Parar

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Desde que suena el despertador por la mañana, hasta el fin del día, literalmente no paramos. En el entorno profesional especialmente, donde las reuniones y llamadas se enciman unas con otras y es común comer trabajando, transportarnos trabajando, cenar trabajando; no paramos. Así transcurre nuestra vida, sin parar. Una doble sensación impera; por un lado sentimos que avanzamos mucho y a la vez parece que no avanzamos lo suficiente. Los correos electrónicos y los mensajes no cesan; los pedidos y los pendientes se acumulan y nos acostumbramos fácilmente a terminar el día sin sentirnos “completos”…“Mañana será otro día…”

Es preciso “parar” y poner atención, porque la vida se va fácil sin que nos demos cuenta. Parar, entonces es equivalente a poner atención a lo que está sucediendo en todo momento. Parar para mirar qué pasa cuando trabajas como si “lo que cuenta es el resultado”; parar para mirar cuál es el impacto que la forma en que conduzco mi vida tiene en los demás; en mis compañeros de trabajo, en mi familia, en mis amigos, en el mundo. Parar para escuchar lo que mi corazón, mi cabeza y mi cuerpo tienen que decir de las decisiones que tomo, parar para encontrar aquello que está más allá de mi y que tiene que ver con mi vida y el rumbo que lleva.

¿Cuándo fue la última vez que paraste? ¿Cuándo fue la última vez que te detuviste sencillamente para estar presente contigo? Sin distracciones de ninguna clase. Con tus pensamientos, pero con más que con tus pensamientos. Porque los pensamientos son, en buena medida otra distracción más de lo que es esencial. De aquello que sólo se ve si ponemos atención. De aquello que soy yo. “Quién soy yo? ¿Para qué estoy aquí? ¿Qué es lo que sigue para mi? ¿Qué es lo más significativo que puedo hacer con mi vida en este momento? ¡Vaya preguntas!

Cuando leo acerca de las vidas de personas que han tenido un impacto significativo en el mundo, se refieren a ello en diversas formas: “introspección”, “reflexión”, “meditación”, etc. Por ejemplo Martin Luther King meditaba con las escrituras bíblicas, Leonardo Da Vinci caminaba por el campo buscando respuestas a cosas que no entendía, Einstein decía sobre su práctica “Pienso 99 veces y nada descubro. Dejo de pensar, me sumerjo en el silencio, y la verdad me es revelada.”

Más en la actualidad, Steve Jobs practicaba meditación Zen para reducir su estrés, obtener más claridad y mejorar su creatividad, Padmasree Warrior jefa de tecnología y estrategia de Cisco Systems, medita todas las noches y pasa sus sábados haciendo una “desintoxicación digital”, Oprah Winfrey dice que se sienta en la quietud durante 20 minutos, dos veces al día. Otros líderes que practican meditación, atención plena o mindfulness son Bill Ford, Larry Brilliant ex director de Google.org director, Rupert Murdoch, presidente y CEO de News Corp, entre otros. 1 Diferentes formas de detener el ritmo de la vida cotidiana para encontrar algún tipo de respuesta; para disparar un proceso de “entendimiento” que les permita responder mejor a los desafíos que la vida les va sorteando.

Parar por unos minutos o unos días es completamente posible, no sólo recomendable, sino indispensable para encontrar el sentido más profundo a nuestras vidas y con ello asegurar que cada interacción, cada decisión venga de un lugar que no se limita a nuestros pensamientos, a nuestros deseos o nuestros miedos, sino que responde a los cimientos de nuestra integridad y a lo que entendemos que es mejor para el mundo. Esto es para mí, vivir despierto.
1 http://www.huffingtonpost.com.mx/entry/business-meditation-executives-meditate_n_3528731

Parar

Forget ADHD its #SAD!

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 1.42.30 PMI have this practice of taking one picture a day and sharing it via Instagram. Like many practices, the practice itself has no special meaning other than doing the same thing over an over again. But as many practices, there are “collateral” benefits -so to speak- that emerge out of simple repetition. This unexpected outcomes, typical of practicing, turn out to be in fact, decisive.

So, my practice consists on remembering through the day to look for “images” that I can capture. Now, this might seem simple -and indeed it is- but there’s a rather complicated thing to it: my life is very, very monotonous. It’s not that I am exposed to an amazing diversity, both geographical and cultural, as most of my time is spent working with clients, hoping in and out of airplanes, in meeting rooms or hotel rooms. And then back home to my family, my house, my community. And although I am very fortunate to some times travel for work to very exotic destinations, it is work! Nine to six working, exercise, dinner…and life goes on.  Some times it’s late at night and then I remember I haven’t taken my picture yet. 

I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and at the beginning it was quite awkward, as I would take whatever I’d find while “hunting” for my image during the brief moments I remembered and I was “free” from work or other distractions. Very often I ended up uploading images that my very extensive fan base of a couple of friends and my daughters would ignore and not “like”. That was fase one: “O my god it’s late and I haven’t taken my picture…ah..maybe that spot on the hotel window curtain makes a great image”. Morning after, zero likes and a feeling that I’m not image “hunting” correctly.  But I kept on trying, and phase two kicked in: images began to appear, to emerge. To reveal themselves.

I remember a special one. I was standing by my hotel window in Bogotá, Colombia. It was a rainy day and I had been writing the whole morning. When I glanced outside I saw a big white arrow painted on the street that grabbed my attention. It was raining and the street was empty. Then a man came walking in the sidewalk in oposite direction and the image revealed in my mind. I grabbed my iPhone and captured the moment. It was a pretty simple image, but different. For me it was more like it had emerged right in front of my eyes. I wasn’t “hunting” for images, I was just paying attention.

As in every practice, the goal  (in this case to take one picture a day -or #onepicaday-) is just a means to achieve other things: experiences or skills that while being critical to improve results, impact many other dimensions or areas of development. In other words, my observation has become more effective or as I like to think, I have become more able to be present at certain moments, and with that my photos are improving. Please mind that I am certainly not looking for likes or consider myself by any means an accomplished photographer. I am completely aware of my lack of talent and my eternal search of  l’instant décicif. I am truly not concerned with anything other that taking one picture a day.  However this practice has given me the chance to be a more present observer of the flow of things. 

However, one thing that I’ve come to realize in my observations is a sad fact. We are all connected to our screens. And here comes the beautiful learning for me: as I am! Specially if I am taking pictures and pictures with my “screen-phone”. I call it #SAD (Screen Attention Disorder) and it is really sad. #SAD is screens all over the place hijacking our attention, limiting our presence. Its SAD to see we are loosing impact and effectiveness to the illusion of connectivity.

#SAD is a paradox. Because truth is we have never been more connected in evolution as today, while being so disconnected from the present moment. Without a doubt, I can point out that while working in high performance corporate cultures, the single most deterrent impacting productivity  is hyper-connectivity. But we don’t see it. Because we truly believe we are being present in a meeting while whatsaping someone maybe in the other side of the world. We are not. And we are no more effective at the task level. We have experienced it over an over with C-Level Execs. When they disconnect from the outside and connect to what’s going on, they are able to solve challenges in ways they wouldn’t have suspected they could. Over and over we see it in our client work.

The same thing happens at the personal level. We are loosing effectiveness with our spouses, partners and friends in sharing our life journeys and, most importantly benefit from full presence. With all the good things and the not so good. In fact, it has become easier and easier to go back “home” -literally by hitting the screen button- than remaining open and embracing whatever arises. We are screen-distracted and it’s sad. I know I am! I’ve noticed that my eyes and attention immediately respond to any screen appearing in my landscape. It could be driving and encountering one big “screen-billboard-“ or my car’s screen. It’s in TV’s everywhere. Restaurants full of screens, airports with hundreds of personal iPads for people to sit and connect while they eat. And everywhere I go, I catch myself glancing at the screen often. It’s no longer an attention deficit, but screen attention highjack.  We need to stop. We need to be able to put screens aside, tu turn off the meeting room projector and sit in a circle, to have the conversations that matters and let things emerge, embracing whatever arises. More and more were are working with our clients, as I am doing with myself. Sit. Listen. Share. No distractions. Be present. Fully present. And better things happen. Probably painful, many times rejoicing, but certainly more effective and sustainable. Try 30 minutes full attention at your next meeting or while dinning with friends. Pay attention and embrace what ever arises. The world, the people we care about and ourselves need us more present.

Forget ADHD its #SAD!

Meditation Doesn’t Enlighten You… Only

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“If you want to find God, hang out in the space between your thoughts.”

Alan Cohen

According to a brain imaging study done by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, mindfulness meditation alters regions of the brain associated with memory, awareness of self, and compassion. [i]

I am frequently asked about the positive impact meditation has had on my life. Although I am far from being an expert –far from the 10,000 hours of practice— in my experience this positive impact has come from the discipline of training my mind to be present. As it is with any practice, outcome is not seen session after session but over time; and its benefits come in the least expected moment. Throughout the years that I have been meditating, some periods have been intense and disciplined while others have been spaced out. Despite this fluctuation throughout time, I have never stopped. The experience I have when I sit down to meditate has been each time, more and more, one of coming home. “Stop the world, I want to get off!” Mafalda would say. For me the act of meditating is a good way for me to “stop the world.”

For me, the daily decision to sit down and meditate is about more than just becoming enlightened. It is also about developing a muscle. Similar to going to the gym, when I do abdominal repetitions my abdominal muscles strengthen; that’s all. When I meditate— when I put my attention on my breathing, letting my thoughts pass one by one— what I am doing is strengthening my attention muscle; that’s all.

Certainly, there have been moments in which I have had experiences beyond my physical body and experienced how I am a part of and close to that which some call Spirit; but beyond these experiences, meditation has also allowed me to respond better in complex situations than if I hadn’t trained my “coming home” muscle.

To sum it up, meditation for me has three main characteristics:

1. Meditation is as important and as insignificant as any other practice we might have – exercising, playing an instrument, cooking— because a practice is already a form of meditation.

2. Meditation is a space that makes me feel home. That small altar that over the years has been nurtured with sentimental valued objects; that cushion and that blanket I cover with, especially on those cold days; make it so my house is one where I can be alone and feel at home.

3. Meditation helps me go back to my center. Over time, continuously practicing going within; even though I still sometimes fall asleep, have my legs go numb, or have sessions where my thinking won’t slow down; being aware of my breathing and counting “one, two, three, four…” has helped me to not react and to detach from my thoughts and emotions enough to be present in myself.

To sit and count one to ten with each breath, going back to your center every time a thought arises, is a simple but rigorous method that I have practiced with good results.

For more resources visit: http://www.integralworld.net/meditation.html

[i] Results were published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging (Jan. 30, 2011)

Meditation Doesn’t Enlighten You… Only