Sit There, Do Nothing…Are You Kidding Me?

by Merrick Rosenberg, MBA

Stress has become so prevalent in the workforce that a recent study by found that 68% reported feeling burnout at work. While there are many causes of workplace stress, there is something that people can do about it. The best part is that this strategy requires very little effort.

The ancient practice of meditation has proven significant physical benefits, including: Reduced stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, decreased pain, and reversed heart disease. And those are just the physical benefits. Regular meditators report that they experience better creativity and results at work, inner peace, more patience, stronger focus and concentration, greater levels of self-acceptance, heightened joy and contentment, more positive thoughts, deeper connection with others, and a greater spiritual connection.

The idea of a meditator sitting alone on a mountaintop is enough to send most of us running. So why are so many Americans finding this ancient practice so attractive?

In these days of being tethered to work via a Blackberry, the rapid pace of change, and a barrage of negativity and stress from fellow-coworkers, people are seeking a way to minimize their own stress levels and prevent burnout.

How hard can it be?
Most people who try meditation often state that they think they are doing it wrong. Sitting without moving is uncomfortable. Quieting the mind is impossible. Finding time to do it is challenging. With time, meditation gets easier and becomes more centering and balancing.

Following are some tips to get you started:

#1: Get rid of the shoulds – The sooner you get rid of all preconceived notions about what meditation should feel like, the faster you will experience its benefits. Thoughts will enter your mind. That’s OK. You don’t have to meditate for an hour. Sometimes, three minutes will do the trick. You don’t have to meditate every day. If you miss a day, don’t worry about it. Let go of expectations.

#2: Location, location, location – Choose a place that is off the beaten path, such as a nearby park bench that you can visit during lunchtime. Most importantly, know that any place can work if you can sit comfortably and close your eyes for just a few minutes.

#3: Let go of tension – Begin with a quick body scan. Pay attention to places where you are holding stress and tension. You may think that you are relaxed, but most people hold tension throughout their body and don’t even know it. Try this now, tune into your jaw and completely relax it. It’s surprising how much tension we hold. Let it go, and then tune into the breath.

#4: Breathe like your body wants you to – Everything about you is designed to breath deeply such that the air expands into your lower abdomen, not your upper chest, yet that’s how most of us breathe. Most oxygen exchange takes place in the lower lungs. If you chest breathe, your respiratory rate must be higher so that the cells get the energy they need. In turn, too little oxygen delivered to the tissues, organs, body, and mind becomes energy deprived. Further, the mind associates upper chest breathing with an anxious mind, so the slower and deeper you breathe, the more relaxed and focused you will be.

#5: Tame the monkey – You’ve found a nice quiet spot to meditate. You’ve released tension, and you’re breathing deeply. But your mind, it won’t stop. It’s like a monkey jumping from thought to thought, and you can’t stop it. Monkey-mind, as Buddhists call it, is a natural state of being. Be open to what arises, but don’t attach to it. When your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought, but don’t advance the thought. When thoughts arise, simply tell yourself, “breathe,” then return to the present. Meditation is about being not doing. Don’t try to force the thoughts out. That is an act of doing. Allow the thoughts to simply melt away as you bring your focus back to the breath.

Just Breathe
Some cultures believe that each person is allotted a certain number of breaths within his or her lifetime. When you use them up, you die…so slow down and breathe deeply.

About the Author
Merrick Rosenberg, MBA, is the co-founder and CEO & President of Team Builders Plus, in Cherry Hill, NJ. In working with line staff to senior executives in worldwide organizations in diverse industries and sizes, Merrick has served as a facilitator, performance coach, and management consultant for more than eighteen years. He specializes in leadership development, team building, and organizational development. Merrick also coaches individuals using 360-degree feedback results and behavioral style analysis. Merrick has been featured on CN8’s Money Matters Today and in ASTD’s Training & Development magazine.