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Meditation and Leadership Do meditators make better leaders? By Dr. Jeffrey Gero No one seems to really say what meditation is. They do say what it does. I don’t believe that a meditator would get the same great benefits, which meditation offers, if they sit and think about their problems. It becomes our challenge to sustain our focus on the object of concentration. So let’s define meditation as the consistent flow of focused mental energy, whether it’s on a mantra, following your breath, or focusing on a candle flame. The state of meditation occurs when the meditator’s mind becomes absorbed into the object of meditation. One of the goals of meditation is attain a “formless reality,” which is freedom from the obstacles associated with the mind. There are thousands of meditation techniques and no one has proven that one meditation technique is better than another. Distractions are sure to arise using any meditation technique. As soon as the meditator becomes aware of the distraction they gently return to the meditation focus. Sometimes I find it very difficult to focus and it seems like the object of meditation is my distraction and my thoughts are my meditation. That is the opposite objective of meditation. Let’s call this obstructive thinking. My ability to concentrate sometimes depends on my state of mind. In a calm mood I am more successful. When I am stressed out, it’s very difficult to turn my mind from thinking, solving problems or just worrying. The mind has the job of thinking, which it does very well. Meditation practice gives us the opportunity to train our mind so we don’t get caught up in obstructive thoughts. Every time a thought arises we observe it and then bring our awareness back to the object of meditation. By observing our mind meditation helps us to understand our emotions and reactions to situations and thoughts. Through selfawareness which is the ability to become aware of our thoughts, emotions and reactions, we become objective. We allow thoughts to pass rather than unconsciously get caught up in them. This ultimately will help us to become less reactive and more proactive in situations and become more effective leaders. Beliefs create thoughts, thoughts create feelings and feelings create actions. Thoughts are bursts of electrical energy moving around on neural pathways in the brain. And generally, the pathways they move on are pretty well defined fixed beliefs. As these beliefs become stronger, they create a habit, an attitude that can govern us the rest of our lives. That habitual attitude becomes part of our personality and identity. Because this is mostly unconscious, we are not aware of it. One habitual attitude I have is “slow traffic stresses me.” I realize it’s not the traffic that is really stressing me, but my belief that I have to be in control. I need to get somewhere on time and I can’t. I really need to accept the situation. Scientists now say that the brain is malleable which means we can restructure it, based on our perception and experience. We can create new neural pathways in the brain that allow us to totally change our attitude toward life, behavior and our perception of our self and of others. Everyone knows that meditation reduces stress. With the aid of advanced brain scanning technology, researchers are beginning to show that meditation directly affects the function and structure of the brain, changing it in ways that appear to increase attention span, sharpen focus and improve memory. All great attributes for today’s hard working leaders. One recent study found evidence that the daily practice of meditation thickened the parts of the brain’s cerebral cortex responsible for decision making, attention and memory. Sara Lazar, a research scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, presented preliminary results, which showed that the gray matter of 20 men and women who meditated for just 40 minutes a day was thicker than that of people who did not. The gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, and 59 leadership excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 04.2014


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