Tag Archives: mindfulness meditation

If Mindfulness Transforms CEOs … Imagine How It Can Help You?

Photo by: Administrador Galeria Uninter

Photo by: Administrador Galeria Uninter

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)

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Loving Counts

My prophetic little four-year-old said to me tonight: “Loving counts mommy.”

We had been hanging pictures up. I turned and looked at him. I actually blinked as I took in the simple notion, then replied: “Yes, it certainly does.”

What an incredible little man.

Sometimes it’s as simple as that. What counts in your life? Think about it.

What do you love most?

Your family? Your God? Your Work?

Does it show?

For me, love is essential. It is essential in every aspect of my life. My boys are everything to me. But I wonder if they always feel that from me. Saying that I love them is one thing. Showing them is quite another.

For a child, I wonder what defines love? It certainly has to be about more than saying ‘I Love You’ or buying cool toys. Kids always seem to cut right to the chase. They know who they can depend upon. They know who is kind. They respond to those who play with them, acknowledge them, listen to them, encourage them, take care of them, accept them.

I know that my two boys are the most appreciative when I’m present with them. They know when it’s time to turn off the computer or cell phone and just be with them.

Being present, however, is much harder than it sounds. The other day I had an insane tax deadline. I was up until 2 a.m. working, slept for three hours, and was back at it. At 7 a.m., as I was finishing my expense spreadsheet, my little guy comes into my room and starts to climb into bed. He ruffles my sheets and starts to crumple some papers and receipts. I yelled upstairs to my older son to take him up and put on Sesame Street. As he padded out of my room, I instantly felt remorse. If I had finished this project earlier, I wouldn’t have sent him away and just enjoyed some cuddle time.

Clearly, ‘loving’ requires a bit of organization and balance so that work doesn’t intrude on important quality time at home.

‘Being present’, according to mindfulness experts, also requires that you let go of anxieties and fears that distract you and pull you out of the moment. If you have deadlines looming, projects that need to be carried out, are going through a divorce or are facing health or personal challenges—it’s incredibly hard to clear worries from your mind and just listen to or play with your children, isn’t it? (For a great article about mindfulness, check out What Really Helps Make Mindfulness Work by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.)

I’m still finding my way and started meditating on a regular basis just this past year. I’ve done yoga for years and find that it helps me clear my mind. The physical exertion and mental focus on intentions and goals allows me to let go of issues and anxieties that may whirl in my mind. I find that afterwards my mental slate is clear and I’m much more focused and calm that evening with the boys. I’m still a work in progress, clearly.

While I’m still honing mindfulness techniques, I have learned that it’s incredibly hard NOT to live in the moment when spending time with a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease. I flew to North Carolina last week to visit my mother who is struggling in what seems to be the final phase of the disease. She didn’t know who I was. She can barely talk or walk. I think she just thought of me as a friendly face. I had to force myself to always smile, relax, and think about what she needed or what would reassure her when visiting. I knew after each visit that she wouldn’t remember I had been there the next day. But I reminded myself that in the moments that I held her hand, or showed her pictures, or just talked with her about various things, that it mattered. It counted. Those moments were hard for me, but they brought her a bit of happiness—even if fleeting. And she deserves that.

On the last day I spent with her—on the day that I likely said my goodbye—my mom was ‘playing’ bingo with other residents. The woman who ran the game would call out the letter and number combinations. My mother, who doesn’t recognize her numbers or letters anymore, would put a marker on any letter/number combination. She apparently still recognized that four in a row allowed her to win—so she just kept putting four in a row. B-6 might be called, but she’d put her acorn on C-12, right beside another marker. I knew not to correct her.

“Wow, mom, you won again!” I’d say with a laugh.

She’d just smile. One time she looked at me inquisitively and said slowly, “I. Like. You.”

That was a big accomplishment as she typically speaks with just one word.

I replied “Well, I Love you.”

She looked at me like I was a bit crazy, giving me a one-over glance.

Later in the day, I went through her sweaters and found one that still fit. As I was putting it on her, she quickly smiled. It was as if she had been shaken and her eyes got wide with acknowledgment. She leaned into me and said, “Love.” I put my forehead to hers and a moment later she said “You.”

As I settled into my seat on my first plane during my trek back to California, I thought that it may be a long time before I got the chance to see mom again. It’s hard to fly back with the two boys due to expense. I know if I was closer I could do more, visit more. It was such a gift to hear her say those words. And in that moment, I know she meant it. In that flash of recognition, she knew who I was. It might have only lasted a second for her—but for me, it counted.

Even when brief and fleeting, loving counts most of all.