Mindfulness training to reduce stress has been around for a long time, and is now, at work, considered to be a highly effective, results-based practice that is becoming mainstream. Aetna, Intel and Keurig Green Mountain have all started to incorporate mindfulness as a leadership practice and have seen benefits to both the company and the individual employees in improvements in employee health, productivity and job satisfaction.
According to the World Health Organization, stress costs American businesses an estimated $300 billion annually, and the costs to the U.S. healthcare system might be even higher, particularly with heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Training such as the Resilience Advantage™, Heartmath’s mindfulness principles and breathing techniques (can be done anywhere, even on-the-go) bring great results in the decrease of stress, health issues, and negative emotional states like frustration, and anger. An increase in health, as well as improved sleep, positivity, situational awareness, problem-solving, creativity and performance has been found in study after study. Here is data from a study six weeks after employees took the HeartMath® training, The Resilience Advantage™:
52% reduction in exhaustion and tiredness
60% reduction in anger and annoyance
60% reduction in depression
43% reduction in heartburn and indigestion
44% reduction in headaches and body aches
33% reduction in inadequate sleep
The principals and self-regulation techniques are based on over 20 years of scientific research in the field of neurocardiology. Among a few of the organizations that have invested in this resilience training with excellent results: US Navy; Fortune 500 companies worldwide; Stanford Graduate School of Business; hospital systems; and the US Army.
For more information about Heartmath’s the Resilience Advantage training:
Mary Claire O’Neal, Heartmath® Certified Trainer and Coach
I’ve just returned from a trip to India, and my heart is filled with gratitude for the lovely people I met on my travels. I will cherish the memories of the kindness and generosity of spirit of the Indian people for the rest of my life.
For a year, my husband and I had planned on going to India, and just one month before we were to leave, I fractured a vertebra in my back. We were not sure if it would be possible to go, but after my neurosurgeon prescribed a brace and advised that if I was careful I could go, we started packing. I experienced culture shock in the extreme when I arrived in Kolkata (Calcutta). From the window of the car, we saw mile upon mile of low income housing. When I say” low income,” I’m not talking about the level of low income housing in our country. In India, “low income ” living is a very simple life, sometimes without some of the things we consider the basic necessities in the U.S.
What I observed was that most of the people were happy–whether I saw them on the streets, bathing in the Brahamaputra River, or going about their work. When you made eye contact with someone, they really returned the connection in a kind and soulful way. In the northern corner of Assam, we visited the Mising Tribe. The people of the Mising (or Mishing) Tribe lived very simple lives. Their homes were built of bamboo and thatch and were elevated on stilts (to accommodate the monsoons every year). There was no electricity or running water in their houses. After being greeted with a beverage that they brew themselves, we were treated to a celebratory dance and welcome. We visited one of the families in their home, and they talked about their daily lives, how they grew their own vegetables, worked in the rice fields, tended their livestock and spent time with their families. The village seemed to be very tightly knit, and there were common areas for people to meet, visit and celebrate.
They had made the time to visit with us, and honored us as their guests, and they were proud to share their lives and ways of living. After visiting the family in their home, we were treated to a lovely meal in the common area. The food was served on a banana leaf, and we ate it with our hands. All the foods, rice, lentils and vegetables, were grown there and prepared from the whole foods. It was deliciously prepared and served with love.
People we met in India loved to give. They gave of themselves without expecting anything in return. If they could help, they did. If they could say a kind word, they did. If they could make something better for you, they did. At first I felt a little uncomfortable being the recipient of so much generosity. But I finally realized part of what made them happy was that they loved to give. Giving brought them joy, but this kind of giving was not a material kind of giving. This giving was in acts of kindness.
At this time of year, I am especially reflecting on giving in a non-material way. So many times in our culture, people judge giving by the stuff that is given. From time to time, I’ve taken to giving anonymously–whether it be a card of appreciation for someone, just letting them know that someone sees how special they are, or doing something for them without identifying myself. This always took the pressure off of giving. I knew that there were no expectations or strings attached–just giving for the joy of it. I love to give, and giving of myself (without a material present to give) is something I want to do more of, without the safety of anonymity.
The people of India have taught me more than I can articulate here, but they have reminded me of the potential of life in making a difference in small ways that turn out to be very big in the lives of the people they touch. When we boarded a short flight in India, the flight attendant noticed my back brace and wanted to help my husband with the carry ons (my husband was carrying mine and his). When he saw that we did not have seats together, he negotiated with some people so that we could sit together–my husband could be close by to help me if I needed it. After about 20 minutes into the flight, the flight attendant handed me an envelope. It was a get well card with the hand-written message, “We all are thinking of you with healing thoughts that you will soon be well. Remember us as we will always remember you.” The whole flight crew signed the card. My heart was so touched by that very sweet and simple gesture. I will always remember that. When we were disembarking in Delhi, the flight attendant told my husband that he had been carrying that card in his suitcase for several months, knowing that there would be someone he would want to to give it to. When he saw me board the plane, he knew the card would be for me.
What an amazing person, and what an amazing country.
Living in balance can be a challenge in our day-to-day lives, but during the holidays, balance is needed in order to truly experience the spirit of the season all the way through the New Year.
What helps in consistently creating balance? The answer is pretty simple but the living of it requires focus and attention. Here is the “how”—drum roll, please: Being in the present moment. But what does that mean, really?
Being in the present moment doesn’t mean that you don’t plan or don’t look at the effects potential actions might bring. In fact, being in the present moment requires both of those things. It also means that you look at what is right in front of you and take it step by step to make your way to your goals. When a stressful or urgent situation comes up, look at what is right there in sight—what opportunities are there for you to see in that moment. Being in that present moment will allow you to take action that recreates balance baby step by baby step.
For instance, say, you have a big “to do” list, and you are waiting in a long line during your holiday shopping. Instead of taking yourself out of the moment and worrying about all that you have to get done (getting more and more stressed and frustrated), take yourself back in the moment and remind yourself that balance is right there, now. You may find that you are can then enjoy a couple of children in line laughing and being playful (reminding you of the joy of the holidays). Or you might find that the elderly woman in front of you needs assistance and you are able to help her. You might notice that something you have been looking for is in a display right next to you in the checkout line (and you can check one more item off your “to do” list instead of driving across town.) Funny, sometimes, how being in the moment can work out, and it does bring more balance to our perceptions and experiences when we see that each moment has those opportunities.
Sometimes being in the moment may bring you to the realization that you are dreading yet another year of hectic shopping, wrapping, traffic, and long lines. Maybe you decide instead to negotiate with family and friends to simplify and just do gift cards. Or even negotiate giving to each person’s favorite charity for the holidays instead of giving stuff. You may come up with the idea to negotiate drawing names so that everyone just buys one gift, and everyone receives one gift.
This is the time of year to be at our best–a time to LIVE the spirit of the holiday season in love, goodwill, peace and joy. Be fully here, balanced and able to see the wonderful opportunities in this moment.
Friday, Oct. 2, 2009 was the 140th birth anniversary of a very powerful role model in my life and the lives of many others, Mohandas K. Gandhi.He showed the world that one man can live with such impeccability and integrity that he could lead and become a peaceful force that would empower a whole nation. The way he lived his life became a true model in our world for living with integrity and love in intent, thought, word and deed.
There is a well-known story of a woman asking Gandhi one day to counsel her son to stop eating sugar because it was unhealthy for him. She lamented that her son would not listen to her. She explained to Gandhi that the boy would most certainly listen to him. Gandhi was silent for a moment and asked the mother to bring him back in a month, which she did. When the woman brought her son back, Gandhi said, “Son, you must stop eating sugar. It is not healthy for you.” The boy stopped eating sugar. When the woman asked Gandhi why he didn’t advise her son on their first meeting, Gandhi replied, “Dear Madam, I cannot counsel someone in doing something I cannot avoid, so I had to work on my habit first.”
So many times in our world, there are voices that say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Gandhi knew that the only true and genuine teaching and change comes from those who live it. He had too much integrity to allow himself to request something of someone if he did not do it himself.
People pay attention to our actions and our choices much more than the words we speak. We can all “be the change” we want to see in the world if we live that change. If we see a lack of understanding, peace and unity in our world, the way to bring change is to live the love, peace and unity in our own lives, in our own thoughts. This is the hope for our world. This is a powerful gift that Gandhi’s life brought to millions.
This article by Mary Claire O’Neal was chosen as one of the Intent.com articles of the week, 8/7/09.
M. K. Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” One of the things Gandhi may be referring to is slowing down enough to listen. Really listen. “Slow down to listen to what?” you may ask. My answer would be many voices and yet one voice: That still, small voice within, or the same situation that presents itself over and over, or doors opening or closing, or what a child is saying with his behavior.
Slowing down to the speed of life can mean slowing down enough to pull myself out of autopilot—out of a routine, out of behaviors and ways of thinking that no longer work for me, out of reactions that can create separation instead of unity.
Slowing down to the speed of life can mean waking up, being fully alive right now, knowing that in every moment resides that choice to be awake. I have found that what I need to know is within me and also spoken through life all around me, if I’m paying attention. Life is filled with miracles and magic, but unless I am listening and watching, even the miracles will be missed.
Something I’ve found refreshing is to just sit quietly for a few minutes, away from the seduction of technology (stripped of my computer or phone) and listen to the silence or just to my heart beating. Contemplative walks can be a wonderful time for me to get creative ideas. Being out in nature is a way that many people find the silence and peace to listen.
Slowing down can also mean waking up to the wonder of life again. Listening to my heart when it says, “Take a break, play, be silly!” But it’s so easy to say, “ I don’t have the time.” And it’s so easy to see another day fly by without that joy. Having stuff coming at us all the time is a common way not to listen. Daily routines can become ruts that can distract us from the promptings of our hearts or the still, small voice within.
When slowing down, one can more clearly see things that need attention in life. It might be that a relationship or friendship needs some quality time. What might need attention is the physical part of me—needing more exercise or healthy eating. I might be reminded of a letter or phone call that’s been put off for later or a creative project that needs my attention.
When people have regrets at the end of their lives, it’s usually not that they would have liked to have worked one more day (even if their work was a joy for them). It’s usually, “I wish I had said, ‘I love you’ more” or “I wish I had been kinder, more compassionate.” When one really listens, promptings can become fulfilling action instead of regrets.
“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery – not over nature – but of ourselves.” –Rachel Carson, environmentalist
What is mastery over ourselves? What could that look like?
Ultimately our intent, thoughts, words, actions and responses are the only things that we can control and master. These all involve choice and our own freewill. It’s the awareness that every moment involves a choice—whether it be on the automatic, unconscious level or with awareness and mastery.
The awareness of those choices in the moments that make up our lives involves a discipline of mind. Sound like a lot of work? It is—at first. But that discipline of mind becomes easier and easier, and it is SO worth it!
How is it worth it? A simple example is when I make a conscious choice to change a thought or a behavior. Maybe it’s a thought that really doesn’t serve any purpose other than making me feel down or defeated. By changing that one thought that has been floating around in my mind all day to one that is more uplifting, I can change the course of my day.
We can also change the world around us by changing that one thought.
Have you ever been around someone who is being critical or negative about almost everything? It has an effect on those who have contact with them. The same is true for those who are hopeful, empowered and are taking action that is consistent with hope and empowerment. They draw people to them in a good way like a magnet.
Another example of that mastery is when we look at and consider the effects a choice we make will have on others before it is made. Does insisting that it be our way make us blind to the needs of others? How many times in the past several years have we seen on a national and global scale the effects of choices that were made (that first started with an individual making a choice or an individual pushing that agenda) that do damage to others?
Masters are everywhere, in all walks of life. A master can be the person who sees her/his life as a service. I see mastery in a janitor I know who always has a cheerful greeting and is truly joyful in doing what some people would consider a menial task. Mastery is in the person in the parking garage booth, who recently when I asked “how are you?” answered with, “I’m blessed! I have a job where all day long I can greet people and wish them a good evening. What could be better than that?”
I’m humbled by that kind of self mastery.
Mastery is not perfection. Masters make mistakes, and they do encounter difficulties. Mastery can be working in a process of knowing there’s always more to know. Mastery can be about getting back up again after a fall or mistake, claiming it, apologizing for it (if it affected others), learning from it, dusting oneself off, and moving forward again.