Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind

May 19th, 2017

Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind

By Leo Babauta

The most important habit I’ve formed in the last 10 years of forming habits is meditation. Hands down, bar none.

Meditation has helped me to form all my other habits, it’s helped me to become more peaceful, more focused, less worried about discomfort, more appreciative and attentive to everything in my life. I’m far from perfect, but it has helped me come a long way.

Probably most importantly, it has helped me understand my own mind. Before I started meditating, I never thought about what was going on inside my head — it would just happen, and I would follow its commands like an automaton. These days, all of that still happens, but more and more, I am aware of what’s going on. I can make a choice about whether to follow the commands. I understand myself better (not completely, but better), and that has given me increased flexibility and freedom.

So I highly recommend this habit. And while I’m not saying it’s easy, you can start small and get better and better as you practice. Don’t expect to be good at first — that’s why it’s called “practice”!

These tips aren’t aimed at helping you to become an expert; they should help you get started and keep going. You don’t have to implement them all at once — try a few, come back to this article, try one or two more.

1. Sit for just two minutes. This will seem ridiculously easy, to just meditate for two minutes. That’s perfect. Start with just two minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another two minutes and do that for a week. If all goes well, by increasing just a little at a time, you’ll be meditating for 10 minutes a day in the 2nd month, which is amazing! But start small first.

2. Do it first thing each morning. It’s easy to say, “I’ll meditate every day,” but then forget to do it. Instead, set a reminder for every morning when you get up, and put a note that says “meditate” somewhere where you’ll see it.

3. Don’t get caught up in the how — just do. Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use … this is all nice, but it’s not that important to get started. Start just by sitting on a chair, or on your couch. Or on your bed. If you’re comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged. It’s just for two minutes at first anyway, so just sit. Later you can worry about optimizing it so you’ll be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning it doesn’t matter much, just sit somewhere quiet and comfortable.

4. Check in with how you’re feeling. As you first settle into your meditation session, simply check to see how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? See whatever you’re bringing to this meditation session as completely OK.

5. Count your breaths. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. Just place the attention on your breath as it comes in, and follow it through your nose all the way down to your lungs. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one.

6. Come back when you wander. Your mind will wander. This is an almost absolute certainty. There’s no problem with that. When you notice your mind wandering, smile, and simply gently return to your breath. Count “one” again, and start over. You might feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to not stay focused, we all do it. This is the practice, and you won’t be good at it for a little while.

7. Develop a loving attitude. When you notice thoughts and feelings arising during meditation, as they will, look at them with a friendly attitude. See them as friends, not intruders or enemies. They are a part of you, though not all of you. Be friendly and not harsh.

8. Don’t worry too much that you’re doing it wrong. You will worry you’re doing it wrong. That’s OK, we all do. You’re not doing it wrong. There’s no perfect way to do it, just be happy you’re doing it.

9. Don’t worry about clearing the mind. Lots of people think meditation is about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. It’s not. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. We all do. Our brains are thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and practice some more when your mind wanders.

10. Stay with whatever arises. When thoughts or feelings arise, and they will, you might try staying with them awhile. Yes, I know I said to return to the breath, but after you practice that for a week, you might also try staying with a thought or feeling that arises. We tend to want to avoid feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety … but an amazingly useful meditation practice is to stay with the feeling for awhile. Just stay, and be curious.

11. Get to know yourself. This practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works. What’s going on inside there? It’s murky, but by watching your mind wander, get frustrated, avoid difficult feelings … you can start to understand yourself.

12. Become friends with yourself. As you get to know yourself, do it with a friendly attitude instead of one of criticism. You’re getting to know a friend. Smile and give yourself love.

13. Do a body scan. Another thing you can do, once you become a little better at following your breath, is focus your attention on one body part at a time. Start at the soles of your feet — how do those feel? Slowly move to your toes, the tops of your feet, your ankles, all the way to the top of your head.

14. Notice the light, sounds, energy. Another place to put your attention, again, after you’ve practiced with your breath for at least a week, is the light all around you. Just keep your eyes on one spot, and notice the light in the room you’re in. Another day, just focus on noticing sounds. Another day, try to notice the energy in the room all around you (including light and sounds).

15. Really commit yourself. Don’t just say, “Sure, I’ll try this for a couple days.” Really commit yourself to this. In your mind, be locked in, for at least a month.

16. You can do it anywhere. If you’re traveling or something comes up in the morning, you can do meditation in your office. In the park. During your commute. As you walk somewhere. Sitting meditation is the best place to start, but in truth, you’re practicing for this kind of mindfulness in your entire life.

17. Follow guided meditation. If it helps, you can try following guided meditations to start with.

18. Check in with friends. While I like meditating alone, you can do it with your spouse or child or a friend. Or just make a commitment with a friend to check in every morning after meditation. It might help you stick with it for longer.

19. Find a community. Even better, find a community of people who are meditating and join them. This might be a Zen or Tibetan community near you (for example), where you go and meditate with them. Or find an online group and check in with them and ask questions, get support, encourage others. My Sea Change Program has a community like that.

20. Smile when you’re done. When you’re finished with your two minutes, smile. Be grateful that you had this time to yourself, that you stuck with your commitment, that you showed yourself that you’re trustworthy, where you took the time to get to know yourself and make friends with yourself. That’s an amazing two minutes of your life.

Meditation isn’t always easy or even peaceful. But it has truly amazing benefits, and you can start today, and continue for the rest of your life.

Fact of the Month: Reality Check

May 19th, 2017
Fact of the Month: Reality Check

Telecommuting in the United States has grown 103% over the last decade, and by 2020, 50% of people will work remotely.

Source: Forbes

Power Principle: How to Amp up Your Influence at Work

March 23rd, 2017
Power Principle: How to Amp up Your Influence at Work<

In today’s flatter, team-based and dynamic organizations, influence matters more than ever. Here’s how to drive performance and build loyalty — without cracking the proverbial whip:

Truly effective leadership is all about getting people to follow willingly, rather than forcing them to follow you through your authority alone. Today, more and more workers — specifically millennials — prefer1 an egalitarian structure over hierarchy, and influential leadership is often the most effective way to get everyone pulling in the same direction.

Influential leadership is far more art than science, and it can be difficult to know how to develop the skills needed to wield influence rather than power. Let’s examine some of the ways you can begin to build influence and have it work to your advantage — and the advantage of your entire team.

Understand the Personality Styles of Your Team

No two people are the same, but we can generally classify people into four personality styles. The way in which they receive and process information is influenced heavily by that style. To become an influential leader, you must adjust your own approach to the individual, not the other way around. The most common personality styles are2:

  1. Drivers: These are results-oriented people. They can become frustrated with long-winded discussions and respond to direct, results-oriented communication.
  2. Expressives: Typically your social butterflies, they are outgoing and creative. They can be influenced through inclusion in the decision-making process and respond best when they feel their input is valued.
  3. Amiables: Easygoing and dependable, they rarely make waves. They are best influenced when you consider their feelings and can demonstrate how an action will impact both them and those around them.
  4. Analyticals: These folks are systematic and structured in the way they approach work. They are influenced by facts and data, and are not easily moved by feelings and emotions.

Understanding the personality styles you are working with will help you tailor your message when trying to influence people towards action or change. This understanding will also help build stronger relationships with your team, and once you’ve established a strong relationship, it is much easier to have influence.

Focus on the Benefits of Change

People naturally resist change, and when you receive pushback on a new process or initiative, it’s easy to default to the old mantra, “Do it because I said so.” You can influence, however, even in the face of resistance. The key is to tailor your message to the personality styles of your group and to focus on communicating the ways in which the change will benefit them.

If a change will eliminate redundancies in their jobs, for example, show them how. Illustrate how it will make their workday easier or less stressful. Determine the true benefits they will experience through the change, and communicate them clearly. If they have questions, let them ask. It will help you determine the benefits to highlight, and the more information the group has about a change, the more receptive they will be.

Take a Class or Workshop

There are many seminars, classes (both online and offline), mastermind groups and workshops that focus on building an influential leadership style. A formal class environment can benefit you by giving you a plan of action and providing you with a safe space in which to role-play and get familiar with the strategies involved with influencing. If possible, grab a colleague to participate with you. This gives you an in-house accountability partner to practice with when the class is over, and to debrief with as you build your influential leadership style.

Don’t Give Up

Don’t be afraid to talk to your team about the fact you are in the process of trying to better yourself as a leader. This can help them ease into the transition and be more receptive to a new approach. As with any new skill, persistence is the key to amping up your influence as a leader. It will take you time to develop your influential muscles, and you’ll probably fail more than a few times in the early stages.

It can be a useful exercise to keep track of the situations in which you sought to influence rather than impose authority. Make a list of the things that went well, and the things that could have gone a lot better. Look for patterns to help you more clearly identify the areas in which you need to focus in future situations, as well as the actions you should repeat. Positive results will follow with persistence, practice and a bit of patience.

1 http://www.chicagotribune.com/dp-millennials-want-an-end-to-hierarchies-in-the-workplace-20150622-story.html/

2 http://crestcomleadership.com/2015/11/24/4-personality-types-that-all-leaders-should-learn-to-recognize/

Leadership Tip of the Month

March 23rd, 2017
“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers.”
— Robin S. Sharma

Fact of the Month

March 23rd, 2017
A survey of over 1,000 U.S.-based employees found that 68% of workers believe their managers are more focused on their own success than on inspiring their employees.
Source: http://bit.ly/2lorcM1

Focusing on Temp Workers’ Safety

November 25th, 2016

With the U.S. staffing market set to grow to record sizes in the coming years, the industry is rolling out a major initiative aimed at boosting worker safety.

By Julie Cook Ramirez

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The staffing industry has come a long way since William Russell Kelly coined the iconic term “Kelly Girl” to describe his legions of bright young women eager to take on short-term secretarial and clerical assignments in downtown Detroit beginning in 1946. These days, more than 3 million temporary and contract workers are employed by America’s staffing companies, working part-time and full-time in virtually all occupations in all sectors, including professional/managerial; clerical/administrative; engineering/information technology/scientific; health care; and industrial.

The U.S. staffing market was projected to grow 6 percent in both 2016 and 2017 to reach a record revenue of nearly $150 billion, according to an April 2016 update from Mountain View, Calif.-based Staffing Industry Analysts. Along with that growth have come concerns over temp worker safety, as the industry has evolved to encompass jobs in which injuries are more common.

“Safety hazards don’t care if you are full-time, part-time, or a temp,” says Howard Mavity, a partner in the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips and founder and co-chair of the firm’s workplace safety and catastrophe management practice group. “Often, temps present the biggest safety threat because they are very much eager beaver types who are pushing to do more. The supervisor may not realize these [individuals] don’t have the same safety background [as a traditional employee] and that’s how some of the more terrible death cases have occurred.”

The very nature of temp work is often problematic because host companies don’t realize safety training is necessary for this particular population, Mavity says. Or they have a hard time justifying the expenditure when the person in question may only be on the job for a short time.

“It does catch a lot of employers off guard and it’s pretty rough because if they’re going to bring someone on for just a few days, they may spend a disproportionate amount on training,” says Mavity.

In 2014, the Arlington, Va.-based American Staffing Association approached the Itasca, Ill.-based National Safety Council to help develop and administer a program focused on temporary worker safety. The partnership resulted in the Safety Standard of Excellence program, launched in October.

The program is designed to help reduce the rate and severity of temporary worker injuries, illnesses, and fatalities through the adoption of best practices and encouragement of continuous safety improvement. One key facet of the SSE is an increased focus on coordination and collaboration between staffing firms and host employers.

This begins with an upfront conversation about the staffing firm’s expectations with regard to safety, according to Amy Harper, NSC Journey to Safety Excellence and workplace strategy director. Typically, she says, the staffing firm is responsible for general safety training, such as hazard communication and blood-borne pathogens, while the host employer bears responsibility for site-specific and job-specific training. Such responsibilities must be clearly delineated in a written contract, according to Stephen Dwyer, general counsel for the American Staffing Association.

“The burden on the host employer is to ensure the temp is trained and works safely,” says Mavity. “If OSHA comes onsite and the temp hasn’t been adequately trained, they may cite the staffing provider, but they are principally going to go after the person directing the work.”

When it comes to inherently dangerous jobs, employers may want to reconsider relying on temps at all, says Dave DeSario, founding member of the Brooklyn-based Alliance for the American Temporary Workforce and executive producer of A Day’s Work, an award-winning documentary on temporary work. He cites figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stating that temporary workers accounted for 782 workplace deaths (nearly 17 percent) in 2014, often because they are “sent to do the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs,” he says. (According to the BLS, 734 contract workers died as a result of work-related injuries in 2013, up from 715 in 2012 and 542 in 2011, when the agency first started tracking such figures.)

 

DeSario recently participated in a media briefing with the San Diego-based National Council for Occupational Safety and Health focused on the claim that temp workers are not only at a significantly greater risk of injury or death, but that the staffing industry is more focused on boosting its image than temp safety. He cites specific language in the SSE program guide related to the purpose of enhancing “the image of the industry with respect to job seekers, staffing clients, the government and media.”

“On the outside,” DeSario says, “this program appears to be for the purpose of protecting workers, but it’s all about enhancing the image of the industry. That’s really worrisome because more workers are going to be injured and killed because they falsely believed it was safer than it really was.”

Dwyer, however, bristles at DeSario’s accusations, countering that the SSE is merely the latest in a long line of initiatives aimed at ensuring safe working conditions for temporary employees. He points to numerous ASA-created books, newsletter and magazine articles, videos, and speaking engagements, all focused on educating staffing firms and host employers of their responsibilities to keep temp workers safe. ASA has also formed an employee safety committee comprised of safety experts from its member companies and established an employment law certification program through which member staffing firms demonstrate their mastery of employment and occupational safety concepts.

“These associations and their core employers take the issue of temp worker safety seriously,” says Mavity. “They not only comply with OSHA requirements, but propel other companies to do the same, so these initiatives are usually a force multiplier. You get good bang for your buck on them.”

Judge Issues Nationwide Temporary Injunction Blocking DOL Overtime Rule

November 23rd, 2016

ACA Likely to Change Substantially but Full Repeal Unlikely

November 11th, 2016

Employer mandate and Cadillac tax are among provisions being targeted

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Nov 11, 2016

The day after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the U.S. Senate would move to swiftly try to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “It’s pretty high on our agenda as you know,” the Kentucky Republican told Politico on Nov. 9. “I would be shocked if we didn’t move forward and keep our commitment to the American people.”

But there’s a hitch: advocates of “repeal and replace” of the ACA need 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Democratic filibuster—and the Nov. 8 election didn’t put that many Republican senators in place (51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, with a runoff election to be held in Louisiana).

“Without a filibuster-proof Republican majority in the Senate, Democrats are sure to make every effort to block any proposal to fully repeal the ACA,” said Chatrane Birbal, senior advisor, government relations at the Society for Human Resource Management.


In light of that challenge, President Trump and GOP congressional leaders are expected to first make a grand gesture of trying to repeal the ACA, and then start negotiating with Democrats on changing the law in ways that can attract enough senators from both parties to pass the 60-vote threshold. Alternatively, Republicans may use the process of budget reconciliation—in which a simple Senate majority is needed to pass measures related to revenues and spending.

Much of the ACA was originally passed by Democrats in 2010 using reconciliation.

“In terms of repeal, even Republicans—including the president-elect—support keeping some parts of the ACA that are popular, such as the insurance market reforms, allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 and the ban on pre-existing condition limits,” said Steve Wojcik, vice president, public policy at the Washington-D.C.-based National Business Group on Health, which represents employers.

That said, there are several key provisions that are likely to be targeted for elimination in the absence of full ACA repeal.

Employer Mandate

“The employer and the individual mandate are back on the table,” Wojcik said. The employer mandate requires organizations with 50 or more full-time or equivalent employees to provide ACA-compliant health care coverage to their full-time employees (those working on average 30 or more hours per week) or to pay steep penalties. The individual mandate requires all adults without insurance coverage to buy an ACA-compliant policy or pay a tax penalty.

“Philosophically, employers believe that offering benefits should be voluntary. The mandate goes against that philosophy,” Wojcik said. “But the big issue is that all of the reporting, tracking and other administrative burdens associated with implementing the employer mandate would go away without it,” and these have been an enormous and costly compliance burden for many employers.

Short of repealing the mandate, a fallback could be changing the ACA’s definition of a full-time employee entitled to employer-provided coverage—currently an employee who works 30 hours or more per week—to the more traditional definition of an employee who works 40 hours per week. If that happens, “employers will need to think about whether they are going to take away the benefits that were extended to the 30-to-40 hour people,” said Kim Buckey, vice president of compliance communications at Birmingham, Ala.-based DirectPath, a health care compliance firm.

Eliminating the mandate also would let employers choose whether to offer health benefits as they see fit, and allow them to provide a wider range of offerings including “slim-down plans for part-time employees or in industries with high turnover,” Wojcik explained. The ACA eliminated these so-called “skinny” or “lite” plans that provided low-cost coverage for basic health care but failed to insure against substantial in-patient hospitalization, for instance.

J.D. Piro, New York City-based senior vice president of consultancy Aon Hewitt’s health law group, also expects to see “if not a complete overhaul, certainly a significant revision of the individual and employer mandates.”

How likely is this? “Sixty votes could be hard,” Wojcik said. “If they want to make those changes, they’ll probably have to use the reconciliation process. But they could do it. There is a budget implication for eliminating the employer and individual mandates, as well as some of the taxes that were part of the ACA. I think it’s doable as a result of the election.”

Piro suggest that there may even be enough bipartisan agreement to avoid a nasty fight. “A lot of Democrats have indicated they might be willing to relax the employer mandate,” and some are looking at the individual mandate and whether it has failed to encourage the healthy uninsured to buy health insurance, he noted.

“Whether you have to get to reconciliation in order to beat a filibuster overlooks the fact that there might be some Democrats [in the Senate] who believe there’s a better way to promote coverage than through these mandates,” Piro said. “So we’re a long way from having to make a filibuster or reconciliation determination.”

However, “It’s certainly not too soon for employers to start thinking about the implications that repealing the employer mandate or revising the definition of full-time employees will have on their benefit strategy,” Buckey said. “Once again, there’s going to be a sea-change in employee benefits.”

In the meantime, “the ACA is still the law of the land,” advised Scott Behrens, an ERISA compliance attorney at Lockton Companies, a benefits brokerage and consultancy based in Kansas City, Mo. “Prudent employers will want to continue to comply with the ACA, including the play-or-pay mandate and reporting requirements—Forms 1095-C are due to employees 11 days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration—until formal guidance relieves them of those compliance obligations.”

Cadillac Tax

The 40-percent excise tax on employer-sponsored health coverage that exceeds certain benefit thresholds, set to take effect in 2020, “is perhaps in a category by itself since there is widespread bipartisan support for eliminating it,” Wojcik said. “Employers as well as unions and others oppose this tax as a flawed way to hold down health plan costs. Ultimately, it will just raise the cost of employer-sponsored coverage without attacking the problem, which is the continued growth in health care expenses beyond wage growth and growth of the overall economy.”

“Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed repealing the Cadillac tax,” Piro said.” The upshot: The odds are now greater that the much reviled levy will never be implemented.

But not everyone is certain the tax is dead. “While President-elect Trump expressed support for a repeal of the 40-percent tax on the campaign trail, other legislative priorities including tax reform and the impact of repeal on the federal deficit could result in further delay, modification or replacement of the excise tax,” said SHRM’s Birbal.

For instance, “the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health care benefits could come under scrutiny as lawmakers look to find ways to pay for tax reform and reduce the federal deficit,” Birbal said. Earlier this year, she noted, proposed changes in the tax treatment of employer-provided health coverage were included in the U.S. House Republican’s task force report on health care reform. Trump, however, has not indicated his support for those measures.

Leadership TIP of the Month

November 11th, 2016

Leadership Tip of the Month

“Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining — it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.”

–Zig Ziglar

10 Things to Do Instead of Complain

November 10th, 2016

10 Things to Do Instead of Complain

Choose Gratefulness

By Linda Sasser

Gratefulness probably won’t appear on any ranking of “Top leadership traits of successful CEOs” (or COOs, or CFOs, or directors, or managers, or line workers, for that matter). But I’m finding that it is a highly overlooked and undervalued characteristic of successful leaders at every level.

Do you struggle with negativity, complaining, or dwelling on what’s not right? Here are 10 habits you can start forming today that will improve your outlook and attitude, and consequently, the outlook and attitudes of those you influence.

  1. Focus on the progress. You want your employee to move 12 inches, and so far they’ve only moved six. Don’t dwell on their lack of progress — highlight the fact that they’ve moved six inches. They’re halfway there!
  2. Do something kind for someone else. Stop focusing on yourself, and turn your focus to helping someone else.
  3. Count your blessings. There is always, always, always something to be grateful for. Clean water, healthy food, safe warm homes … just these basics are things that millions and millions of people in this world do not have and that most of us take for granted.
  4. Take action. What have you done to fix it? Complaining to your boss or co-workers doesn’t count. Be honest with yourself. What are you really doing to fix the problem? And what attitude are you doing it with?
  5. Encourage someone else. You’re not the only one struggling. How do you want to be encouraged? Pass that encouragement on.
  6. Give some grace. You want the benefit of the doubt from your leader. Give your team the same.
  7. Don’t say anything. If it’s petty, whiny, or just pointless negativity, do yourself and your team a favor and keep it to yourself. We really don’t have to voice every negative thought that comes to mind.
  8. Serve someone else. Don’t worry about whether they deserve it or whether they’ve earned the right to be a beneficiary of your time or expertise. Just serve.
  9. Apologize and forgive. That anger or hurt that you’re harboring — at your boss, your teammate, your employee, or your friend — it’s just not worth it. Apologize for any hurt or misunderstanding you’ve caused, and genuinely forgive them (whether they apologize or not.)
  10. Create your own change. It only takes one person with a positive attitude to build positive momentum. Why not you?