This post is part of a series on Cultivating Leadership Presence through Mindfulness. The series will culminate in a four-day mindful leadership retreat in New York in October 2013. For more information, visit http://www.mindfulleadership.com/.
Two years ago on a last-minute whim, I attended the Institute for Mindful Leadership's Mindful Leadership & Wellness Retreat. I was one of 20 financial advisors from the Fusion Advisor Network who spent three days in the New York Catskills being introduced to mindfulness.
I had never heard of mindfulness, but the idea of a wellness retreat with my colleagues was intriguing. It was also very timely; I had just learned that on top of having high cholesterol and being 30 pounds overweight that I now had high blood pressure. The relentless "all hands on deck" lifestyle I was living, coordinating care for a parent with Alzheimer's and managing clients through the Great Recession, was physically taking a toll.
The Institute's retreat introduced me to meditation, yoga and compassion towards myself. For the first half of the retreat I was very skeptical, but during the second half, I noticed change. For the first time, questions like Am I really winning this rat race? and Am I as intentional in my own life planning as I am for my clients? were seriously being looked at in a compassionate way.
Instead of running off to battle every morning, I now have a morning quiet ritual that helps me set the tone for my day. Mindfulness techniques I learned at the retreat have now become habits. I enjoy yoga and practice at least four times a week. At work, I like taking a five-minute walking meditation outside my office to take that purposeful pause. In preparation for my client meetings and other important interactions, I will pause for two minutes for a "loving kindness" meditation prep. The simple act of mentally wishing one well keeps me focused and fully present when I meet with them.
Two years after the Mindful Leadership retreat, my weight and overall health is at its best in 20 years. In addition, I feel that the techniques I've learned have improved my business by giving me greater clarity and focus than I had before. Finding the right work/life balance will always be a struggle, but since I started a mindfulness routine my relationships are now stronger and my business prospering.
To sum up, I've learned that in this age of distractions and competing priorities that mindfulness is not about tuning out or just smelling the roses. It is about how to create the space in your life to become more effective in the areas that matter most to you. For me relationships are the most important. Practicing the act of being fully present in front of others is one of the greatest gifts I can give to my family and to my business.