I had a revelation while meditating one morning. It wasn’t a World-Altering Revelation. It was more of a Well-That-Will-Make-Life-Better Revelation. Frankly, I have those pretty often because I’m a thinker, an analyzer, a how-can-we-make-this-easier kind of person who usually has her brain turned on and in high gear.
I don’t meditate as regularly as I’d like, but I’m working on it in light of research by Richard Boyatzis, coauthor of Primal Leadership. He found that one of the antidotes for leadership burnout is mindfulness and that can be achieved with meditation. (In case you are wondering, the other avenues of renewal are compassion, playfulness, and hope.) The key in all categories of renewal is that you must do at least one from any category EVERY DAY! You have to work at rejuvenation!
Well, that isn’t exactly true and the idea of “working” at meditation was altered by my morning revelation. I’ve always looked at meditation as an exercise in self-discipline and mind control. The goal is a sort of Vulcan-like ability to stay laser-focused during meditation. The result is the ability to carry that focus and calm out into the world. Don’t get me wrong, self-discipline is important; it’s one of the major pieces of Emotional Intelligence, but it wasn’t helping me on the renewal front as a way to meditate. Convincing my brain to sit still and be quiet is exhausting, not rejuvenating!
I discovered my new way of viewing meditation by accident. I was trying different mantras and imagined what words or sounds my leadership series participants would come up with if I had them do this exercise with me. With each inflow and outflow of breath I could hear them thinking, “Hate…… this” or “Help….. me.” They have resisted my meditation exercises in the past.
Then I started thinking of things I could suggest to them instead. I started with: “Love…. Joy,” “Peace…. Harmony,” “Calm…. Life.” Then I started getting silly: “Puppies…. Kittens,” “Sweet-smelling….. Babies,” “Brilliant… flowers.” I was reminded of the pictures that I flashed up on the big screen during one of our sessions. I showed them cute puppies, adorable babies, alluring kittens and beautiful flowers to let them feel a Positive Emotional Attractor state (PEA) – a term used by Boyatzis to describe a state when we are more open to influence and more creative. I’ve called it “Finding Your Happy Place” in the past, but now I think it’s more accurate to describe it as “Relaxing Into Your Happy Place.”
It occurred to me that getting into the PEA was the real fuel for renewal. I felt lighter, happier, and more relaxed as I continued to visualize happy thoughts. I maintained the focus on the feelings I was having, and it felt like I was activating my heart. I like that phrase – activating your heart.
The lovely side effect of activating the heart is that it deactivates the brain. When I focus on feeling, it’s really hard to think. What I realized is that for meditation to have a regenerative effect for me, it must be an exercise in feeling and activating the heart. Once my heart is in the driver’s seat, my brain really can get some rest and that results in me being a calmer, nicer person.
Now that I think about it, this revelation could lead to a more positive world if we all managed to improve our outlook and increase our positivity through heart-activating meditation. Maybe it was a World-Altering Revelation after all.