This is the time of year when many of us begin to think about new year resolutions. From my discussions with nurse leaders, I have found that many want to achieve a better balance in their lives between work and their personal/family needs. This is not easily done in today’s challenging health care environment. Meditation is one strategy that could help many leaders to both quiet their minds and feel more centered in their work.
What is Meditation?
When you think about meditation, the image of monks sitting in silence may come to mind but this is a very narrow view of this now widely accepted practice. Meditation is universal. It transcends all divides like religion, country and culture. Meditation is a state of thoughtful awareness. Meditation means awareness. Whatever you do with awareness is meditation. “Watching your breath” is meditation; listening to the birds is meditation. As long as these activities are free from any other distraction to the mind, it is effective meditation. Authentic meditation allows us to focus on the present moment rather than the past or future.
The Benefits of Meditation
The scientific explanation for how meditation works is that the act of meditation helps the body to release catecholamines and other stress hormones while parasympathetic activity is increased. Meditation has been shown to decrease stress, lower blood pressure, improve breathing and reduce depression. Through meditation, you can attain the power to control your negative thoughts, and on occasion stop them completely.
How to Get Started
As you read this, you may think that you don’t have time to add one more thing to your busy schedule. Meditation can be done in as little as 10-20 minutes a day at a time your choosing. There are different types of meditation such as guided meditation using images or music, Zen meditation, Taoist meditation, mindfulness meditation, and Buddhist meditation. Some methods of meditation may require the body being absolutely still or to be moved with controlled deliberation, while other types allow for free movement of the body. While the methods are different, the end goal of all types of meditation lead to a mind that is quieted and free from stress by the use of quiet contemplation and reflection.
I have found that guided meditation using free podcasts that can be downloaded on Itunes and used with a headset works the best for me. Organizations such as Meditation Peace, the Meditation Podcast.com, Meditation for Health and Meditation Oasis provide free guided podcasts that are even tailored to specific challenges that you might be experiencing such as anger, feeling overwhelmed by work or having difficulty sleeping.
However you choose to meditate, you must learn to concentrate on one thing at a time. Usually, the mind tries to hold several different thoughts and ideas at once. When you sit down to meditate for the first time, you realize how cluttered the mind is. During meditation, accept all your physical, emotional and intellectual experiences, even the negative ones. Focus on your breathing and have a sense of the space around you.
Meditation for as little as 10 minutes a day at work allows us to listen and pay attention to what we might otherwise overlook—whether it’s a fresh idea or a new way of perceiving a situation—enhancing our creativity and letting go of our obstacles to innovation. As you look toward 2013, meditation might be a strategy that you want to consider to help you both at work and in your personal life.