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3 Ways Great Leaders Use Mindfulness

 

       As a leader, it is important to know how to reflect on past goals with a non-judgmental perspective, using a mindful perspective to set current goals, and to create conscious change and productivity through envisioning the future. Understanding and observing the past, present and the future can help interpret the nature of time ,and using these three perspectives, we can create more effective and productive goals for ourselves, which is important not only for us, but also to help others. A great leader wants to set goals that reflect the wisdom of knowing that nature itself teaches us the impact of our decision. To put it in a simpler way, we are all connected and what you do as a leader can have a ripple effect on your organization or people you influence. This can be hard to explain because of the paradoxical nature of this perspective but this concept can be learned through the practice of mindfulness and observing the wisdom of nature and time.

 

 

       It is important to understand that as a leader or as an individual, we can empower or disempower others and ourselves through everything, and many times through anything we do. When we have an awakened consciousness, our perspective expands and we understand that what we sow now with our thoughts, emotions, dreams, and actions can create future outcomes. The word create could have a few meanings in this context, but understand, as an individual. you always have control over your own thoughts, emotions, dreams, and actions and this can impact your personal attitude and perspectives. As a leader you can almost always have a direct effect on the people around you, therefore directly impacting final outcomes of situations, projects, or team goals. The more we can observe this and become more conscious of these moments and perspectives, the more awakened we become.  We become aware that we have abundant opportunities and the power to create the future. If we can create, then how might we organize our time, using a compassionate heart, to help as many people as we can with the laser focus of meeting necessary goals?

 

 

       Where do you stand with your goals? It is important to be realistic with where you are with your goals, for if you are not you may never know if you are moving forward or just spinning your wheels. No good leader likes spinning his wheels unless, that is, it’s the cash wheel or the exercise wheel. There is no reason for judgment one way or another.  Wherever we are, many times, our minds tend to be future orientated and we never seem happy with where we are now. But it can be a mistake to stay too future- oriented unless we also take into account the mindful intention of the present perspective. In the present moment, there is non-judgmental presence that can comfort us because we cannot change the past.  Therefore, we must let go of past mistakes with a forgiving heart and have faith that we have the abundance of a future that is like a gift that has not been opened. Looking at our goals from this mindful perspective can be more informative  because it can help us to learn from the past and how we might envision the future. This can always lead to the most effective goal-setting, because we are free to set goals that show us how to make small changes each day, week, and month. This will lead to a greater change in life; Goal-setting is like map of how these small changes can be carried out as we travel through time. It is important to understand the nature of time when setting goals because timely goals and achievable goals are the best approaches to successful goal setting.

 

 

       It becomes important to have a vision or intention of the direction of your goals and how that might affect yourself and others. Peter Sange, the author of The Fifth Discipline, describes the concept of vision as “an invisible rubber band that connects current situations to an achievable future reality.” That reality has not been written yet but through a mindful perspective, it all exists in the NOW. Therefore, we set our goals upon a future that exists through our mindful envisioning of it, but does not exist currently in our understanding of physical time and reality. Envisioning is similar to daydreaming and it can be helpful to stretch your current beliefs of what you can do with this exercise. Practice moving the visioning process from a place of creative imagining of how you would like the future to be, to where you are currently with your goals. Taking into account what would be best for you and others in the current reality sets your intention for the future. When imagining the envisioned reality, be creative and use non-judgmental mindfulness to give yourself this permission to really expand beyond what you think is possible. Slowly start to imagine how long this change could take and start to shrink the envisioned reality back to the current goals.      

 

       When we observe the nature of time, whether it be the change of the seasons on our mother Earth, or of ourselves or others, the only real way change happens, is taking lots of small steps and trying to be more consistent toward the change. Many times, the smallest steps toward change can really be the greatest ones because this means you are working toward something even when it doesn’t show big effects, but you are still moving toward the goal, which is always the most important. Time is a paradox of the past, present and future all happening now but this perspective helps us understand how we can change the future in the present and let go of the past in order to succeed in current circumstances.

 

       Yes, I am saying that the nature of reality is taking a paradoxical perspective, and this is difficult for the mind to understand, which is why it must be learned through a mindful or more intuitive perspective.  My job is humble much of the time because there is really nothing I can really tell you to help you logically understand wisdom and nature of life or the heart. I can only really offer the experience of my practice and my stories of how it has made a difference in my life. And as always I strongly suggest that a person takes up a mindfulness practice and I offer to help teach a person to set-up and create more consistent practice through motivation and perspective, as well as help folks accelerate their practice of the skills of mindfulness. There are so many advantages of mindfulness when viewed through the perspective of the awakened heart!

 

Acquiring these three skills of envisioning the future, mindful non-judgment of present situations, and a letting go of the past, a person can really expand their current goals, and continue to create more precise goals.  Mindfulness expands our consciousness to be able to understand the nature of time, and having this perspective can be incredibly helpful when using goal-setting techniques. It helps us expand what is possible and set goals that allow us to use to move closer to the future possibilities, until our reality is no longer possibilities but is happening in the Now.

Article for Seattle Seahawks and Mindfulness:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9581925/seattle-seahawks-use-unusual-techniques-practice-espn-magazine

1st International Conference of Contemplative Studies

1st International Conference of Contemplative Studies

The International Symposia of Contemplative Studies kicked off their first conference ever in Denver Colorado over the weekend of April 26-29, 2012, by having Jon Kabat-Zinn give the opening speech to the audience and I knew that the experience was going to be one of a kind. What an amazing idea to bring together for the first time, contemplative teachers from multiple traditions of religion and spirituality with scientists who research and study the effects of contemplative practice. I had the pleasure of attending this conference recently and felt that many of the teachers and scientists (some of whom are monks and PH.D’s) are reporting much of the similar ideas and conclusions that I am communicating through my work. I will be sharing the findings that were shared with me at this conference and my reflections & thoughts on my humble yet privileged experience of “being present”.

What is a contemplative practice and how is it being defined?

Wikipedia claims the root word for contemplation is Latin for a building for worship, meaning in the temple; and in a religious sense it means meditation or prayer. In Greek philosophy, Contemplation was an important part of the philosophy of Plato; Plato thought that through contemplation the soul may ascend to knowledge of the divine forms. In Christianity, contemplation refers to a content-free mind directed towards the awareness of God as a living reality. This corresponds in some ways; to what in Eastern philosophy is called Samadhi, or one-pointed concentrated awareness. In Eastern Christianity contemplation literally means, the state of beholding God, or union with God, known as theoria or as theosis. The process of changing from the old man of sin into the newborn child of God and into our true nature as good and divine is called theosis. Contemplation as a practice is finding resonance in the West for businesses – for example in Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization and in universities in fields as diverse as architecture, physics, and the liberal arts. The innovative leader and giant company of Google has lead the way with their promotion of mindfulness meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn that can even be seen on YouTube. For this conference most of the studies were on mindfulness meditation, yoga and compassion training; and reported the positive health benefits that science and research is seeing from the results of these practices. Initial results have showed effects such as lowering anxiety, depression, negative emotions levels, reducing pain, and boosting the immune system.

Compassion, Empathy, and Gamma Brainwaves

Compassion training and developing empathy were the first topics I attended; I was interested in particularly the loving-kindness intention training techniques. Compassion training is reported to help the insula and cingulate cortices areas of the brain which is being linked to empathy and even 7 minutes can make you feel more connected. Compassion is to contemplate someone’s suffering with the wish to relieve that suffering by using a loving-kindness intention. Empathy is feeling the pain of another and many times at this point we can ourselves become distressed or we can use compassion and become aware of possibilities that can help another in love and kindness.  Using compassion training we work to do several things; stabilize the mind, create compassion toward a loved one, create compassion toward self and others, and creating compassion for shared humanity and using active compassion throughout one’s life. According to early research, those who have had compassion training are 6 and a 1/2 times more likely to show compassion to oneself, and 3.5 times more likely to show compassion to others. This training has been shown to lower anxiety levels and reduces stress hormones in the saliva and has tremendous potential for social growth as we know that more compassion in the world could alter it almost overnight.

Gamma brainwave states have been shown to correlate with compassion and loving-kindness states measured in the brain with EEG machines, and at this conference it was reported that long-term meditation is correlated to higher gamma brainwaves. This study indicated that long-term states develop in people who have meditated anywhere from 6,000-10,000 hours. They have more gamma brainwave states and they reoccur more often in sleep and throughout the day. Other research on neuro-plasticity and compassion or mindfulness training would support that fact that we have long-term and short-term changes in our brains which can develop new pathways or re-grow different parts of the brain.

Meditation Effects on Pain

Mindfulness meditation and its relationship to pain and suffering had some interesting and profound results. It was reported in a study of participants that 20 minutes for 4 sessions of mindfulness training, participants experienced a 40% reduction in their intensity of pain, and a 57% reduction in the unpleasant pain sensation. This seems quite high especially considering that the study stated that when using morphine as a solution for pain, studies indicate that participants usually report 20-25% reduction in pain. This is only one study but there is beginning to be a plethora of research indicating a reduction in pain and tension through mindfulness training. We believe that when the client changes their relationship to pain by observing it and letting it be, knowing that sensations in the body are not permanent, the pains become less. When we don’t react to the pain but observe its coming and going, the suffering only comes when we add resistance to the pain. Studies also indicated that the more meditation that the participants had done, the more sensitive they were to pain, although the pain hurt less. One of the conclusions with this work was the fact that the pain experience does not seem to change but the anxiety associated with the pain, as well as the resistance to the pain changes and therefore we are seeing significant reductions in pain when using mindfulness meditation.

Mindful Eating     

Studies have been conducted using mindfulness for eating problems, called mindful eating. We do know that mindfulness does not correlate to weight loss but most diets do not correlate to long-term weight loss either. We do have studies that report that the relationship to eating improves and that many people end up having an easier time losing weight after completing a mindfulness-based program.  Many of the researchers think that this is because it is much easier to focus on your goals and not get trapped by the self defeating thoughts and emotions that can come from the untrained mind. It becomes about nutrition and finding balance between eating healthy and treating yourself from time to time, it’s about quality not quantity. Participants disengage from habitual patterns and move away from the struggle of over-eating. Participants move toward savoring their eating by nourishing the body and accept themselves as they are, shifting the perspective of the eating experience.  Several studies revealed that eating junk food when you are stressed is what causes the belly fat and abdominal fat. Through reducing stress, regulating the emotions, and developing strategies to relate to food in a different perspective; mindful eating can be a powerful tool for many to use and develop the power to change their relationship to the eating experience and to themselves.

Universal Spirituality

For me the most powerful talk came when a neuroscience, a Buddhist, and a Christian monk took the stage to talk about health, compassion training, and basic human spirituality. We got to hear that the goal of compassion training is a healing one but it is also in order to develop compassion as 2nd nature. This means that we feel more empathy and therefore more compassion to help others if we have the power. From the perspective of all three, they each used different language but insisted they were all talking about the same shift in perspective as you use a contemplative practice; the metaphor was different doors to the same room. What the practice does, whether it’s contemplative prayer, mindfulness meditation or compassion training, is allow you to observe your thoughts, emotions, and concepts of yourself. You sit and observe countless self-concepts until you can’t observe anymore “I’s” and this is your true self or Buddha nature or Christ self, as explained.  The only way you can truly experience this Self is by being present; this shifts our perspective from ego to a more connected perspective of who you are. As we examine the role of Jesus, it is from a mystical point of view, which we can tell from much of his speaking throughout the Gospels (The Bible and Gnostic scripture). You love your neighbor as yourself because in the higher perspective, you and your neighbor are one. Through inner-wisdom you develop the perspective that your inner-nature or essence is the same as all human beings despite the fact that they may be of different culture, skin color, or background. In this way we have a basic human spirituality with universal principals that we can always be grateful for and the only time we can ever be truly grateful, or be one with the Higher Perspective is in the present moment.

Yoga

Yoga was the main topic of another interesting lecture that I attended at the conference and the subtle bodies were mentioned to a minimal degree. Yoga means to yoke or union between God and man, between the microcosm and macrocosm; which pretty much fits the exact definition of contemplative practice defined earlier. There is no real difference between yoga and meditation, yoga is meditation in movement, and the heart of any yogic practice is meditation. Yoga aims to steady the mind and develop subtle energy or prana, sometimes called chi.  Breathing and breath-work are central in any yoga or meditation practice and helps develop the energy centers or chakras throughout the body. My experience and research has lead me to believe that the subtle energy body is a key to the health of the body and overall general health of a person. The subtle body was mentioned in this workshop in that it can be developed through yoga and can be important for healing. Research has shown that yoga can decrease sleep disturbances, stress hormones, as well as anxiety and frustration, and cancer related symptoms. Yoga, as many Americans have discovered, has increasing benefits to health and healing and many studies, many which are just beginning, are proving just that.

Keynote Conclusions

At the end of the conference Richard Davidson gave the keynote and explained that contemplative studies is only in a beginning stage and has a long way to go, referring to the new area of study as just in kindergarten, compared to where he sees the field going. Davidson mentioned that other practices other then meditation need to be further studied, such as epigenetics, centering prayer, and more yoga. Davidson went on to say a true mind-brain-body integration needs to take place in the future for contemplative studies. Research has indicated some positive changes in those who practice as little as 10 minutes a day and even bigger changes happen for those who have practiced several thousand hours throughout life. The last speaker was different but he made an impact, as he is a Senator named Jon Ryan. He explained that adding more compassion and empathy toward our neighbors and ourselves could go a long way in any situation. Senator Ryan believes we need to build an infrastructure for a mind/body medicine highway that all hospitals, military bases, schools and an emphasis on teens and kids, businesses and health centers should have some type of access to holistic health programs. He also stressed teaching the reasons that one should practice contemplation. Teach the understanding of the healing effect that emerges as a person’s perspective shifts which impacts people’s lives when they start a contemplative practice and he encouraged the audience to push this idea out into the world.

Contemplative Practice as a vehicle for Political, Social, and Transformative Change

Contemplative practice can be used as a vehicle for social, political, & transformational change. The why of the practice is the most important aspect for change because when you practice you start to see that life is one whole connection and you are an integrated part of the whole; which many times this experience is healing within itself. If we can understand by experiencing the truth of this connection, which is done through contemplative practice, we can start to transform ourselves, our communities, and the world at large. When we live by a shift in perspective, which is to be more mindful and compassionate to ourselves and others we create systems whether social, political, or economical that make sense for this new perspective or worldview. Through contemplative practice, our view of our own nature, the nature within, and the nature of the Earth opens our minds and our hearts to the true reality that life is connected and everyone is part of that connection. Currently our systems, politically economically and socially, are based on the fact that we are separate and this is why we see a breakdown of these systems at this time in history. But as the old system continues to fall apart, a new paradigm emerges and we have new opportunities to update the systems to a more complete view of humanities love, connection, and wholeness.

Reflection

Reflecting on my privilege to be at the 1st International Conference of Contemplative Studies, I had several comments as both as a practitioner, a scientist, and a teacher. As the conference was winding down I had the honor of discussing the implications of contemplative studies with a colleague of mine. We were led to discuss the effects of healing versus curing; to cure is to clear the symptoms of something that is troubling a person, but many times medicine cures the symptom but not the root issue. Healing is not only to possibly clear the symptoms, it’s to get to the root of the problem; it also empowers clients to cope with their suffering and pain. Healing also helps relieve suffering to help clients cope with life, despite the inevitability of pain and suffering. Healing is about turning the traumas or pain that we have experienced into a source of strength and compassion for ourselves and our life. I believe that this conference has given us a start to be able to quantify the experience and health that comes from a contemplative practice. As we continue to study the effects of contemplative practice, I believe we will continue to find significantly valid studies that prove how powerful and effective these practices are for a person’s health, well-being, performance, and a tool for global change.

Energy of South America

Many people have asked me what I am doing these days and I am here to tell you that I have gone on vision quest of some kind to South America. I do apologize for my long absence as I originally came to South America for only a month because in my practice of Spirituality we connect with the Earth. I knew through intuitive communication with the Earth I needed to connect my self to the highest frequency of Earth energy, which I found to be near Cusco, Peru. Talking with a few teachers of mine there has been a consensus that the Earth is shifting its own frequency at this time, which is balanced with the changes of the Sun. The Sun is going through a change at this time that affects the Earth and the people on the Earth. Research from many different scientific institutions shows that the Sun is cycling through a natural process of change and this change can directly affect the Earth itself and therefore life on Earth. The Sun is having much activity in it’s solar fares and nuclear processes and its height of activity was thought to be around the end of 2012 or early 2013. Really this was an educated guess from the scientific community because these things are hard to predict and we don’t have a very long record of Sun activity, many a few hundred years. Some cultures and civilizations have kept better records then others in this area and it is my belief that the Inca’s and Mayans had some of the best calculation from around 1,000 years ago.  As of now, The Institute of HeartMath shows that the Sun activity is going to peak at the end of 2013 or beginning 2014.

 

Knowing this information I traveled to Peru to connect to this Energy but there was more waiting for me as I quickly found out only a few days into my trip.  I had been spending lots of time by myself in the US and the change of living in a community of people was a nice change.  There seems to be a movement on the planet to transition into a healthier lifestyle and for many people this can be accomplished through Community living. I discovered that many of the people traveling are trying to learn new ways of healing and living. You are more open to changes and life experience because you are already outside your comfort zone being in a foreign country.

 

Throughout different parts of the world like the Americas, Israel, and other parts of the world people are starting small communities. There can be many benefits to community living depending on the community. Each commune has it’s own flavor and way of organizing and functioning. Many people in the States are experiencing mental disorders because they are struggling with loneness, bad diet, or over working. These problems can be reduced through community living by having community meals (mostly vegetarian) while connecting to people and sharing workloads. In many of the communities there can be an emphasis on healing with meditation, yoga, and many different healing modalities (Rieki, Shamanism, Message, Reflexology). I stayed in one community in Cusco, called the Healing House, and this was an amazing place surrounded by incredible people, many of which were healers from around the world. Many friends and people we met along the way, starting playing with the idea of starting our own community that is connected to many of the other communities we have come across in South and North America (more info to come on this area).

 

The Mayans knew the Sun cycles and therefore knew that changes in the Sun would happen in this time and effect life on this planet at this time. They predicted that this process would start around 1992 and go on for about 40 years. Now, we have moved into a new age of the sun and the transition of the Earth will continue for the next 20 years (give or take a few years). We will see massive changes in this time (climate change, economic instability/change, ect.) but this is not to be met with fear but with a loving heart. Life is moving into a more dream-like state where we are becoming more connected, intuitive, and realizing that we are creators in the dream of life. You have a choice to walk in this dream consciously or unconsciousnessly but if you start to awake to this truth you will empower yourself to create in love and not stay stuck in fear. For it will be much easier the more you connect to your heart. Science confirms that during the high activity of the Sun people can experience depression or low energy from solar fares. However when we connect to our hearts and we are in a coherent state this can shift our energy and perspective to healthier states.

 

As always I offer 1-on-1 sessions over Skype ($50/hr) to help my clients achieve heart coherence through two ways. One is through meditations to awaken the heart and the other is through biofeedback through a few different methods. I recommend a daily practice of at least 30 minutes a day 6 days a week to help the perspective of the heart to become more of a reality in a person’s life.

 

I will be available Monday-Friday through the month of May and available again anytime June 12th forward!

 

“To go within is to Awaken

To be in the outside world is to Dream!”

 

Erik Leslie

Psycho-Spiritual Coach/Speaker

Focus & Flow, LLC

Intentional Prayer/Meditation

When most people think that if they start down a spiritual path than they may have to leave their current religious beliefs behind. However, this could not be further from the truth, as a good teacher asks for nothing but intentional investigation, or inner knowledge. Aristotle called this wisdom and philosophy was born which simply means the study of wisdom. This wisdom is beyond thoughts, emotions and one must quite the mind to find the treasure that lies at subtle levels of human existence. This is the purpose of prayer or meditation and they are both two doors to the same room. At a foundational level there is no difference between a centering prayer practice and intentional meditation practice. The goal of each is to attune to the frequency of pure love or union with the divine and this practice happens to have many healthy benefits. There are many types of prayer and meditation but science has proven that many types of prayer and meditation do the same things inside the brain. Some westerners are turned off by the near mention of meditation but we must understand that prayer and meditation have the same source. Put your attention on your intention and focus it to unconditional love and whether you call it meditation or prayer is a word preference or semantics.

Intention is one of the greatest powers we have and most of us don’t know we have the power and if we do, we don’t know how to use it or develop it. When our intention is pure then many times even what we might call mistakes transform into miracles. If we learn to focus on the present moment and listen to our hearts we can create with the Universe. We can use coincidences as guidance or messages which can help us be more patient with life. Never underestimate the significance of a single moment, or the synchronicities that come into your life. Synchronicities help us create with life and develop an effortless effort, when you’re open to all possibilities; it’s amazing how things can come together on their own. One of the characteristics of the flow state is effortless effort and the effort comes from our own behavior and acts but the effortless part comes when we surrender and get out of the way as life creates for us. It’s a balance that is always changing but it brings the fun back into our lives and makes life easier in a chaotic world.