27/10/2010

By Jayne Storey

The thing about balance is that it never achieves anything, except…well, being balanced. You’ll notice that outstanding achievers in any field you care to mention from business, to sport, the arts, science, politics, invention and design are never the most balanced of individuals and hardly lead balanced lives, so focused are they on breaking new ground and/or achieving excellence in their endeavours.

I’m of a similar disposition myself and agree with something F. Buckminster Fuller, author of ‘Spaceship Earth’ once said, which was along the lines that a human being should be able to change a light bulb, deliver a baby, run an marathon, prepare dinner for twelve dozen people, arm-wrestle a sailor and speak in public.

Most of the successful business-people I’m fortunate enough to meet on my journey would probably agree with his statement… although many of them suffer from the all too familiar scenario you hear time and again from high achievers… burn-out. So why’s that?

Well, true relaxation does not declare time-out from life, but seeks inner stillness within the chaos, within the hustle and bustle, within the juggling of family and work responsibilities, fitness training, creative pursuits, spiritual development and so on.

In my last article (To Become a Thought leader You Need to Stop Thinking) I stressed the value of Meditation (Zen) as the vehicle or doorway into the Zone… the relaxation response of creative potential that exists in the stillness of the mind. Maintaining central equilibrium is the key to staying relaxed under pressure, whether that pressure is self-imposed (high achiever) or comes from outside influences (divorce, redundancy and so on).

When seeking stillness within the chaos what we need to do is get underneath what the Taoists call “monkey mind” (and we all have experience of this part of the mind which imposes limitations, sabotages our best efforts and offers the incessant dialogue of self-interference) and move into “wild mind”, the Buddhist expression for the expansive consciousness that resides beyond the limited ego-driven self… and this realm can be accessed by anyone who commits to the regular practise of Meditation, which simply means allowing the mind to be still by neither resisting nor indulging in thoughts as you quietly spend time focusing on your breathing.

Here’s a funny thing about time… it’s pliable, elastic, and you can stretch it out and make it work for you, rather than feel you’re always racing against it. We all know time goes too fast when we’re with those we love and drags when we’re standing in the pouring rain waiting for a taxi. So how can you make better use of your time, or indeed, have more of it? Here’s how…

Without the practise of meditation your working day may go something like this: phone call after phone call, rushing to complete paperwork, meetings, presentations to prepare, emails, more phone calls, rushing to finish on time…possibly feeling stacked-up, over-loaded, over-whelmed. In this state you’ll undoubtedly start shallow-breathing, which most people do as a matter of course and which causes less oxygen to be fed to the brain, adrenaline to start pumping round your nervous-system, your heart-rate accelerates, blood-pressure rises, muscles tighten (especially shoulders and neck) and a general feeling of anxiety starts to pervade your whole being.

With the regular practise of Meditation, your day will start to look more like this: phone call after phone call, paperwork, meetings, presentations to prepare, emails, sit down quietly, focusing on your breathing for 20-30 minutes (yes you do have that time available…) then suddenly the whole afternoon opens up in front of you, your mind feels refreshed and you might brainstorm ideas for a creative project you’ve been working on, the feeling of overwhelm has left you and you can finish your tasks and leave work behind while you go out and relax with friends or get back to some fitness training at the gym.

Meditation, as well as helping you to empty your mind also encourages the relaxation response by inducing deep rather than shallow breathing, which in turn feeds more oxygen to your brain, sends endorphins rather than adrenaline pumping around your body, making you feel relaxed and able to handle any given situation with ease.

So, developing a routine of practising Meditation (Zen) for between 20 — 30 minutes several times per week, takes your mind back to the default state of stillness underneath the incessant cacophony of information overload.

Ideally, you should get some personal coaching from an experienced practitioner, someone who can help you and keep you on track… it’s the easiest thing in the world to understand the benefits intellectually but most people are better off having an ‘accountability coach’ to help you honour self-promises and build momentum by making your practise regular.

Suggested reading are any books by the Vietnamese Monk, Tich Nat Han (my favourite is “Breathe You Are Alive”) and Shunryu Suzuki’s “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”.

Enjoy the stillness, enjoy the silence. It’s there all the time anyway… and all you need to do is allow yourself access to it and you can lead a full and active business, sporting, social, family and creative life…fulfilling your potential, encouraging and mentoring others without getting too stressed and definitely avoiding burn-out.

Jayne Storey has been practising Zen Meditation and T’ai Chi for the past two decades and she is now the world’s foremost teacher of these arts to professional golfers, elite tennis-players and other athletes, to help them master the mental game and develop a state of relaxed concentration. In the business world her coaching helps executives and entrepreneurs achieve and maintain ‘the zone’, for developing superior performance under pressure. For more information, please ring UK Mobile: 07986 447 250 or visit www.chipowergolf.com


Watch a video of Brian Chernett, Founder of The Academy For Chief Excecutives, explaining how The Academy For Chief Executives inspires business leaders.

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Brian Chernett is founder of The Academy for Chief Executives (ACE) - He has 43 years' experience as managing director of private and public companies, including subsidiaries of Booker Bros McConnell, the Landmark Group, and several other major companies. Find out more at www.chiefexecutive.com. We always welcome your feedback on the articles. Email them to brian.chernett@freshbusinessthinking.com

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