Notice Everything


Halfway There This last week we enjoyed a bursting strawberry moon on the summer solstice. We’re halfway through the Earth’s orbit and the calendar year. It’s also the sixth month mark in my year’s commitment to daily meditations.

So far I have completed 196 fifteen-minute sessions, which adds up to 46 hours. My longest streak has been 30 consecutive days. I started off the year somewhat militant in my approach: meditate or else! I looked forward to my statistical updates from Headspace. One day I even went to sleep listening to Andy Puddicombe’s soothing voice just so I could check the box. That’s known as extrinsic motivation. It works—for a while.

10% More Motivated

A business trip took me out of the country for a few days. While I continued to meditate, my Headspace numbers were interrupted. I didn’t get credit for those out-of-country meditations. I was surprisingly disappointed. Overnight I became more erratic in my practice. Then the strangest thing happened. I noticed that I was becoming increasingly forgetful, cranky and disjointed. It’s the same feeling I get after a few days of not exercising. I wouldn’t say it was a HUGE difference but it was enough to send me back to my meditation app. Newsman and former skeptic, Dan Harris, describes that small but significant difference in his book, 10% Happier.

Now I’m in it for me, not just to compete with family members or win free month give-aways from Headspace. I ‘m doing it because I feel better for doing it. I notice it when I don’t. That’s known as intrinsic motivation. It works—for a long time.

One Thing at a Time

The last few months I’ve rediscovered yoga through my teenage daughter. Her new interest has led us to attend classes together. The other day, after some particularly rigorous yoga positions (yes, yoga can be aerobic), our teacher intoned, “Notice Everything.”  What? That’s ridiculous! How can you possibly notice everything all at once?

We’re neurologically wired to pay attention to one thing at a time. We can’t truly be effective if we’re trying to do more than that. Research indicates up to a 40% loss of productivity from what’s typically referred to as multi-tasking. What’s really happening is that we’re switch-tasking, alternating between different tasks. There’s no such thing as texting and driving, because as soon as we start texting, we have stopped driving. That’s why it’s so dangerous.

Back in the Yoga Class

“Use your subtle body as your point of focus,” our teacher patiently explains. That means noticing the breath, the heartbeat, the pressure of the feet on the floor. In some meditation exercises we draw attention to our senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. This is the interface between internal and external awareness. In other exercises we expand that situational awareness even further: Water. Glass. Table. Room. Building. Town. State. Country. Continent. Earth. Solar System. Galaxy. Universe.

The Skill of Being

I’m still totally befuddled about how our one-trick mind can “notice everything” so I ask my daughter what she thinks. “This is obvious, Mom, it’s the difference between being and doing.”

Duh. When we’re noticing everything, we’re in a state of being.

In other words, being becomes the one thing we’re doing. That’s why, when we put our mind to it, we really can take in everything all at once.

As leaders we need to skillfully switch tasks between doing and being. When we’re doing, we’re getting things done. When we’re being, we’re gaining information about the current reality as well as perspective on what needs to be done. The Skill of Being doesn’t just show up in a yoga studio or in a meditation session, although it can be strengthened there.

The Skill of Being shows up as a strategic capacity in influential leaders from all walks of life.

Who do you know that demonstrates the Skill of Being? I’d love to hear what it looks like and how it’s impacting the world around them.

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