Once leaders understand and practice the basics of formal mindfulness meditation, we invite them to take the training into everyday life through informal practices. Some of the richest explorations of mindfulness come from simply paying attention to the daily calendar.
In this practice, leaders are asked to notice the sensations in their body as they review a single calendar page from their schedules. Almost instantly, when leaders pause long enough, they notice that their chest or stomach has tightened or their neck has tensed up. They begin to become curious about those messages from the body. They begin to question the status quo.
For many of us, a calendar of meeting after meeting seems inevitable. We have to do it!
But is the schedule that’s been laid down for us—often by a variety of other people—carved in stone? Do we believe that if someone thinks we are needed in a meeting, we can’t turn it down? After all, we are leaders, so we must be needed, right?
With a pause that opens us to the present—that allows us to notice how the body is meeting the beginning of the day—we can become more reflective about our choices. What is the best use of our time? How many meetings do we attend even when others on our team are in attendance? Do we attend because we work in a culture where everyone needs to know everything? Do we live in an environment that is so competitive that there is a sense that constant visibility is necessary to ensure advancement? How many meetings are a complete waste of time? In a global economy with increasingly scarce resources, is this how leaders should be meeting the day?
Calendar practice also raises questions about cultivating space for the teams we lead to grow, about the barriers to innovation that arise from a simple lack of space in the day, and about the allure of reacting to situations simply to get something off the to-do list. These and many other discoveries all begin with the simple act of intentionally pausing to practice mindfulness for a few moments. In that small opening, the possibility emerges of meeting the day with more openness and flexibility in our chest, stomach, and neck, and a corresponding spaciousness of mind that allows us to lead ourselves and others more effectively through the chaos and complexity of our day.
Janice Marturano is is Vice President, Public Responsibility and Deputy General Counsel for General Mills Inc, and Founder/Executive Director, Institute for Mindful Leadership. Don’t miss her upcoming workshop in New York City – Sign up here!