Miraculous Meditation

January 23, 2017

meditation suit

When I do these leadership programs, the participants always ask me,  what’s the one thing that I could do that would make the biggest difference?  I understand the question.  We are all busy.  We can’t do dozens of things.  We can’t commit to an hour in the gym, seven days a week.  We can’t go on a sabbatical for a month.  So what is that one thing that can make a huge difference?  It’s meditation. We strongly emphasize this in our courses.  In order to create well-being, in order to be productive, in order to tap into that higher power, we must have reflection time each day.  It doesn’t have to be long.  It can be as little as 10 minutes.  But it has to be consistent.  I probably average four to five days a week where I sit down and be quiet and not do any planning or worrying or problem solving.  Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, says that anyone who is trying to attain personal mastery should practice some form of meditation.

Studies have shown that meditation increases focus and changes physiology.  It reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases DHEA, the “youth” hormone.  It relaxes you.  It increases problem solving.  It increases your energy levels.  Harvard Medical recently found that regular meditation actually changes the expression of genes and lengthens the telomeres.  Shortened telomeres indicate aging.  So it actually reverses the aging process.  So if it does all of these amazing thins, why doesn’t everyone do it?  For some it seems too “new age”.  For some, it seems cult like.  They think that it conflicts with their religious beliefs.  But think of it as just an exercise in concentration.  You can apply your own belief system to these techniques so that you are comfortable with it.

Here is a very simple meditation technique:

Take a deep breath in.  Breathe out and think the number one.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out again.  Think the number two.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out.  Think the number three.  Breathe in a fourth time.  Breathe out and think the number four.  Then start again at one.  Other thoughts will enter your mind.  Politely dismiss them and go back to breathing and counting.  Do this for around 5 to 10 minutes.  Set a timer if you need to.

You will no doubt find this hard at first.  But the more you do it, the more you will be able to focus.  Not only during the meditation, but in all areas of your life and work.  You will be more relaxed, more resilient to stress, and you will have more energy at the end of the day.


The Secret of Life: What ONE THING should I focus on?

June 5, 2015

Meditation illustration

“Meditation is a way for nourishing and blossoming the divinity within you.” ― Amit Ray

Take a look at this video from the movie, City Slickers:

When I do these leadership programs, the participants always ask me,  what’s the one thing that I could do that would make the biggest difference?  I understand the question.  We are all busy.  We can’t do dozens of things.  We can’t commit to an hour in the gym, seven days a week.  We can’t go on a sabbatical for a month.  So what is that one thing that can make a huge difference?  It’s meditation. We strongly emphasize this in our courses.  In order to create well-being, in order to be productive, in order to tap into that higher power, we must have reflection time each day.  It doesn’t have to be long.  It can be as little as 10 minutes.  But it has to be consistent.  I probably average four to five days a week where I sit down and be quiet and not do any planning or worrying or problem solving.  Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, says that anyone who is trying to attain personal mastery should practice some form of meditation.

Studies have shown that meditation increases focus and changes physiology.  It reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases DHEA, the “youth” hormone.  It relaxes you.  It increases problem solving.  It increases your energy levels.  So if it does all of these amazing thins, why doesn’t everyone do it?  For some it seems too “new age”.  For some, it seems cult like.  They think that it conflicts with their religious beliefs.  But think of it as just an exercise in concentration.  You can apply your own belief system to these techniques so that you are comfortable with it.

Harvard Medical School recently completed a study on mediation.  The study published in May in a prestigious medical journal showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress.  This means that meditation actually helps prevent autoimmune diseases and inflammation that is linked to many diseases.

As if that weren’t cool enough, regular mediation actually lengthens the telomeres on our genes.  These shoelace-like structures shorten with age.  So meditation is a bonafide way to reverse the aging process!

Here is a very simple meditation technique:

Take a deep breath in.  Breathe out and think the number one.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out again.  Think the number two.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out.  Think the number three.  Breathe in a fourth time.  Breathe out and think the number four.  Then start again at one.  Other thoughts will enter your mind.  Politely dismiss them and go back to breathing and counting.  Do this for around 5 to 10 minutes.  Set a timer if you need to.

You will no doubt find this hard at first.  But the more you do it, the more you will be able to focus.  Not only during the meditation, but in all areas of your life and work.  You will be more relaxed and more resilient to stress.

I have created a guided meditation CD that takes you through a progressive relaxation followed by visualizations.  If you are interested, you can contact my Executive Assistant, Casey at casey@brentdarnell.com.  We should have it on the store on brentdarnell.com very soon, but we can find a way to get it to you if you are interested.

You can also check out my book, Stress Management, Time Management, and Life Balance for Tough Guys if you want more information:

http://www.amazon.com/Stress-Management-Time-Balance-Tough/dp/0979925843/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1318936277&sr=8-2

Let me know if you want to learn more about meditation and the various techniques.


What if You Knew You Were Dying?

March 12, 2015

silencio

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Mark Twain

Guess what?  You ARE dying.  At many of these inspirational events, they ask, “What would you do if you had 30 days to live?  How would you spend it?  What would you do differently?”  I never really took those questions very seriously because the end of my life seemed so far out into the future.  But the truth is that we are all dying.  Some will die more quickly than others.  But we will all end up in the same place.  Worm food.  Take a tape measure and roll it out to 80 inches.  Let that represent your life span.  If you have great genetics, roll it out further.  Now look at where you are now.  30?  40?  50?  60?  In any case, I am always struck by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of tape left.

If today were the last day of your life, would you do the same thing that you are doing today?  It is something to think about.

A few years ago, four of our very good friends left this earth, all in their fifties.  All of their lives were cut short.  It made us examine what we were doing.  And we found out that we talked and thought about work way too much.  We worried about money too much.  We obsessed over things that really didn’t make that much of a difference in our lives.  We came to the not so profound conclusion that life is too short.  So we decided to do something about it.  We decided to take every Friday off.  We also decides to take at least three weeks of vacation this year.  When you add up the Fridays, that is seven weeks.  Add the vacations and that’s ten weeks that we are taking off.  That’s even more than some Europeans.

Don’t get me wrong.  We are not perfect at it.  We have worked some Fridays.  We have had stretches of financial worries and other trivial worries.  It is a constant struggle.  But we are making the effort.  And perhaps, over time, we will become proficient at it.  With managing your time, it comes down to this:  There are choices and there are consequences.  What choices are you going to make?  How are you going to spend your remaining days?

Steve Jobs’ commencement speech to Stanford discusses death as a motivator.  Look just after 9 minutes and listen as he talks about his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.   It’s an eye opener.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc&feature=youtu.be

We are all dying.  We are all marching toward death.  What are you  going to choose to see along the way?


What is your purpose?

February 5, 2015

hedeflenen nokta ve başarma ruhu

 

Everything and everyone has a purpose.  I recently saw the movie Hugo on Netflix and highly recommend it.  It is the story of a young orphan who takes care of and repairs machines.  He explains that his purpose is to fix machines.  Because when a machine is broken, and cannot do what it was made to do, it is a very sad situation because the machine no longer fulfills its purpose.  Do you know what your purpose is?  And are you living your purpose?  If not, you may be like those machines that are broken.  You are not fulfilling your purpose.  And that is a very sad thing.  If you don’t know what your purpose is, there are many resources that will help you find out.  One excellent book is The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  Or you can take this time at the beginning of the year and start writing down a few ideas of what your purpose might be.  It’s worth the effort to explore this very profound question. Try writing down 10 things you want, 10 things you need, and 10 things you love.  What do those lists look like?  Does it give you any clarity of purpose?

 


Morning Energy and How It Can Affect Your Whole Day

November 20, 2014

italiansscowl

I was at a CMAA (Construction Owners Association of America) Conference and was eating breakfast when I noticed a group of Italians greeting each other in the morning.  It looked a little like the first photo to the left.  They were full of energy, they were animated, they were smiling, they clapped each other on the back, they kissed cheeks, and they loved every minute of it.  They were loud, laughing and smiling at everything that was said.

Then, I walked downstairs to the CMAA.  It was like a scene from the walking dead.  Almost everyone I passed had, at best, a stone face, and at worst, a morning scowl.  See the second photo.  This is how most contractors and engineers seem to start their day, with a scowling or neutral face.  I’m not sure if that was before or after coffee, but my guess is that coffee makes little difference.  We talk about this much in our programs.  What is your face conveying when you aren’t thinking about anything in particular?  For most engineers and contractors, it’s this neutral or scowling face.  And that’s a shame.  Because when I ask how these folks are doing, they usually say, “Fine!” or “Great!”.  It’s time to let your face know what your heart is feeling.

Back to the Italians.  What a way to start the day.  I wonder if this way of starting the day has a positive effect on the rest of their day?  I’m sure it does.  So think about this next time you hit the ground tomorrow morning.  How are you starting your day?  With low energy and a scowl?  Or with high energy and a smile?   It’s certainly a choice.  What choice are you making?  If you opt for high energy and a smile, I think you will find that they entire day will go much better.


Zen and the Art of Dementia

September 25, 2014

 

Scan 2014-8-21 0019-1

 

There are many horrible things about dementia and my mother’s mental and physical decline.  She can’t walk any more.  She sleeps most of the day.  She can’t remember things.  She still remembers me and my brothers, but can’t remember details of her life and the other people in it.  She can’t carry on detailed conversations any more.   That is the downside of dementia.

But there is something else that we are experiencing with this decline.  With dementia comes a send of mindfulness.  Mom is totally in the moment.  She is not worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.  Each week, my brothers and I meet for brunch, then stop by Quick Trip to buy Mom an ice cream.  When we arrive, she is so happy to see us.  Genuinely happy.  In the moment.   There are still glimpses of the mother I grew up with, and those glimpses are always “in the moment” moments.

She still can be very funny, cracking jokes here and there, playing off something that we said.  Mom and Dad were always having fun.  Check out the picture to the left.  When she eats her ice cream, she is totally focused on it, telling us how good it is and savoring every bite.  She eats it like a child with simplicity and full engagement.

But the most astounding in the moment moment is when there is music in the air.  There is a church group that comes once a month to her assisted living place, and they always start with several hymns.  When they try to hand Mom a hymn book, we tell them that she doesn’t need it.  She knows every word to every verse to every hymn they sing.  Of course, she grew up in the church and played piano for years.  And that part of her brain is completely intact.  When the music starts, she is completely in the moment, singing not only the words, but the harmony.  Wow!

I could dwell on the loss of Mom’s memory and her physical decline or I could be in the moment with her and cherish those “in the moment” moments.  It’s a decision.  And this not only goes for my time with her.  This goes for all of the folks I come into contact with every single day.  Are you in the moment, fully engaged, fully present with the people you come into contact with?  Or are you checking your phone, your texts, Facebook, email, or some other technology that only pulls you away from the present?  The choice is definitely yours.


Things My Dog Taught Me: Rely on Your Inner Strength

May 15, 2014

Ginger 09

 

My life feels like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities:  “It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.”  In many ways my life and work are the best it’s ever been.  I have plenty of work and more work coming.  I don’t work too much.  I have moved my home office and now have a real office to go to each day.  I feel good physically.

But in some ways, my life is not so good.  My mom is in decline and I will likely lose her sooner rather than later.  And with any adversity like that, there are two emotional competencies that usually decline rapidly:  emotional self-awareness and impulse control.  The emotional self-awareness declines and I “check out” emotionally.  This is not good for my wife, my family, and sometimes my clients.  And the worst part is that I tend to use most of my energy to make sure clients are happy, which leaves little energy for family, especially my wife.  It’s not fair for her, and she and I are struggling with it.

The second area is impulse control, specifically with eating.  When I am stressed, I tend to eat a lot.  And I eat a lot of carbs and sugar.  This is not good for me or those around me.  I tend to zone out even more and have these highs and lows.  It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions and energy.

So how am I coping with all of this?  I’m doing the things I need to do to be fully present and aware of what’s going on around me.  I try to stay in the moment.  Sometimes I’m successful.  Sometimes I’m not.  I try to take care of myself and meditate daily, get an occasional massage, go to some movies, turn off work and focus on my wife and all of the things at home.

But the one thing that gives me the most hope, that helps me the most is something I learned from my dog, Ginger.  When she was in decline, she stayed strong.  She had such a vibrant soul and an inner strength, it was inspiring.  It still is.  I know I am strong.  I have that inner strength.  I know that I can deal with anything that life throws at me with courage and hope.  I feel like Ginger is watching over me somehow, encouraging me and letting me know that this too shall pass.

There will always be good times and bad times.  It’s understanding the transient nature of life and relying on that inner strength that keeps me going.  If you have a story of courage and inner strength, I would like to hear about it.