The Inside Job: Cultivating Calm and Clarity for Leaders
Leadership is an inside job. How do you cultivate an inner calm in order to deal with the chaos of our outer world? With less than a minute, here’s how to find a way to quickly get clear (scroll down for instructions on taking a brief moment of clarity).
The Daily Practice: Cultivating Calm & Clarity in a VUCA World
The military has a name for the times we are living in – the VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). As a business leader, how do you wake to so much chaos everyday and find your own center? How can you cultivate a personal and realistic sense of what you can do or control?
This morning I got up at 5 am to meditate and do yoga. BUT you don’t need to do that. And certainly don’t try to start there. For me, it’s become my daily hygeine – like brushing my teeth. I always at least “take a moment” before entering the day. Watching the world from this simple seat sometimes I think I can actually see the chaotic molecules of the air like so much static on a TV. It’s probably just a trick of the morning light. But it reminds me that everything is impermanent and nothing is as real as it seems. That life is what you make of it. It’s a good way to start the day – especially as a modern business person.
Getting Started: Brief Moments of Clarity Repeated Many Times
While I started meditating about 5 years ago, you know what really got me started? Someone telling me that all it takes is a moment to “clear.” Suddenly meditation was no big deal. The best line in the whole meditation movement in my mind comes from Balanced View “Brief moments of clarity repeated many times becomes enlightenment.” (The rest of their writings are pretty esoteric, but this line packs a wallop). Aiming for brief moments of clarity has shifted my whole perspective and at times my whole day. It was no longer about getting up at 5 am and practicing for hours like some holy mountain yogi. All I need to do is take a moment to get clear. The getting up at 5 am came later – much later. As hormones and lifestyle shifts took hold. It all started with the simple wish to get clear and settled and the knowledge that I could start with just a moment. And the knowledge that I could do it any time, anywhere.
I’m going to outline some of my favorite resources in this post if you might feel ready to get started on this “inside job” of leadership, keeping calm and clear.
My Favorite Resources
Dan Harris’s 10% Happier is a great starter book on meditation. This memoir traces his personal breakdown and entry into the meditation world. It’s the first meditation book that resonated with my husband – and that’s saying something. Readable and totally relatable. He does not overpromise with his 10% but he diligently tells the his story and speaks to the science behind what meditation can do and why it works in our chaotic world today.
If you don’t have time to read the book, there’s a good article about it here from Psychology Today.
If you want to get deeper into why and how Meditation works and is an important element of the inside job of leadership today. Siegel is a doctor and discusses the neurobiology and discusses how it all works in very accessible ways. His book “Mindsight” will give you insight into how the mind works. Outside of any of its esoteric claims, meditation is ultimately simply a science of the mind.
How to Meditate – Beginners Guides
Enough with the philosophy… So how do you do this stuff? Here are a few of my favorites …
To get started with teachers who are delightful and accessible, I recommend either John Kabot Zinn or Pema Chodron. Their audio books will take you on guided meditations that last 10 minutes to 1 hour. They’re resources to return to again and again.
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness for Beginners is a great starting place. With several guided mindfulness meditations based on his MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) taught at his clinic at the University of Massachussets medical school. Jon has bringing mindfulness meditation into the cultural and medical mainstream for decades.
Pema Chodron’s How to Meditate is an amazing introduction to simple meditation methods that are just about training the ability to be right here and present with all that arises.
OR Just Take A “Brief Moment of Clarity”Right Now (My favorite less-than-a-minute practice)
You can always just look outside or stare at a blank wall for a moment and just literally just clear your mind. It only takes a moment to clear out and reconnect with yourself.
The instruction: Stop what you are doing. Find a blank place to stare. Imagine your thoughts are like clouds floating across the sky. Let them pass. Let this be your brief moment of zen. Your internal reset button. That’s it!
If you’re ready for a second step… Once you have cleared your mind, you can check in to your body. How your are feeling, what you are sensing, any thing arising? It’s all data available to you. Guaranteed with a brief moment of clarity your observations will be clearer and more useful to you.
This is just a simple beginning to the inside job of leadership in a VUCA world.
The key equation for today: brief moments of clarity repeated many times becomes enlightenment.