One of the recurring themes of the reading I have done on the subject of positive psychology has been the importance of learning to live in the moment in order to savour the present.
It seems kind of obvious but the pace and complexity of life in the 21st century means it is something we need to learn, or re-learn.
The temptation is to spend much of our time in our own heads, thinking of how we want things to be in the future or reflecting on things that have already happened. While we are doing this our lives can pass us by, moment by moment, unnoticed, unlived.
To compound this, for many people, these thoughts swirl around negatively without any outlet, either focused on reliving unhappy events from the past or wishing/hoping, often unrealistically, for a change in fortunes in the future. So we can be hit by a double whammy, we run the risk of sleepwalking through our lives and in the moments when we are conscious we feel bad because of what went wrong in the past or because of our awareness of a deficit between what we want and what we have.
But as Tim Gallwey says ‘our only option is to live fully in the present because we can’t live one moment into the future or relive one moment of the past.’
That is not to say that reflecting on past events and planning for the future are in their own right negative, it is just that we need to be conscious of the dangers of overdoing them.
To redress the balance we need to learn to savour the present. It was through exploring how to achieve this that I encountered meditation and mindfulness.
I had dabbled with meditation quite often on various courses and found it helpful, but hadn’t incorporated it into my life on a consistent basis until I discovered the Compassion Kadampa Buddhist Centre in Hexham. They run regular sessions to enable people to learn the principles of meditation which are run by a Buddhist monk, Kelsang Sherab, who has become my role model for the attainment of inner peace.
Over a coffee he told me he is also a musician and he mentioned that music had been a stepping stone along his path to enlightenment. He referred to a book by jazz musician Kenny Werner, called ‘Effortless Mastery’, which had a big impact on his thinking. The concept of ‘effortless mastery’ is something that he feels is at the heart of his spiritual practice.
The idea of ‘effortless mastery’ leading to a state of flow is incredibly powerful. In the west we still seem to be wedded to the Victorian work ethic that ‘effort equals results’. It comes up in lots of other guises, ‘no pain, no gain’, etc and it is drummed into us by teachers, parents and bosses so consistently that it is difficult to contemplate there may be an alternative. But if you look to sport and think about Usain Bolt, Jess Ennis, Roger Federer or Lionel Messi for a moment, maybe another possibility will begin to take shape. That effortlessness could be the ideal state to achieve maximum performance.
Maybe it’s possible to enter a mental space in which your senses are heightened, you are at one with your task and your skills are developed to an entirely intuitive level, enabling you to flow with ease to the most astonishing outcome. Meditation is one element of personal development that helps to bring this potential into reality.
If you scale up the idea to team or organisational level the cumulative effect would be immense. If organisations could create the culture in which a state of flow could be accessed on a consistent basis it would save so much wasted interpersonal and intrapersonal energy which could then be re-invested in new creative, forward thinking initiatives.
This has been my experience in my personal life. My learning curve, which led me into meditation and mindfulness, has helped me become much more connected to the people around me. This in turn helps me to get more done, with less effort, whilst having more fun doing it. I am also much more trusting of my sub conscious and intuition, which enables me to reach better decisions. One word, I think, sums it up – ease.
I believe that organisations can gain so much from Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and meditation. So much of organisational energy is centred on pushing, driving and incentivising when much better results could be achieved by focusing on creating a climate of respect and openness in which things can take root and grow naturally. Friction is such a waste of energy in organisations and a key source of frustration and bad feeling. If it could be neutralised through the creation of a state of flow, in which objectives are achieved through ‘effortless mastery’, we would have a much more creative, motivating and self sustaining organisational model. We have much to learn.
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