Mindfulness and Mountains

One of the best ways I find for recovering my inner strength and recharging my batteries is being in the mountains. Living in Switzerland, I feel very lucky as I can quickly escape and in a couple of hours be in places of extreme beauty.

Wallis Panorama

Last year, I published a nice post about mountains and especially the so-called “mountain-meditation” from Kabat-Zinn. Today, I found another guiding text that I want to share here with you now. It also comes from Kabat-Zinn and is adapted from “Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life“. Enjoy!

The mountain meditation

When it comes to meditation, mountains have a lot to teach us. The image of a the mountain held in the mind’s eye and in the body, can refresh our memory of why we are sitting, and of what it really means to dwell in the realm of non-doing.

 

Picture the most beautiful mountain you know – or can imagine. Notice its overall shape, the lofty peak, the base rooted in the rock of the earth’s crust, the sloping sides. Note how massive it is, how unmoving, how beautiful.

 

See if you can bring the mountain into your own body – your head becomes the lofty peak; your shoulders and arms the sides of the mountain; your buttocks and legs the solid base rooted to your cushion on the floor or to your chair.

 

Notice any emotions you are feeling and your mood as though they are the weather around the mountain. Is your weather right now sunny and calm or stormy with lashing rain, is it icy or warm? Allow your personal weather to be the way it is, noticing if it intensifies, changes or stays the same through the meditation.

 

Fully become the breathing mountain, unwavering in your stillness, completely what you are – beyond words and thought, a centred, rooted, unmoving presence.

 

As the light changes, as night follows day and day night, the mountain just sits, simply being itself. It remains still as the seasons flow into one another and as the weather changes moment by moment. Storms may come, but still the mountain sits.

 

Calmness abiding all change.

Glimpse on the Matterhorn

 

 

 

How much disconnection do you need?

DisconnectingAre you already back at work or are you still enjoying some time off, relaxing and energizing yourself?

For many people, holidays always start with a lot of stress, either because they need to pack the appropriate things and then spend hours at the airport tackling over bookings, delays or other unforeseen events. Or, as many of us here in Europe, you decide to take your car because of practicality or budgetary reasons just to find yourself in endless queues, traffic jams and accidents. It surely takes some patience to arrive where you want to be and at least a couple of days more to be able to get out of your ever turning  thoughts. For some people it takes as long as a full week, to come down again and feel some relief, even more so if you stay connected to your day-job.

Were you able to switch off your devices and really disconnect during your holidays? And how long did it take?

Many of us are not used anymore to leave our smart phones out during the day without regularly checking something; not only mails and other messages, but the weather forecast, simply the time, news, the best hiking route, the nearest restaurant etc. How many of us still remember how it felt like and – more and foremost – how we managed to “survive” without all the apps, devices, guides and information so readily available nowadays? And how many of us feel comfortable not to use our digital friends regularly and instead simply be for a while?

I agree, Stillnessit is very tempting to read mails and stay connected on social media with many “friends” even during the holiday period. How many pictures and posts can be found of “happy people” smiling into their camera wherever they are in the world…. It takes courage. And also patience as your mind will play tricks with you and lure you back to the device just for checking the weather (it would be safer) or the latest news (I have to know what is going on); of course, once you hold your smart phone in your hands, you don’t usually end up looking solely at the weather or news….

But it is worth it: disconnecting regularly has huge benefits on your overall health and well-being as well as your behavior with others in real life.

As with all things in life: finding the right balance is crucial and necessary in order not to be overwhelmed in a world spinning faster every day…

Enjoy the rest of the summer and take a deep breath!

Jenny

How big are your windows?

Window and WallI hope you all enjoyed a lovely break over Easter! While spring is slowly coming in – at least in this part of the world – I found this Eskimo quote, which I would like to share with you:

“Don’t let the windows of your home be so small that the light of the sun cannot enter your rooms.” (found here)

Have a great rest of the week and stay tuned for more posts on mindful leadership, diversity and intercultural communications! Jenny

Leading yourself – your inner child

self-leadership

Did you know that whatever age you might have, there always is an inner child in you, in need of appreciation, affection, warmth and security? Every age that you have lived through is still in you: in your consciousness, unconsciousness, your cells…

It might therefore well be that suddenly you react in a certain way which might feel awkward in a given situation and which is not like the ‘you’ that you normally are when being around people.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in such a situation, where I suddenly felt very uncomfortable, starting with tingling in the stomach, not being able to concentrate anymore…. In order to get rid of that feeling, I thought I needed to do something, i.e. speak up and let the other people know that something was not alright. In the end, it made it worse as I was not able to voice my discomfort in a neutral and objective way (which I normally can do quite well); my counterpart reacted defensive and nobody was feeling any better.

Reflecting about this situation at a later stage, I identified that this deep discomfort was actually something that I carried around with me since quite some time, popping up at one moment or the other. I then decided to look inside and make ‘contact’ with the part of me that felt afraid and unwell asking what I could do to make it feel better. For me, meditation and self-reflection works best for becoming more self-aware and finding ways out of the ‘tunnel’; for you it might be some other technique. It could also be helpful to write down a question with your strong hand and then draw or write the answer with your other, more creative hand. You could be surprised at what comes out!

Being able to lead yourself in a way that allows for compassion, empathy and a feeling of comfort is the first step towards leading others. If you are not happy with who you are and what you are, not being able to rest within yourself and being kind, how do you want to lead others in an emotionally intelligent way?

Mindfulness, Connection and Sustainable Change

Busy London streetI just came back from busy London where I had the pleasure of following a really interesting mindfulness workshop hosted by Initiatives of Change UK with Rohan Narse, Geoff McDonald, Global VP HR, Marketing & Communications, Sustainability at Unilever and Graham Watts, Global Director of Education & Training at the Hawn Foundation.

I must say that in the UK they really are already at the forefront of dealing with uncertainty, ambiguity, pressure etc. not only in the business world but also in education. Addressing strategies to become aware of what is happening within oneself as well as being able to effectively deal with emotions, anger, stress is truly not a soft factor anymore. On the contrary, it more and more becomes a ‘hard skill’ that one has to learn in order to ‘survive’ in our global environment.

The earlier these competences are learned, the better, as they will become part of a person’s life and routine. Mindfulness applied to various aspects of life as one of the techniques that can be used, in particular coupled with meditation (or call it quiet-time, stillness) not only sharpens the mind and is a must for focus and creativity; no! It also strengthens the immune system, enables you to deal differently with life’s up’s and down’s and most importantly: enables you to live every single moment fully, enjoying the sun on your skin and the smell of flowers in the air. You really feel alive and begin to ‘be’ instead of running and rushing through your life.

Today I want to invite you to find some quiet time for yourself; close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath. Simply be and look inside yourself. You will be surprised at what you will find!

Jenny

Easy and powerful stress-reduction technique

Heart Meditation

To end the weekend, I want to share an excellent technique called “quick coherence” from www.heartmath.org with you that I am often using when working in a training or coaching setting. It is very useful when starting a session, in order to reduce anxiety, stress or frustration; of course it can also be used at home or in preparation of difficult conversations or meetings. It is said to create positive changes in your heart rhythms, sending powerful signals to the brain that can improve how you are feeling and thus how you are acting and behaving.

  • Step 1: Heart Focus.

Focus your attention on the area around your heart, the area in the center of your chest. If you prefer, the first couple of times you try it, place your hand over the center of your chest to help keep your attention in the heart area.

  • Step 2: Heart Breathing.

Breathe deeply but normally and feel as if your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. Continue breathing with ease until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels good to you.

  • Step 3: Heart Feeling.

As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling. Recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside, and try to re-experience the feeling. One of the easiest ways to generate a positive, heart-based feeling is to remember a special place you’ve been to or the love you feel for a close friend or family member or treasured pet. This is the most important step.

 

Podcast: 4 little hints to find time for your daily mindfulness practice

Podcast 1 | Jenny EbermannAfter promising since a while that I will look into it, I finally managed to start! Here is my first podcast in the Mindfulness Series, entitled “4 Little Hints to find Time for your Daily Mindfulness Practice“.

The podcasts are a very practical way to take me with you when you are at work, at home or on the road. Remember: You are the Architect of your Life! Everybody can start being mindful: TODAY!

Enjoy listening,

Jenny

Life on a treadmill

Recently, the Harvard Gazette featured a very interesting article by Chuck Leddy writing about research conducted by Teresa Amabile, Director of Research at the Harvard Business School. She came to the conclusion that nowadays people are under more pressure than ever, trying to meet multiple demands and deadlines, which in turn lessens creativity and the potential for innovative ideas. She says:

“The single most important thing managers can do to enhance workplace creativity is protecting at least 30 to 60 minutes each day for yourself and your people that’s devoted to quiet reflection.”

For those of you regularly in contact with mindful leadership and the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) this will sound very familiar. The fact is however, that in most of the companies I know this creative space for self-reflection is missing. People don’t have a work-life balance anymore (across countries and continents); many are in fact solicited day and night thus living under constant ‘fire’ which is not only a result of digitization but also stems from a very particular workplace culture (the initiative which started in Germany trying to put this to a halt will be an interesting one to follow). More work is shouldered by less people as organisations become leaner. This doesn’t mean more money or benefits, in tough times these would indeed be frozen and the supplementary work simply expected.

As a result, everywhere the costs of absenteeism are on the rise (not only for the companies but also for the welfare state) as more and more people get sick, depressive or end up with burn-outs. In Switzerland during the last months, two top managers of major multinationals have even committed suicide, which to some extend shows the enormous pressure that (top) leaders have to endure (of course this was certainly not the only reason behind such an act and I certainly don’t mean to speculate here).

The point is that living a mindful life, in the here and now, allowing for breaks and ‘non-doing’, becomes a MUST not only for personal and individual health reasons but also for major companies. Without innovations, creative ideas and intrinsically motivated people there is no way competition can be outbid. As T. Amabile puts it:

“In the short term, people become less engaged in their work if their creativity isn’t supported. They will also be less productive because they often can’t focus on their most important work. In the long term, companies may lose their most talented employees, as well as losing out because they won’t have the innovative products, innovative services, and business models that they need to be competitive.”

In summary, organisational excellence thus starts with the people, giving them the possibility to opt-out and time to breathe. Everybody needs a clap on the shoulder and some encouraging words…

The time is ripe for change, not only in organisations but also in people’s minds!

So much for now, thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you want to learn more about integrating mindfulness into your lives and related coaching/training practices.

Jenny

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5 things to consider when starting your day

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In order to begin your day mindfully and be ready for whatever might happen to you during the next hours when you’re awake, consider the following:

  • As soon as you open your eyes, become aware that you are alive, breathing in and out. Feel grateful for what you already have.
  • Instead of rushing out of your bed, think about how you want to live your day and set your intentions.
  • Don’t switch on ‘autopilot mode’ when getting dressed. Remember your aspirations and feel the clothing touching your body.
  • Brushing your teeth or showering, be fully present, don’t drift away to what comes next.
  • Take the time to eat breakfast, even if you only have little time. Prepare your food mindfully and savour every bite recognising how lucky you are to have enough to eat.
  • Taken from Thich Nhat Hanh – “Work”

    Think about this and put it into practice! What are you going to do about yourself this year? How are you going to find the resources you need inside yourself?

    Make Time for Personal Renewal—4 Strategies for the New Year.