A micromeditation Update: Still Going Strong
Thanks to the support of Headspace, I remain on track with my resolution to meditate for 15 minutes every day this year. Through the “meditation buddy” feature I can see that some of you have a longer streak going than I do! It’s never too late to sign up for the free Take 10 program, which includes 10 days of 10-minute guided meditations.
I learned this from a Navy Seal; once meditation becomes a habit, it takes a mere minute to regain one’s equilibrium even in highly stressful situations.
Janice Marturano, a former senior executive at General Mills, writes about meditation and mindful leadership in her thoughtful book, Finding the Space to Lead. She highlights the critical role self-compassion plays in meditation.
Although the fundamental framework is simple, the actual practice requires discipline and self-compassion: the discipline to consistently redirect your wandering mind back to the object of attention, and an equal amount of self-compassion to redirect your attention gently and without judgment.
I’ve found this insight to be really helpful when I’m experiencing an especially squirrel-esque state of mind. It enables me to soften my frustration and self-critique into an act of self-forgiveness. Believe me, in any given session, I get lots of practice with this.
On to micromotion: Shocking News for Gym Bunnies
It doesn’t matter if you are an avid daily exerciser. If you spend the rest of your day sitting—which most of us do—research shows you are at a heightened risk for myriad health issues including diabetes, heart disease and various forms of cancer. This is because sitting is one of THE most inactive things we do, even more than chewing gum or nervously tapping a toe. In long-term sitting mode, the body stops producing important enzymes that regulate how we process sugars and fats. The longer we sit, the more sluggish our metabolism. Even if we put in five miles on the treadmill earlier that day!
Fortunately there are a lot of sanctioned reasons to get up and out of the office chair, or at least ways to wiggle in it. As part of my research, I borrowed my daughter’s Fit Bit for a week. At its simplest, this device counts steps taken in a day. It can generate all sorts of other data about sleep patterns, calories burned and so forth. First of all, it felt pretty cool to be sporting a hot pink wrist accessory. Secondly it’s a good conversation-starter for any other Fit Bit wearer in the vicinity. Lastly, it definitely made me more aware of my low-motion days. I found myself inventing ways to get in a few more steps, like parking in the farthest corner of the lot, or walking the dog for a few extra minutes.
A free option is Time Out, an app that can be downloaded onto a computer or other device that quietly reminds you to take a “normal” break for 10 minutes every 50 minutes of work and a “micro” break for 10 seconds every 10 minutes. I’ve played around with this for a few days now. It’s been both extremely annoying and edifying. I finally disabled the 10-minute hourly break and settled on a 15-second micro break every 15 minutes.
It’s astonishing how quickly a quarter-hour at the computer flies by…and how much spine-lengthening is needed with every reminder.
Think of this as stretch moves you can pull off in your chair without drawing the attention of anyone else in the office. I spent some time looking into chair yoga apps but didn’t find anything just right. (There’s a niche market opportunity here for anyone with a yoga and app-building background.) Simply Google “chair yoga images” and you’ll get plenty of ideas. Just be sensible—no contortionist acts if you’ve never tried yoga before!
Where the Micro Informs the Macro
So what does micromotion—or even micromeditation—have to do with leadership? Here’s just one of many answers: developing a meta-awareness of what’s happening at the minutest level in our own body and mind enables us to tap into and act on something bigger. Again, Janice Marturano says it beautifully:
The discovery of the small picture, the one that tells us about ourselves, is very often the best portal to understanding our obligation to see the big picture, and our capacity to affect it.
What are the micros that are informing your macros? I'd love to hear from you.
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