Mindfulness expert and former General Mills executive, Janice Marturano, helps CEOs and corporate executives across America manifest their dreams and better manage their stress, their personal lives and business communications through mindfulness meditation. So, it’s no wonder that I reached out to the founder and executive director of The Institute for Mindful Leadership for advice. We all know that single parents juggle more than most. Those of us who are working full-time, as well as juggling the lion share of parenting needs, can feel drained, frazzled and out -of-control. Ironically, Marturano, who spoke with me today via a phone interview, explained that finding “moments to pause,” which teaches us how to be present, is the to key to bettering all our relationships: whether those are with co-workers or our children. Her work with Fortune 500 executives is garnering much word-of-mouth recognition, and just last week, Arianna Huffington personally invited Janice to write for HuffPost. (Read her first HuffPost column here.)
I’m thrilled to include this Q&A with Janice, who not only changed my brother’s life, but is helping to demystify mindfulness meditation and bring it to the masses:
NV: Mindfulness meditation is certainly getting a lot of media coverage these days. You’ve been an expert in the field for over a decade. What do you think about all the articles that are out there now?
JM: Quite frankly, a lot of what’s out there is just garbage. So many people say that it’s [mindfulness meditation] about feeling your breath or doing deep breathing. And that’s just not it.
NV: I hear that all the time too. So, if it’s not about breath, what is it?
JM: It’s just not that simple. The real power and richness [of mindfulness meditation] is that it’s a journey. … Take 10 minutes every day and just feel your breath. Don’t try to do deep breathing, just feel your breath. When the monkey mind chatter begins, and the mind takes a hike to your to-do list or an upcoming meeting, just gently re-direct it back to your breath without judgement.
NV: Well, I’ve been doing this for a few months now and I’m still trying to figure out exactly how this will help me.
JM: It’s in the re-direction of your wandering thoughts back to your breath that starts the capacity to get us present—with our kids and our work colleagues. You’re going to be able to find what I call “the purposeful pause.”
NV: Ok, so this teaches me to later stop letting my mind wander, or check texts, or think about the next article I need to write, while I’m chatting with my children?
JM: Exactly. You learn to be present, and they notice. Just like colleagues or employees notice when they are truly being heard.
NV: That’s powerful. I’m sure so many of your clients from Fortune 500 companies may feel like they just don’t have time to sit and meditate. I know some single moms who feel like that too! What do you say to that?
JM: Fifteen years ago I was one of the only women to become an officer in my company (General Mills, Inc.) ever. I wasn’t a single mom, but I was certainly a working mom and understood the stress of juggling and the demands of keeping all the balls in the air. Who has time to meditate? … When I went on my first retreat [with General Mills] Jon Kabat-Zinn was my first teacher! (Insert laugh here). Jon created mindfulness stress reduction techniques! Anyway, on our first day he says, “we’re going to be practicing for an hour.” I about died! Now, I wish it could be for longer. But for most of us, finding 10 minutes a day, or even 5 minutes twice a day, is a great start. And, for those really busy executives, I tell them to find time while they do other things. You can meditate when you brush your teeth or when you’re in the shower.
NV: Okay, you’re going to have to explain how I can meditate while I brush my teeth. I always imagined that I need to sit on a cushion with my legs crossed and my hands facing upwards.
JM: I teach all levels. If someone thinks they are too busy, I suggest they find ways to make something, like brushing their teeth, a meditative experience. So, you focus your full attention to feeling the brush, tasting the toothpaste, listening to the sounds around you and you keep re-directing your thoughts back to the present moment when they wander.
NV: So you can do this anytime. I try to find 5 minutes in the shower in the morning, when my kiddos can’t reach me.
JM: Sure, the shower is a great place. I started saving money on conditioner costs by meditating in the shower! [Before utilizing mindfulness techniques] I used to have my whole 10 a.m. meeting in the shower with me! And as I was lost in my thoughts, I would forget that I already conditioned my hair and would condition it twice! Now, I clearly don’t do that.
NV: I imagine that this little example sort of crystalizes how being mindfulness, or finding moments to pause can help us in all areas of our life.
JM: Yes, exactly.
NV: Thanks SO much for your time! I’d love for my readers to also check out your article A Mindful Calendar—as executives and stay-at-home moms a like—can benefit from this organizational article. Thanks again for your time and your valuable contribution to our world.
A related story of interest: The Power of NOT Holding It All (Together)