Leadership Library Review: Online Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction

July 2015

Online Guided Meditations for Stress Reduction

What are the big take-aways?

As we all keep hearing in the news media, scientific evidence is mounting that mindfulness practices reduce stress and promote resilience.  In my view, cultivating the mind-body state of relaxed alertness – which is a primary effect of mindfulness – is necessary for leaders who are committed to maintaining their creativity, agility and stamina for the long haul.  (To understand the financial case for leaders and businesses incorporating mindfulness into their corporate cultures, see this recent PBS piece on Aetna’s CEO).

There are lots of terrific mindfulness apps and downloads out there that you can pay for, but to me it seems ironic to spend money on being reminded of something that you already possess, and that no one can take away from you.  In any case, you do not have to spend money in order to be able to access very high-quality mindfulness tools.

Why do I like it?

I like that my own habits – which are pretty low-key – have such a huge pay-off.  I shoot for taking a few mindfulness pauses each day, with deeper meditations for 45-60 minutes several times a month.  When I keep up with these practices, I tend to have expanded patience and perspective, and be more productive.  I’m kinder to others and myself.  I’m also generally more relaxed and sleep better, which improves my overall health.

There are some excellent guided mindfulness meditations of various lengths – starting at just three minutes long – available to stream for free online.  Two sites that I really like for the simplicity and versatility of their audio guided meditations are UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (look in the navigation bar at the top of the page) and Tara Brach’s meditations, some of which are offered in Spanish.  For beginners I highly recommend Brach’s introduction to meditation and for anyone I recommend this guided meditation.

In what situations would this be useful?

Always and everywhere, especially for leaders!  If you do not already engage in some kind of intentional mindfulness routine, give it a try.  For even my busiest leadership coaching clients who have the least interest in meditation, I recommend three short pauses (5 to 15 minutes) of heightened present-moment awareness every day for stress management and centering.  For some clients, this takes the form of streaming one of the above podcasts, or listening – eyes closed – to a favorite piece of instrumental music, or doing some yoga poses in an empty conference room, or going for a short walk.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

For guided meditation videos, just browse YouTube.  For a superb web-based resource that offers a variety of simple practices – including but not limited to mindfulness – for leading a well-balanced life, check out Greater Good In Action.

In terms of books, there is always the classic guide to beginning mindfulness meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (Hyperion, 1994).  If you’re interested in the neurobiology of mindfulness, as well as its practice, I really like Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Rick Hanson (previously reviewed in the Leadership Library).

P.S.  In September, I heard this lovely podcast by Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hahn, which explains — in the clearest and simplest terms — the positive impact of living in the present moment.  From Sounds True: http://www.soundstrue.com/store/weeklywisdom?page=single&category=PP&episode=2589&utm_source=bronto&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Image+-+Learn+More&utm_content=A+Stunning+Act+of+Bravery&utm_campaign=Weekly+Wisdom+150911&_bta_tid=3.RM0.A4kfaA.BAlT.Z1Mb..AL86rw.b..l.ATe7.n…vnYU9A&_bta_c=4r074xg5db3jqir0q4v6xswm21il7).

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