In Bridges to Consensus, I recommended three mental or spiritual values that support good consensus building and communication practices: compassion, calmness, and curiosity. I recommend regular meditation as a way to foster the second value, calmness. Now I’d like to share what is, for me, a new way to think about meditation.
Some people become frustrated if their minds wander while meditating, for example, while counting and concentrating on their breaths. However, mind wandering is normal, and a number of meditation teachers suggest that one calmly observe the fact that the mind has wandered and resume counting. In fact, I once heard someone say that meditation is noticing when the mind wanders.
This week, I read an article about a meditation technique that seems to take this concept a step farther, a step in a direction I think a lot of you readers will like. This meditation technique, recommended by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe of Headspace, has only one step: do nothing. He goes on to say that this means simply sit still and observe your thoughts and anxieties without passing judgment, Just experience them.
After reading this, I realized why I’ve experienced such good results when I simply sat outside for a few minutes and looked around noticing things, but not working at any particular train of thought. It always seemed to me that, when I did this, I received the benefits of a good meditation session even if I wasn’t meditating. Now I know that I was meditating.
The article about Puddicombe also points out a couple of problems that ten minutes per day of this do-nothing meditation can solve–loss of focus and stress.
Focus is crucial during negotiation, consensus building, or any other important conversation. But the fast pace of our electronic lives works against focus. Nick Begley, Headspace’s head of research says that a worker using a computer typically changes windows at least thirty-seven times per hour. This divides the worker’s focus. A part of her mind is still on the previous window after she has switched to a different one. This happens any time we changed tasks rapidly, reducing efficiency and ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant data. Not where you want to be during an important conversation.
Ten minutes of “do-nothing” meditation helps to reset your focus on the day in question, and like any other good meditation practice, when done regularly, also produces long-range benefits. One of these deals directly with the second problem identified above—stress. It replaces that stress with calmness and builds your ability to calm yourself more easily and quickly before or during an important interaction.
Now that the weather is becoming milder, I plan to get that lawn chair out of the garage and resume my practice of “do-nothing” meditation on my patio. But wherever you try this, I hope you do, and I’ll be glad to hear how it goes for you.