One day sitting in yet another meeting, I was half listening to the speaker, and half trying to sneak in a little multitasking. I was experiencing waves of boredom, frustration and numbness that often came from being overwhelmed. I felt bands of tight constriction across my chest, and through my hips. Even my jaw was tight.
As a leader, I was struggling to manage stress, sleepless nights and swinging from fatigued to being very amped up. Even as I prided myself on being a present listener, there was always tension and anxiety just under the surface. My attention bounced across multiple tasks, people, and conversations.
As I looked around the meeting the truth was, I liked these people. A lot. And yeah, we had a lot going on. But, I wondered, in this moment, could I start to let go of the tension?
Could I take a few breaths and chill? After all, I was committed to be here for the next amount of time, so how could I…actually…BE HERE?
This is how I started my Meeting Meditations.
Meeting meditations meant being in the actual meeting that I had accepted. Be present. Listen. Re-orient to taking deep breaths. Relax any muscles I didn’t need in that moment.
I practiced breathing into my belly instead of the short, shallow breaths coming from my chest.
I felt my booty in the chair and my feet on the ground. I let myself sink into the surfaces that supported me.
Perhaps I relax a few more muscles?
I curiously scanned my body to feel where I needed to put my energy and attention. I practiced letting go of anything extra. Smooth forehead. Soft eyes. Loose jaw with parted teeth. Shoulders down.
So what happened?
- I wasn’t as exhausted at the end of the day (this in itself was huge)
- I understood more about my team and our broken dynamics
- I could synthesize things that weren’t being said, or could bring those to the conversation
- I was more invested overall and clear about how I might solve the tasks on my plate.
- I also become more clear about which meetings I didn’t need to attend anymore, and which meetings I may be able to improve with better focused agendas or by introducing more rich conversation.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I have to multitask in every meeting because otherwise I”d be swamped at the end of the day”.
Okay. Well, do you need to answer emails with your jaw clenched and your shoulders up by your ears?
My pilates teacher used to say as I scrunched up my forehead in challenging moves, “We don’t do pilates with our face. Relax.”
Here’s your mission. For the next week, check in on how you’re showing up - in meetings, at dinner, before bed. Are you clinging to life by your fingernails? Are you gripped with tension when in reality you’re simply sitting in a chair looking at a screen?
I get it. Life is stressful. But we don’t need to pile onto that stress with exaggerated stress response.
Try a meeting meditation.
1 / Scan for tightness in your booty, jaws, shoulders, eyes.
2 / Just like someone walking through house turning off the lights that aren’t being used to save energy, turn off the muscles and tension that can be released.
3 / Breath down into your belly, feeling air coming in and out
4 / Direct the spotlight of your attention.
Meeting meditation can be a great tool in your stress management strategy. The stress in our lives isn't going to disappear, but we can start to build resilience and practices that help us manage and return to a grounded, centered place - ready to take action.