This year, with the holidays right around the corner, I’m grateful for the fact that we’re all endowed with an unlimited capacity to constantly expand our desires, potential and contribution. Your business is proof of this. You created it out of nothing (thank you for that!), and you were able to do so because of that vast, yet ever increasing wealth of aptitude that's inside of you.
Sometimes I feel like pinching myself when I think about how lucky we all are to have this grand arsenal of capacity right in our front pocket.
The challenge many of us face is not lacking this infinite arsenal of possibilities, but learning how to access it.
It’s as if our wealth of potential was a beautiful diamond. When we pick it up from the earth, it’s covered in dirt. If we don’t know to remove that dirt, we’ll think that’s all there is to the diamond: it will shine just a little bit from here and there. But when we remove the dirt, it will shine brilliantly from every single facet and will astound everyone. The cleaner our diamond, the more we can contribute to our businesses.
Meditation, awareness and staying grounded are a metaphor for removing this dirt.
Luckily, there are tools to help us. This fall I came across a book by Chade-Meng Tan, a former Google award-winning engineer. The book is called “Search inside yourself” and I believe it can help just about anyone polish her or his diamond.
It consists of a step-by-step curriculum, which was tested and perfected at Google, for achieving mindfulness based emotional intelligence. It’s highly practical, scientifically grounded and with plenty of research that backs up all the ideas discussed.
The ideas are written in a way that resonates with everyone, regardless of people’s spiritual beliefs (or lack of). I knew that was true when my husband, a former electrical engineer who doesn’t believe in anything you can’t see or touch with your fingers, started meditating after reading “Search inside yourself”.
Knowing yourself, meditating and being mindful will help you increase your self-confidence, be more resilient and ultimately achieve more in life and in your business. For example, in the book, Meng refers to a study that shows how teaching emotional awareness skills to financial advisors at American Express Financial Advisors resulted in more revenue per advisor.
Loving Kindness meditation
I had the honor of hearing Meng speak about his work recently, and during his talk, he asked us to close our eyes and send love to a person we know. When we opened our eyes, he said something that was wonderful and surprising.
He pointed out that we all smiled while our eyes were closed.
It’s true, I thought. I must have smiled because I could still feel the smile on my face, but I would have never realized it if he didn’t mention it.
I found this to be the simplest and most tangible explanation of why giving means receiving. When you engage in a loving kindness meditation like this, in which you send love to others, you get joy in return. You get to have a better day, simply because you chose to give something that’s accessible to all of us and doesn’t cost any money: a loving thought.
Now, imagine going into every business meeting and passing love thoughts like this to everyone in the room. Or, passing love thoughts like this to your customers, even if you’ve never seen them face-to-face. This is what Marianne Williamson refers to when she urges people to greet every person with the silent thought of “the love in me salutes the love in you.”
It’s my belief that we’d accomplish much more with our businesses this way, and that we’d have less of a mess to clean up afterwards.
Just Like Me and Loving Kindness meditation ("Search inside Yourself", page 169):
Sit in a comfortable position that allows you to be alert and relaxed at the same time. Start with two minutes to rest the mind on the breath.
Bring to mind somebody you care about. Visualize him or her. If you wish, you may use a photograph or video of that person.
Just like me
Now, read the script below slowly to yourself, pausing at the end of each sentence for reflection:
This person has a body and mind, just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me.
This person has, at some point in his or her life, been sad, disappointed, angry, hurt, or confused, just like me.
This person has, in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be healthy and loved, and to have fulfilling relationships, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like me.
Now, let’s allow some wishes to arise.
I wish for this person to have the strength, the resources and the emotional and social support to navigate the difficulties in life.
I wish for this person to be free from pain and suffering.
I wish for this person to be happy.
Because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.
Now, I wish for everybody I know to be happy.
End with one minute of resting the mind."
You are not your emotions
We all feel up and down and everything else along the way. Not reacting to anger, frustration, impatience and any other emotion that doesn’t serve us and those around us, is a skill that can be learned through self-awareness, and a skill that will make us better business leaders.
“As we deepen our self-awareness, we eventually arrive at a very important key insight: we are not our emotions.
We usually think of our emotions as being us. This is reflected in the language we use to describe them. For example, we say “I am angry” or “I am happy” or “I am sad”, as if anger, happiness or sadness are us, or become who we are. To the mind, our emotions become our very existence.
With enough mindfulness practice, you may eventually notice a subtle but important shift- you may begin to feel that emotions are simply what you feel, not who you are. Emotions go from being existential (“I am”) to experiential (“I feel”). With even more mindfulness practice, there may be another subtle but important shift- you may begin to see emotions simply as physiological phenomena. Emotions become what we experience in the body, so we go from “I am angry” to “I experience anger in my body.”
This subtle shift is extremely important because it suggests the possibility of mastery over our emotions. If my emotions are who I am, then there is very little I can do about it. However, if emotions are simply what I experience in my body, then feeling angry becomes a lot like feeling pain in my shoulders after an extreme workout; both are just physiological experiences over which I have influence. I can soothe them. (…)
In meditative traditions, we have a beautiful metaphor for this insight. Thoughts and emotions are like clouds- some beautiful, some dark- while our core being is like the sky. Clouds are not the sky. They are phenomena in the sky that come and go. Similarly, Thoughts and emotions are not who we are; they are simply phenomena in mind and body that come and go.
Possessing this insight, one creates the possibility of change within oneself.” ("Search inside Yourself", page 100)
About Chade-Meng Tan
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of words about Chade-Meng Tan. When he entered the room, I felt like smiling. He made everyone laugh (he is very funny, by the way!), but it wasn’t the humor that made me feel that way. It was almost as if he had a trail of compassion, love and kindness around him, and you could feel the warmth just by being in the room with him.
His dream is world peace. We can all contribute. All we have to do is search inside ourselves, meditate and be more self-aware about who we are and what matters to us and our businesses.
If you can see Meng talk or pick up his book, I highly recommend it.
Cover image credit: Kosal Ley