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Maria Gonzalez Blog
Mindful Leadership

Just This Moment

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Just this moment….that’s what it is to be present.  As each moment arises and fades into the next moment, being present means to focus right here, right now.  When we are only conscious of the present moment, a wealth of opportunity arises.  Our vision literally expands.  Time slows down to the point of feeling like it is being experienced in slow motion.  There is a presence of mind that allows for clear judgement. There is a joy in being in this moment.  And, we feel as if we are being guided by “an invisible hand” that has the “big picture”.  We become conduits of inspiration.

Whether playing a soccer game, playing a round of golf, chairing a meeting, having a conversation, playing a piece of music, painting a picture, it’s all the same.  There is only this moment.  Only the activity changes.  The process is the same.  Stay focused on the moment and doing the very best you can do, in this moment, under the circumstances.

And that is key.  The circumstances matter greatly.  Some days, some moments, we are brilliant, others, not as brilliant.  That is not relevant.  What matters is that we stay present and do our best in that moment.  Each moment is sacred and deserves our best.  It is our gift back to the Universe and to one another.  In so doing, it becomes a blessing to ourselves.  It brings us peace and joy.  That is the gift we receive.

Ever notice how peaceful and balanced you feel when you are present and have done all you can do, in that moment?  I don’t mean going outside yourself to accomplish a super human feat.  I am referring to that place where we stay within ourselves and all seems to flow.  That’s the sweet spot.  That is the place of Pure Presence.

When we are not in that present moment, we are focused on judging ourselves, others or situations that may have occurred in the past (near or distant).  Or, we are focused on the future with concern, dread, or anticipation.  Whatever the focus, if it is not in this moment, we are short changing ourselves and compromising our performance, inner peace and joy.

You may wish to take a time out right now.  If you are not already present, stop whatever you are doing and take a slow breath.  Notice your body and how it feels.  Notice your surroundings, the sights, the sounds.  Become fully anchored in the present moment and smile.  You are here.  You have arrived to the only place that matters…just this moment.

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We Have the Freedom to Choose Our Attitude

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Every day carries with it its hardships, its struggles, its aspirations, and its joys.  It all depends how we choose to look at it, and what we wish to embrace, moment by moment.  There is so much over which we have no control in life.  Yet, what we can control is our attitude; no one can dictate that for us.

Victor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning stated it beautifully.  “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others,  giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man, but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This quote speaks to the power we all hold within ourselves.  We all have the power to be Mindful leaders, which includes choosing our attitude.  I am not exclusively referring to those in positions of formal power when I speak of leaders.  I am referring to every one of us.  A leader is anyone who is in a position to influence another being for any period of time.  That pretty well includes us all.  But, to be a Mindful leader is a choice.  And our attitude is a key component of that.  Our attitude impacts our lives and the lives of those around us.

If you wish to practice a strategy, you may consider in the morning upon rising, spending a couple of minutes being deliberate about your attitude.  Determine your intention for the day and how you will approach life.  An example might be that you may decide to be positive towards every circumstance that comes your way.  That does not mean you sugar coat a bad situation.  It may just mean that no matter what life throws your way, you approach it from a place of creativity and opportunity.  Every difficulty can also hold within it a “nugget of gold”.

Here is a link to a 1.5 minute interview with Dr. Ellsworth Wareham, a 100 year old retired heart surgeon talking about attitude, and making a contribution, among other topics.  His philosophy is simple, “you do the best you can, and the things you can’t do anything about, don’t give any thought to them”.   http://youtu.be/hGQTpxjbwaM

I would like to thank Rob Quartly for the video link.


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The Power of Kindness

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Far from being a sign of weakness or poor leadership, kindness carries with it a great strength.  There is a gentleness to kindness.  It comes from a place of stillness, inner quiet and confidence.  Kindness has the power to change the world, our world, and the world around us.

When dealing with hostility, kindness can be disarming and non threatening to others.  When dealing with the sadness, it can offer gentle encouragement and give hope. Ultimately, it signals that the other person matters. They matter enough for you to stop and notice, and to act towards them with an open heart, and they notice. That is the impact we can have on strangers, friends, and colleagues.  It is a true sign of Mindful leadership.

An often overlooked area of kindness is the impact it has when we are kind to ourselves.  We often think about it in the context of how we relate to others.  But, think of it from the point of view of being kind to yourself.  Try it and see how it feels.  In fact, you may wish to make it a habit.  When you treat yourself with kindness, it becomes much easier to authentically be kind to others.  When we are kind to ourselves, sincere kindness to others wells up spontaneously.  Ultimately, it makes us feel good, and it isn’t just in our minds.

Mary Anne Christie Burnside, a developmental psychologist, writes that”Studies show that thinking about, observing or practicing a kind act stimulates the vagus nerve, which literally warms up the heart and may be closely connected to the brain’s receptor networks for oxytocin, the soothing hormone involved in maternal bonding. Kindness also triggers the reward system in our brain’s emotion regulation center releasing dopamine, the hormone that’s associated with positive emotions and the sensation of a natural high.

Kindness—which reduces stress, anxiety and depression—can literally put us, and others, at ease. It works wonders in the relationships we have with ourselves and with everyone else, even with people we don’t know.” Here’s a link to an article on the topic of intentional acts of kindness.   http://www.mindful.org/intentional-acts-of-kindness/?utm_source=Mindful+Newsletter&utm_campaign=3cf01c3d0a-Weekly_Wakeup_Jun_6_20165_6_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6d03e8c02c-3cf01c3d0a-21347677&mc_cid=3cf01c3d0a&mc_eid=d4ba0db1b0

If the science of kindness is of interest to you, you may wish to check out Dacher Keltner’s book, Born to Be Good: The Science of A Meaningful Life (published by W.W. Norton in 2009).

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Purification Requires “Grit”

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As we become more Mindful, we also become aware of our negative patterns.  Essentially, these are behaviours or habits that hold us back, get us into trouble, cause us to struggle, and become impediments to our happiness and effectiveness.  If left unchecked, these patterns compromise our relationships and our lives.

As Mindful leaders, our objective is to purify these patterns, so that we can get the most out of our lives, personally and professionally.

In the previous Blog, I cited the research of Angela Lee Duckworth on “grit”, which she asserts to be a predictor of success.  She defines “grit” as passion and persistence for your long term goals.  It is having stamina and working towards your future goals, day in and out, for years.  It is living life as if it is a marathon, not a sprint.

And that is exactly the quality required to “purify” negative patterns.  First, it requires being honest with oneself.  We have to be prepared to accept the negative side of ourselves, to acknowledge that we could do better.  Most importantly, once that is done, we have to be prepared to accept ourselves as we are, without recrimination, and without guilt.  Purifying requires self compassion, and along with that self forgiveness.

Even when we fall short, we have tried our best. It is always our best under the circumstances.  And that’s all we can ever ask.  We can resolve to do better next time, and to try and try again, until the negative pattern has dissolved, with barely a trace.

By making deliberate purification a habit, we feel lighter and more in control of our lives.  In fact, we begin to see that our negative patterns were never punishable failures, but rather opportunities to “correct our course”, much as a sailor would alter or correct course in recognition that the winds had changed.

Deliberate purification is empowering.  It enables us to recognize that we are not at the mercy of life and its circumstances.  No matter what life brings, we can always take control of our attitudes, behaviours and actions.

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What Does it Take to Succeed?

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I just heard a very interesting TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth; it is 6 minutes long and has had over 8 million views.  In her Talk she asserts that a predictor of success is not related to IQ or even talent.  It is something which she calls “grit”.  She defines “grit” as passion and persistence for your long term goals.  It is having stamina and working towards your future goals, day in and out, for years.  It is living life as if it is a marathon, not a sprint.

And that is exactly as it is with Mindful leadership.  The 9 ways of being a Mindful leader require that very same perseverance.  They  are achieved with practice and attention, day in and day out.  It is not a game of perfect.  We try and succeed, then falter and try again, and so it goes on.  We begin to see that there is no such thing as failure, but rather an opportunity to correct our course and continue to try.  And the prize for this perseverance is the experience of being comfortable in one’s skin, knowing who we are and being at peace with that.  It enables us to enjoy life fully, to share our gifts with the world, and to be of service.  The result is a life well lived.

I hope you enjoy the TED Talk.    https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit?language=en#t-244362

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Discovering Your Life Purpose

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In the previous Blog, I suggested that as humans, our life purpose is to refine consciousness.   And I defined the refinement of consciousness as the process of becoming more and more aware and present, moment by moment, regardless of circumstances.  In fact, when this happens, we notice an enormous transformation in our lives.  We approach life differently.  We become more conscious of everyone and everything around us.  And we become aware of how we impact others.  It is empowering to be present and aware.  It makes us feel alive and full of wonder.

At the same time, there may be a nagging sense that we are here to do something, something we may not have not yet discovered.  This can be unsettling.  In fact, the more we press to know, the more confused we may become. In Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself and Inspiring Others, I devote an entire chapter to a process one can follow, to arrive at discovering one’s purpose.  If this is something you are pondering, I would suggest going through the exercises in the chapter.  Take your time and reflect, no need to rush the process.  Often ideas will crystallize as you reflect on your life to date.

Here are some things you might consider.  When you are putting your life purpose into action, it should feel joyful, exciting, and fun.  You might even call it a passion.  The hours seem to fly by as you engage in what you are doing.  It will likely feel effortless.  This is not to say it is easy or does not require work.  You may be working harder than you have ever worked.  But, you love it! You are using what you might call your gifts, things you do very well, and for which you may have a knack.

And finally, there is almost without exception, a sense of being of service.  In the process, we feel we are contributing and making our corner of the world, however we define this, a better place.  And it just feels right. Finally, we feel we have come home.  In reality and ultimately, it is a journey of self-discovery.  When we arrive at that place, we feel comfortable in our skin and at peace within ourselves.

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Do You Know Your Life’s Purpose?

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I find that sooner or later, most people ponder why they are here, what their purpose in life is, and what they are meant to do.  Somehow, as humans, we all have this nagging little feeling that there is something we should know, something we should be doing.  Sometimes we just don’t know, other times we are afraid to know.

In reality we have forgotten….  We have “forgotten” that we are here to refine consciousness.  In fact, that is the only reason we are here.  It is as simple as that and as complex as that.  Now, when I mention that, some people will have a visceral reaction and say, that the reason they are here is to be a great parent or a great leader or a great partner.  And that is really not the case.  In reality, it is in refining consciousness that we can then be the very best partner, parent, or leader.  These are roles we perform, and we are likely to perform them at our best, when we are fully aware and present, moment by moment.  That is what it is to refine consciousness…to become more and more able, to be fully aware and present, moment by moment, regardless of circumstances.

Can you see how this could make you the best partner, parent, leader or friend, that you could possibly be?

And from that place of awareness and presence, where our consciousness continuously refines, we are drawn to do different things in our lives.  Things that become fulfilling, give us great joy, and are of real service to others.

I look forward to expanding on this in the next Blog.

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Life Is Fragile. Treat it with Presence.

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As humans we often overlook the impermanence of life.  It’s not as if we don’t know that everything and every life are impermanent.  But, rather we go about our lives as if everything is permanent.  Until, in one surprising moment, that which we thought would always be there, is gone…perhaps forever.  The loss could be a family member, a friend, a pet, a big old tree…

And, often, when the loss arises, we are ill prepared and regret may creep in.  We wish we could recapture the past, those moments that are now gone, for which we were not present.

It is useful to keep at the forefront of our minds that life is fragile.  Everything and everyone that is here now, will one day be gone, including ourselves.  So, treating life with presence is an important way to honour life and everyone in our lives.  This means to be fully present moment by moment.

When you are with another person, be in that moment and no other moment.  Listen to what they are saying as if they will never speak again.  And when you speak, speak as if these are the last words you will ever utter.  Honour the silence when it arises.  It too is sacred.  In that stillness, you will experience an intimacy you may have never previously realized.

Be present.  Be still. And know that this moment too is passing.

 

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Don’t Underestimate the Importance of a Relaxed Body

A relaxed body is vitally important, because it is your gateway to a relaxed and calm mind.  In my experience, one of the most common complaints and concerns people have is that the mind is agitated, busy, and at times seems like a run-away train.  In trying to calm the mind, the result is often frustration and discouragement.  The more you try to quiet the mind, the worse it gets, the greater the chatter and the greater the stress.

If you want to calm the mind, then the most effective and quickest route is through the body.  By relaxing the body, the mind automatically becomes calmer.

The next time you are busy running from meeting to meeting or appointment to appointment, notice what is going on in the mind.  There is a very good chance that your mind is agitated with all that needs to be done.  Then, the next thing to do is to notice the body.  Again, there is a very good chance that your body is tight, perhaps your shoulders or neck are tight, your stomach might be in knots, your jaw might be clenched, etc.  They go hand in hand.  The body always looks to the mind and the mind to the body.  They communicate silently all day and react to one another.

The way to calm the mind is to start to become familiar and aware of your body.  Learn to recognize the signs of tension in the body before the mind spins out of control.  If you find you are already stressed, then immediately and systematically relax the body.  Train yourself to walk around with a relaxed body, no matter what you are doing, at work, at home, or while working out.

If you want to get started or deepen your ability to relax, you may wish to follow the Guided Meditation in the Mindful Leadership App. I have created over 70 Guided Meditations from which you can choose.  You can find the link at
www.argonautaconsulting.com

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Create Sustainable Change through Intention

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Ever wonder why most people do not succeed in maintaining and realizing their New Year’s resolutions?  In fact, studies estimate that 92 percent of people fail to achieve the goals they commit to on New Year’s Day.  That is astounding!

My thought is that one of the contributing factors to this alarming failure rate is that when we make a resolution, we are reflecting a view that something is inherently “wrong” with us, and that it needs to be corrected in order for us to measure up.  If you start from the view point that you are somewhat defective, you are looking to change with one strike already against you.  Then, when you fail to achieve what you set out to achieve, it only proves your point…there is something wrong with you…and now you have proof.  Hence, you are then worse off than when you set out to make your resolution.

I would like to offer another view and another strategy that has a greater likelihood that you will be successful.  The view is this: there is absolutely nothing “wrong” with you.  You are perfect as you are; all you may need to do is to “adjust course”.  Any time something is not working for you, all you have to do is adjust the course you are on.  If you were sailing and had set a course for your journey and suddenly the winds shifted, you would not stubbornly stay the course.  That would be absurd and dangerous.  Instead, you would assess the situation and you would adjust your course.  The same applies to things in your life that you would like to see changed or that require a change.  Framing it in that way enables you to start from a place of empowerment.  This way, you are in control and empowered to make the change.

And this is how you put the strategy into play: the critical element is creating an intention.  Where the mind goes, action will follow.  So, begin this whole process by setting an intention for yourself.  It could be an intention for the year, for the month, for the day.  All that matters is that it be concrete, clear and concise.  Remember, you are in control, so you can adjust the intention as you see fit.  If conditions change during the time period for your intention, all you need to do is “change course”.

It is deceivingly simple: start from the knowledge that you are perfect as you are.  The Universe created you perfectly.  You just may need to periodically change course to be the best you can be.  And, now create an intention that reflects your deepest desires.  Napoleon Hill put it well when he said, “if you can conceive it, you can achieve it”.

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