If you will, take a moment right now to close your eyes and inhale, as you sit in your chair, wherever you are. Let the inhale fill your belly and your chest, and rise all the way to the top of your head as it fills you with a fresh perspective on this moment and yourself. Let the exhale spiral down through your head, neck, shoulders and torso, all the way to your legs and feet, where it connects you to the floor and the ground beneath you.
In the midst of so many urgent and important responsibilities, busy leaders sometimes resist this simplest of ways to reclaim peace of mind. The brain needs oxygen. It can’t function clearly without the fullness of our breath, which is forgotten in the heat of “battle” at work. The body, including the heart, needs oxygen to connect thoughts, feelings and actions in a resourceful way. Without breath, our minds may not “agree” with our hearts, our emotions may seem to overwhelm us, or our bodies act at cross-purposes in all kinds of situations.
Each of us, many times a day, loses our focus, our center. Those who are best able to tune in to the experience of being off-balance will enhance their ability to respond in resourceful ways and return to effectiveness. The breath, which brings us to the present moment, returns us to ourselves faster than anything else.
If I could give you one gift daily, it would be this: to take a moment to pause, every hour, to reclaim your connection to your breath, your seat, your ground, yourself. In this slow, still pause (which can be fully indulged in as few as 60 seconds), you gain insight about the moment you are in, and about what action is most relevant now. As you pause, you might become aware of the underlying problem that is at the heart of a challenge, you might recognize that you really need time, or rest, or to think through a response, rather than speak in the moment.
Pausing is the simplest way there is to bring coherence and integrity to your experience. It’s a way of reclaiming your sense of yourself as centered and fully present. When you allow yourself to pause, even for a moment or two, you may choose to ask yourself a few simple questions as preparation for re-engagement with the project at hand, or with others:
- What is my current mood/state? (stimulated, irritated, excited, tired, challenged, super-charged, deflated… etc.)
- How well suited is my current mood to the situation I am facing?
- What response or action is needed from me?
- Mentally picture yourself responding in this way, and then, take action.