Whether it stems from your work life, or personal life, stress is a very real part of our day to day. Association life is chock-full of meetings, deadlines, events, and conversations. Along with that comes a need to wind down and spend some time in reflection. At ASAE 2015, I was able to attend a poignant session called “Meditation: The Savvy Exec’s Secret Weapon,” which focused on mental health, and how meditation can help keep us at the top of our game personally and professionally.
The presenter, Cynthia D’Amour, set the stage by announcing her “shoes optional” rule as attendees filed in. She started the session with a deeply personal story about how using meditation helped her overcome difficult times in her life, and walked the audience through a guided meditative process with some really practical ideology.
Flow vs. Contraction
Cynthia began our practice by having the audience sit comfortably (sans shoes), close our eyes, breathe deeply, and visualize a time we were in our flow. Flow happens when you’re “in the zone” - you may experience the feeling while completing tasks on a checklist, playing your favorite sport, or creating something you love (like written word, or art). Contraction contrasts with flow. Cynthia said, “contraction disconnects you from your brilliance.” We practiced going back and forth between states of flow and contraction to get the hang of what they feel like, and where you notice the energy moving throughout your body during each state.
Breathing is a crucial part of the meditative process, so we practiced several breathing exercises as a group. If you find yourself focusing on emotions like shame or regret (feelings typically associated with the past), you will start to contract. Breathing can shift your focus, pull you back to the present, and point you towards the future (your flow). As your chest expands with deep cleansing breaths, your mind and body open up to insight, new perspective, and opportunity.
The Grounding Cord
Visualization is another piece of our meditative puzzle. Giving yourself something specific to focus on can help keep your mind from wandering. Cynthia had the audience practice visualizing an imaginary cord between the ground and your body. Through the cord, you can release any negative emotions that might cause contraction - the Earth can recycle that negative energy for you, so that you’re left with the positive.
Using meditation to become the best you will also improve your skills as an association leader (or member). Harness your mind as your partner, and don’t shut it down, nourish it!