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How to Meditate in a Chair

For many people, one the greatest obstacles to meditation stems from the belief that a cross-legged lotus-like posture is the mandatory position for meditation. We’re here to assure you that flexible yogini skills are completely unnecessary. At SIYLI, we appreciate a good chair just as much as a floor or floor cushion. And even if you can wrap your legs around your torso, knowing how to meditate in a chair is useful for planes, offices and other places where floor room is unavailable or being inconspicuous is appropriate.


What kind of chair? Nothing fancy. It’s ideal if it doesn’t have wheels and isn’t so soft and cushy that you might fall asleep, but most any chair or bench will do, as long as your feet can be flat on the ground and you can sit up straight. If a plush recliner or hotel bed is all that’s available, perch on the edge of it so that your back is erect and your feet are on the floor solidly.

If you’ve got a full collection of chairs from which to choose, find something with a straight back and thin cushion. In order to get your […]

The Heart of Connection and Trust

As counterintuitive as it may seem, great leadership relies upon vulnerability. We usually think of vulnerability as a weakness, but emotional vulnerability is, as best-selling author and professor of social work Brené Brown writes, “the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Does that make vulnerability sound more appealing? To be vulnerable takes courage and honesty, two qualities usually found in great leaders.

But vulnerability doesn’t come easily for most of us, especially in the work environment. To be vulnerable is to be willing to feel uncomfortable emotions that we’d probably prefer to avoid. It also requires listening carefully and tapping into how others feel. And then—here’s the hardest part—we need to feel what they feel.

We know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute. That’s empathy!” And you’re right. Vulnerability is closely tied to empathy. Without vulnerability we can’t access our own experiences that allow us to be empathic, and we also can’t share important personal moments so that others can relate to us.

Today, thanks to technology, we have enormous global reach (and, hence, greater responsibility) than ever before. In a matter of seconds, someone on the other side of the world can read an […]

One Less Goal in 2016

We want results, preferably quantifiable or visible results. If we study hard as a student, we anticipate good grades. If we exercise regularly, we enjoy good health and a lean physique. If we work hard, we expect to be recognized and well compensated. Investment in today’s society—whether in time, finances or energy—usually brings straightforward results. We love to meet goals and feel a sense of achievement. But meditation isn’t like preparing for LSATS, going to the gym or working countless hours.

Meditation has no goals. There’s nothing to figure out, share or, even, do especially well. There’s no good meditation or bad meditation. The results aren’t necessarily quantifiable or visible, so approaching meditation with the same expectations we bring to the rest of life would be as frustrating as trying to fill a box with Styrofoam peanuts during a hurricane.

We meditate to achieve nothing.

Hold on just a minute. Nothing? What about the health benefits? Meditation helps reduce stress and pain and builds gray matter in the brain (which is associated positively with working memory, decision making, the ability to focus, emotional regulation and empathy). Don’t we meditate to reap those rewards? Well, maybe, […]

Pain Meds or Meditation?

What if meditation works merely as a placebo because, like a tainted jury, people have already heard about its benefits? This is the question that Dr. Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, set out to answer.

After recruiting 75 pain-free people to participate in his study (published November 18, 2015, in The Journal of Neuroscience), Zeidan divided them into four groups: one was given a bogus cream and told it would reduce pain; another group was told to meditate without instruction; one lucky group was taught mindful meditation; and the control group listened to a tedious book on tape. After four days, results from MRI scans, while enduring pain induced via a 120-degree thermal probe, were compared to scans before “manipulation.” The results were surprising.

Comparison of pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings Comparison of pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings in MRI sessions from the study “Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief Employs Different Neural Mechanisms Than Placebo and Sham Mindfulness Meditation-Induced Analgesia”

The three “treatments”—the cream, untrained meditation and mindfulness meditation—all reduced pain significantly. The cream reduced the sensation of pain by an average of 11 […]

Gratitude—It’s Inexhaustible

As Thanksgiving draws near in the United States, we’re reminded to appreciate the people in our lives, the food on our tables and all the other things that make us happy. What’s great about gratitude is that just the act of reflecting upon what we’re grateful for actually makes us happier! Many studies find that people who practice gratitude consistently report benefits that range from emotional resilience and improved physical health to career advantages and greater empathy.

Smiling Child
While gratitude is front and center this week in the U.S., we urge you to adopt it into every day, regardless of where you live. If you awoke each morning and took a few minutes to dwell upon three people or things for which you are grateful, you’ll find that you feel more connected to others, to your experiences, to nature and even to our global community.

Building on short daily acknowledgements, it’s also rewarding to dig a little deeper with a weekly meditation. As a starting point, the following list might incite ideas to focus on during your meditation. Read them aloud and see if one resonates with you, or create your own!

1.    Who […]

What Happens When We Forget to Be Kind?

“A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.”  —Chinese Proverb

Most of us recoil at the thought of hurting another person physically. Many of us even experience a visceral reaction when we see someone twist an ankle or smash a finger. For those with extreme empathy, a condition called mirror-touch synesthesia, it’s possible to feel another person’s physical pain exactly as it’s experienced by the person who is injured.

But what happens when you think of hurting another person emotionally or when we see emotional pain inflicted upon someone else? Do we react in the same way? Maybe we should.

compassion

Many studies have found that social pain—the kind caused by rejection or loss—activates the brain circuits related to physical pain. The experiments typically expose test subjects to social exclusion (often playing a virtual ball-tossing game in which they are eventually excluded) while monitoring the brain with fMRI scans. During these social exclusion studies, neuroscientists have found reactions of the posterior insular cortex to be similar to responses of the sensory processing of physical pain.

These studies are a good reminder to be mindful of our interactions with others. While […]

What Makes a Great Leader?

Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow. —Chinese Proverb

Imagine a world where we couldn’t perceive when a co-worker is frustrated or a friend is upset. Because of emotional intelligence (EQ), we can connect with people beyond the superficial and create rewarding interactions at work and beyond.

Research shows that EQ is a differentiator between great leaders and average ones. Author, psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman studied executives at nearly 200 companies and found EQ to be twice as relevant to performance in comparison with both IQ and technical ability. At top levels, EQ accounted for a 90-percent difference between the best and the rest.

Harvard Business Review, in a video titled “What Makes a Great Leader?,” shares the five interconnected components of EQ, as defined by Goleman, and the ways in which these qualities define good leadership:

1. self-awareness: understanding ones own emotions and their affect on others.
2. self-regulation: the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses.
3. motivation: passion to work with energy and persistence for reasons beyond money or status.
4. empathy: ability to understand the emotional needs of others and treat them […]

Gratefulness = Happiness

The word “gratitude” originated in the mid-15th century and derives from the Latin word gratus, meaning “thankful” or “pleasing” (depending upon the context). The word’s definition today still embodies these two meanings because what we find pleasing is often something for which we are thankful. Through gratitude, we acknowledge the good things in our lives, whether intangible or tangible.

Keys to Happiness
Many studies find that people who practice gratitude consistently report benefits that range from emotional resilience and improved physical health to career advantages and greater empathy. Gratitude, it turns out, is linked directly to happiness.

What’s especially powerful about practicing gratitude is that the process often shifts our focus away from ourselves and toward other people or our surroundings. As a result, we often feel more connected to others, nature, experiences and even the global community.

Practicing gratitude is gloriously simple. Here are a few ways to get started:
1.    Create a gratitude calendar on which you jot down a few words specific to the good things that each day brings.
2.    Write a note to someone with whom you have a difficult relationship or have experienced a rift. Thank them for the […]

Mindfulness Hacks for the Hyperactive

Some people never sit still, and sitting quietly to meditate—even just for 10 minutes—is akin to torture. Every good meditation practice should revolve around what works best for you as an individual, so if you’re not prone to quiet moments and cross-legged positions, we present four mindfulness hacks.

These techniques can help you reap the benefits of meditation while sidestepping the discomfort (or at least distracting you from it).

candle

1. Active Meditation
If you seldom sit still, it’s likely that you enjoy walking, running or biking. Many cultures have ancient traditions of meditations that involve movement (think, for example, of the Whirling Dervishes), so it’s natural for modern society to also move and meditate. As you walk, run or cycle, ditch the headphones and focus on the actual experience. Pay attention to the sensations you feel physically. What do you feel? Is it the breeze on your face, the sweat trickling down your back or the churning of your legs? What sounds do you hear? What smells? Choose one sensation and focus on it for 10 minutes, allowing your mind to explore how it feels from every possible angle.

2. Mastication Meditation
Even if you don’t […]

How to Transform the Mind of a Team (or a System)

What would a workplace look like if there were a critical mass of self-awareness and compassion?

The benefits of mindfulness for individuals is now pretty well established. The simple practice of bringing attention peacefully to the present moment seems to help our minds undo the many pains and confusions that come from rumination, distraction and the type of overall disgruntled thinking that we all seem so prone to.

But if mindfulness helps us let go of our individual bad habits and live with greater flow and ease, could it help a whole team let go of typical team dysfunctions and work with greater flow?

Thinking bigger, could it even change the way a whole organization or system learns, adapts and transforms itself?

There’s promising reason to think the answer may be yes.

The secret is, we’re all human

That answer starts with a fascinating character named Dr. Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer in organizational development at MIT, and one of the first people to bridge the inner world of mindfulness with the challenges of team creativity and systems change.  A protege of legendary MIT systems-thinking founder Peter Senge, Scharmer has tested a new model for transformation and innovation in businesses, government and cross-sector collaborations.

The Scharmer’s […]