Do you meditate? There are many forms and intentions of meditation – for some it is an end in itself, for others it is a path to higher enlightenment. However, a common thread across all meditation practices is an exploration, a search for the “Great Observer”. What is that and what does it have to do with running your business?
We’re all aware of the Great Observer consciously or subconsciously. It is that part of us, deep down, that is forever calm, forever watching. It is the connective tissue to all living things and though it pulsates with a vibrant and vivid energy, when you access it, the first sensation you will feel is stillness. It’s the beautiful stillness of the starry night-blue sky. Looking at the canopy of light and dark, we are filled with an awe and wonder and yes, tranquility. Up close, we know that these twinkling, distant lights are in reality fiery masses of burning plasma, a roiling combustion engine that burns for billions of years by fusing hydrogen with helium. But as viewers from a great distance, we become a proxy for the Great Observer able to see the totality and the beauty of the stars.
I find there’s a lot here to teach us about being a great leader. We are busy, busy, busy and it is incredibly, awesomely easy to get swept into the current around us. Your employees need you, your clients need you, your peers and managers and vendors and more need you and they want you to solve their problems. And you are good at it. So you dive in and find your calendar blocked with opportunities to solve many and varied problems. If you find yourself drained by this at the end of the day, you’re not alone. Being “on” all day is tiring and as time dries up, we are spinning faster and faster, borne forward on the energy and needs of others. We don’t have time to be still because in 15 minutes we have a meeting with a client and tomorrow we have a presentation to the head of sales.
You have to find that time. I know people who block 15 minutes a day to walk around the block – to be alone and to recharge. However, you can also find the time when you’re meeting with other people. How? By listening, really listening, to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. In meditation, you are taught to breathe. Not the shallow breaths that accompanies constant motion, but deep inhales and slow exhales. Try deep breathing throughout the day, especially before difficult meetings but even during a light day. Then during that meeting, pause and listen.
I’ll discuss listening in another post; for now, let’s focus on finding that stillness. It can’t be found through talking. It’s a false presumption to believe you have to respond verbally to everyone around you. Breathing, listening, observing – these are powerful tools for the effective leader. Not only do you maintain and refill your own energy with these practices, you become better at clearing the noise around you and distilling the true issue as you provide the space for people to work out what they really mean and for yourself to sift through all the words to the true meaning underneath.
Problems are like nesting dolls – one contains another, which contains another. By holding back, by waiting, by observing until the core issue is found, you can step away from the roiling, burning energy around you and see the totality of your environment in a cool and collected manner. There is a kind of beauty in that, even in our most practical of circumstances.