc, to name a few. A recent article in Inc. magazine proffered a long list of business heavyweights who use meditation. It included Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons, Bill Ford (yes that Ford), Steve Jobs, and Ray Dalio (the 61-year-old founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund), as well as senior execs at Google, Facebook, Ebay, General Mills, and BNY Mellon.

The benefits are impressive: Improvement in learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, and perspective. It will lower your blood pressure, and boost your immune system. One of the most powerful benefits of meditation is awareness – awareness of your body, mind and emotions. Awareness leads to control, especially where the emotions are concerned, and that is a foundation of emotional intelligence – a key predictor of future success. A leader not in control of his or her emotions will have an uphill battle being effective in leading a team or solving problems.

No Head Shaving Required

For many people meditation seems a bit scary or they mistakenly believe it requires extended or specialized training, neither of which is true. No head shaving, robe wearing, or pretzel-postures are required.

There are many different meditation techniques, but it can be as simple as sitting quietly for a few minutes and focusing on your breath. In fact, after trying a number of different techniques over the years, I have found the breath-based meditation to be a very simple, effective, and powerful approach especially for beginners (learn more).

Here’s How:

1. Find a quiet place – free from natural, biological (you know who you are), and electronic distractions

2. Sit with your back straight and preferably supported.

3. Gently tense all of your muscles – from head to toe – as you inhale, pause for a moment, and as you exhale, completely relax and feel yourself melting into your chair. Repeat 3 times.

4. Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing. It can be helpful to silently repeat a word like calm, peace, healing, or relax as you notice your inhale and repeat a second word as you exhale. The words should have some meaning or intention for you.

5. As you become distracted by thoughts (pretty much guaranteed), smile, release them, let them go, and go back to your breath. Streams of thoughts are like fish swimming by in a river. You want to stay on the bank and observe them rather than jump in the water, chase them, catch them and wrestle them to the shore. When distractions happen, and you get swept away, get back out of the water, shake yourself off and go back to your breath.

6. Practice sessions of 20-30 minutes are wonderfully rejuvenating, but if you don’t have that much time, even 5 minutes is beneficial and can make a huge difference.

7. At the end of your session. Sit for a minute with your eyes remaining closed, and then sit for another minute with your eyes open before reengaging with the world.

8. You’re welcome!

Let me know your experiences. What do you find challenging about this? How has it benefited you?