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Maria Gonzalez Blog
Mindful Leadership

The Inspiration that Is Jean Béliveau

As I listen to the tributes given to Jean Béliveau what is striking are the words used to describe him.  Without exception, people comment above all on his presence, his humility, his kindness, his gentleness.  They comment on how he made everyone around him great; how he was a genuinely nice man, who was always present in every interaction.

As I reflect on this great human being, what I see is a Mindful leader.  He exhibits all of the 9 ways of being a Mindful leader.  And that is what is truly remarkable.  When we witness 4 or 5 of the 9 ways at one time, we know we are witnessing something special.  But, to witness all the 9 qualities is to be in the presence of someone remarkable, a true inspiration.

What is also remarkable is that this man won 10 Stanley Cups as a player and was one of the greatest hockey players of all time.  But, what people especially remember is that he was a great human being that inspired many, and made a difference in countless lives.  In fact, his outstanding professional accomplishments are almost overshadowed by his refined consciousness.  And it is this that inspires us.  In admiring him, it instills hope in humanity and in ourselves, that perhaps we too, can be greater than we thought possible, and thereby make a difference in the lives we touch.

 

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How to Handle Stress in the Present Moment

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Recently, I was interviewed by the Harvard Business Review for an article entitled How to Handle Stress in the Present Moment, written by Rebecca Knight.  I thought you might enjoy the article, as it has some very practical Mindfulness strategies to be practiced in the moment.

Click on image to read article

Click on image to read article

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You Can Plan But You Can’t Control

I watched a great interview last night with Peter Mansbridge of the CBC and John Cleese.   Cleese said a joke that caused me to laugh out load for quite a while.  The joke was very simple.  He said, “how do you make God laugh”?  And the answer was, “by telling Him your plans”!

I think this strikes one as funny because we all know it to be true.  But, somehow we don’t believe it.  We think we can plan and that as a result, what we plan will actually materialize with a certain predictability.  The reality is that we can plan all we like (and it is certainly necessary to plan in many instances).  But, having done our best, we then need to be prepared to “let go”.  What this means is that we need to recognize that we do not and can not control outcomes.  The only thing we can control is our effort and our behaviour.  But apart from that, “control” is an illusion most of us carry for far too long.

And this illusion causes us great disappointment and stress.  Our effort to control everything, so that things turn out “our way” is closely linked to our attachment to outcomes.  And it is this attachment that causes great suffering.

So, next time you have planned and desperately want things to be a certain way, stop to see the humour and the futility in such an attachment.  See the illusion for what it is.  In so doing, you will experience great freedom.

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Harvard Business Review Article: Your Car Commute Is a Chance to Practice Mindfulness

I recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled: Your Car Commute Is a Chance to Practice Mindfulness.

One of the concerns people at times express is that they have insufficient time to practice Mindfulness on a regular basis.  My intention in writing this article was to illustrate clearly, that the opportunity to practice is available to us every day.  Whether we are commuting to work by car or driving to run errands there is a wonderful opportunity to apply a technique, that in essence can become our formal practice for the day.

Below is the link: 

I hope you enjoy the article

Click on image to read article

Click on image to read article

 

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What Does it Mean to “Abide in a State of Gratitude”?

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“I abide in a state of Gratitude” are Stings’s last words on his DVD, Sting the Last Ship.  This was a benefit concert at The Public Theatre in New York City.  ”The Last Ship” features Sting joined by 14 musicians performing original songs from his critically-acclaimed album and Broadway musical of the same name.

The statement is profound.  He is referring to his childhood in a small north England town whose main business was a shipyard.  It was difficult and dangerous work.  It was the main place of employment for the men in the area.  A place where few left and did anything different.  And for Sting, it shaped his deep desire to do something different, his music and his life.  And he considers himself “grateful” because he is fiercely proud of the strength and grit it took to live that life and what it gave him.

But to say that one “abides in Gratitude” goes far beyond being grateful.  It implies being grateful, no matter what the circumstances.  It means that when life presents difficulties, one can still live or abide in that state of Gratitude, for what one has.  It is very much akin to a state of “happiness without condition” or a state of equanimity.

And how does one experience this kind of gratitude?  This kind of gratitude can be cultivated, and in so doing it can transform your life.  If this speaks to you, try it for a week or so.  Take moments throughout the day to acknowledge that for which you are grateful.  Some days it will be big things and other days only small things.  And, yet, other days that are really difficult you will need to dig deeper, and perhaps merely be grateful for being alive or being able to breathe, or having food to eat and a roof over your head.

It means not taking anything for granted.  And why is this important or even meaningful?  Because everything we have moment by moment is a gift, a blessing and it can be taken away without notice.  That is the law of impermanence, what is here now may not be here in the next breath.  And absolutely nothing other than our Divinity is our birthright.  And our Divinity is merely our life force, the magic spark within us all.  More on this some other time…

So, take a moment now and just notice what is around you.  What are you grateful for right now?  And now abide in that Gratitude and let it inspire you for the rest of the day.

 

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If You Want to Be Heard, Speak with Compassion

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Tone plays a huge role in the ability of others to “hear” our message.  When we speak in a harsh or disinterested tone our message is not “heard”.  In fact, under those circumstances, people tend to experience “feel” which means that they start to focus on the chatter in their heads, rather than listening to what is being said.

On the other hand, when we speak with compassion, others are more likely to be drawn into what we are attempting to convey, and our message is more likely to be heard, as it is intended.

When we speak with compassion, the message we are conveying is that “the other person matters”, and that alone, consciously or otherwise, endears us to the other person.  Now, it goes without saying that our compassion needs to be authentic.  Compassion assumes a real interest in the other person.  We care what they think and how they feel.  We are there to be of service with every interaction.  That is implicit in every effective form of communication.

So if you want your message “heard”, make sure you deeply care for the person with whom you are speaking, no matter who they are.

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Discovering One’s Purpose in Life

Discovering one’s purpose in life is one the greatest concerns people express.  I have met many people who are extremely successful by external standards, but for them something is missing.  They don’t feel fulfilled, as if there is something they are “meant to do”, but they haven’t discovered it.  This can cause great angst and create a sense of incompleteness.

I too had that experience.  In my late twenties and early thirties I had a strong sense that I was on this earth for a purpose.  But, I had no idea what that purpose was.  I had great concern that I would come to the end of my natural life and that I would not have discovered why I was here.

This issue is so prevalent that I wrote a chapter in Mindful Leadership to address it.  It is incredibly satisfying when we start to have a sense of what we are “meant” to do.  In my view, we are all here to fulfill a Divine purpose, something only we can do.  And the way we can begin to uncover and discover what that might be is quite simple.  It requires some reflection and a lot of stillness.  It’s in that stillness that the insights arise.

The answer for each of us lies in the connection between our gifts and our passions.  We all do some things really well.  Some of these things we may not particularly enjoy. But, we do them anyways.  Yet, there are other things we do very well and we love to do them.  These are the things we are passionate about.  When we discover those things, it seems as if we can do them tirelessly.

The last piece of the puzzle is that as we use these gifts that we are passionate about, we feel tremendous joy.  Our work becomes effortless effort.  There is a rhythm to the way we complete the act of whatever we are doing.  And we do it in the service of all, for its own sake.

This is what it is to “discover one’s purpose”.  We do it for our sake.  And at the same time, our purpose becomes a gift to everyone.

 

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The Impact of One Person’s Kindness

I recently witnessed something beautiful and wanted to share it.

A young man got on the streetcar in front of me and he was using a walker. He was clearly in severe pain.

As he climbed up the steps with his walker, an elderly man sitting in one of the front seats, got up and told him to sit. Then another young fellow who had been sitting behind the elderly man got up to give him his seat, and so it went for another 3 people doing the same, giving their seats for others, in need.

It all happened in less than two minutes and it was a thing of such compassion that it was truly beautiful.

A real blessing to witness.  It brought tears of joy to my eyes…. a gift I wanted to share. It was pure Grace.

As I stood in my spot and looked around I noticed that a real calm had come over the streetcar.  These acts of kindness had impacted everyone who had noticed.  It seemed like a gentler place.  And as people later got off at subsequent stops, they appeared more present, kinder.  There was no pushing to “get out first”.  Suddenly there was a distinct civility.  There were more smiles.

All this because one elderly man, out of kindness, gave his seat to a young man who was struggling and in pain.

That was a true Mindful leader.  Compassion is one of the 9 Ways to be a Mindful Leader.  And a leader is anyone who is in a position to influence another person for any period of time.  When we exhibit kindness or compassion towards one person, not only do we impact that person, but we positively impact and inspire countless others.

 

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You Know You Are Wearing Down When…

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You may find yourself really looking forward to a vacation and some time off, to the completion of an assignment or some other milestone, but at the same time you notice that you are feeling cranky or impatient.  What you are looking forward to is something positive, but you know that in order to get to that point there is a lot left to complete.  As time goes on you seem to be less efficient and feel increasingly stressed.

At times like this you know you are wearing down.  Although you may feel you are working towards a deadline, the wisest thing to do is to take a step back…take a breath.  Give yourself the time to regroup so that you can do what you are doing Mindfully.  This is the time to become aware of the present moment.  Chances are that if you are stressed and impatient you are not in this moment.  You are in the moment that says, “I’ll never meet this deadline; I need this break so badly, but what I need to do to take a break makes it almost not worthwhile; I never handle these situations well; This always happens to me….”

What goes on in the mind in those moments tends to be judgmental, harsh, lacking in self compassion and unforgiving.  You have taken yourself out of the present moment and in so doing you are becoming less effective and less efficient.

So, here is a strategy you may wish to try next time you experience this sort of angst.  Take a breath and make a conscious choice to take a break…a break to come back to the present moment.  All you need are 5-10 minutes.  Take a walk and walk Mindfully.  Sit and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, outside if you can, and drink it Mindfully.  Get some fresh air, a change of scenery.  Listen to one or two pieces of music.  Most songs are no longer than 3-4 minutes each.  But really listen to the music.

This time out enables you to come back to what you need to complete, regenerated.  To be in the present moment is actually very relaxing and as you relax, you calm the nervous system.  This enables you to “reboot” the system and resume your work in a positive and Mindful way.

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When in Doubt Open Your Heart

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There are times that we are at a loss for what to say or what to do.  Someone may be telling us something that may be painful to them and perhaps painful for us to hear.

The habitual tendency may be to change the subject, to make them laugh, to distract them.  These may be the only strategies that come to mind.

But, there is an alternative.  The greatest gift you can give another person is to listen with an open heart.  So when in doubt open the heart.  Just listen to what they are saying and do nothing.  It may happen that you are spontaneously moved to wish them well or send them positive thoughts.  That is what it is to experience compassion.

It may equally occur that you are just present, just still, just silent.  It takes great courage to listen to someone’s pain in that way.  There is great wisdom and great strength in that silence.  There is a peace that comes with deep silence.  That is the silence of an open heart.  And in that opening of the heart you are contributing to healing…healing the other person and healing yourself.

You see, because we are all one, whatever you do for another, you do for yourself.

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