Meditation: Easier Than You Think

Posted by on Aug 18, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I awaken to the quiet alarm of my sports watch on the night stand. With eyes still half-closed, I sit up in bed, propping my pillows behind my lower back for support. I light the match and hold the big beeswax candle at an angle where the flame meets the wick. I have been doing this routine without event for years now, yet as I extinguish the match I still extend a brief prayer of gratitude that, in my sleepy state, the flame has made it safely to the candle yet again. Then I begin. I close my eyes and inhale. Many mornings, I sit there simply breathing in and out before I remember that my intention is meditation. On those mornings, my mind roams freely about, jumping from topic to topic, leaping and falling like a newborn fawn in a field of tall grass. At some point, before my louder alarm clock sounds, I remember why I am sitting upright, with a candle burning, and my eyes closed. These are the minutes I invest in myself before anyone in the house knows I am awake. I am meditating. Clients often tell me they are open to the idea of meditating and are willing to try something known to reduce anxiety while increasing the ability to focus and feel present in different situations. Clients also tell me that they are not sure how to meditate or that they have tried meditating before and felt unsuccessful. There are books, classes, and numerous online resources I can recommend to those who want to learn more about meditation. Yet I often reference my own personal practice first because of its simplicity. 1) I meditate at the same time every day, rain or shine, tired or not. I light my candle before my feet touch the floor and often meditate even before making a trip to the bathroom if I think there is a chance I will bump into family members along the way. 2) I consider myself to be ‘successful’ at meditating if I show up. I understand that the purpose of meditation is to quiet one’s mind and to refocus the brain each time a thought enters. Yet, if I sit up, light my candle, and sit still for five minutes, I count this as meditation. If my mind leaps all over the place the entire time, I note this, and still feel comfortable in saying that I have meditated that morning. 3) I use visualization. The person who first taught me about meditation suggested I focus on my breath, counting each inhalation and exhalation. I needed a visual to work with though, so I modified the suggestion a little. As...

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Careless Errors in Workplace Writing? Think Again.

Posted by on Jun 9, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I recently worked with a company that matched the profile of my ideal client. The company had a valued employee who excelled at his job but whose written communication skills were problematic. Emails contained numerous errors. Written reports required massive revision and editing from his supervisor. The company spoke about this employee with great respect, and assured me that he was one of the most hard-working employees I would ever meet. Their description of the situation was the first indicator I had about the complexity of the issue. Although the emails were full of what appeared to be careless errors, this employee was not careless in any other aspects of his job. In fact, he was one of the most attentive, dedicated employees in their department. I assessed writing samples before I met with the employee, and did a thorough error analysis. There were specific rules of standard grammar and punctuation that the employee had not yet internalized. He also needed support knowing how to break large writing tasks–such as a long report–into organized planning, drafting, revising, and editing steps. The top priority, however, was figuring out how to eliminate the errors he made in his emails. We worked for several weeks and saw steady progress in all three areas. He learned how to break large writing tasks down into manageable chunks and produced several long reports with ease and confidence. The visual approach we used to cover grammar rules and mechanics made sense to him, and he mastered the content quickly. The strategies we implemented for editing his emails did work, and the number of errors initially decreased. However, as we neared the end of our work together, this was the one area we continued to see discrepancy. He was working hard, and doing everything he had learned. Yet a significant number of his outgoing emails still contained a high percentage of seemingly careless errors. I did more research, and asked my client to return to the basics with me. Using a sentence he had written, I asked him to read the same sentence on his computer screen first, then on paper, and finally on an angled iPad screen. In all three trials, his brain autocorrected the error that was present in his writing. He could not see the error, and read the sentence as if it had already been corrected. Then I asked him to use a free text-to-speech app that read the sentence out loud to him. He heard and corrected the error immediately, laughing with some discomfort at how obvious the error was. We continued to test this application, and found that, by using this tool in conjunction with the other skills he mastered through...

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Y Smile

Posted by on Jun 2, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Direct communication is at the heart of building relationships and creating team. Yet, for many, finding the words to say and having the courage to speak them out loud is no minor feat. Talking to your sister or your best friend is one thing, but how willing are you to share your most authentic self with someone you don’t know or who you think may not like what you have to say? I swim regularly at my local YMCA. At the time that I swim, more than half the pool is reserved for H20 walkers–people who are walking and exercising in the water. Two lanes are available for swimmers. Last week, I hopped into the only empty lane at the same time one of the H2O walkers swam under the lane divider into the lane. I waited until she swam to my end of the pool, and I asked if she was okay sharing the lane. She was not. My ‘let’s avoid conflict’ instinct kicked in, and I opted for asking the woman in the other lane if she was willing to share her lane with me. She was. As I swam my half-mile that morning, I watched my lane neighbor gladly welcome another walker into her lane and they slowly walked back and forth, laughing and chatting as they exercised their bodies. The man who joined her is a regular at the Y as well. I have seen him there a few times before. I began to watch him more closely. How had he brought such a smile to the face of this person who I had found to be kind of grumpy and unwilling to share? After my swim, I stretched my legs and arms in the whirlpool next to the pool and continued to watch. He chatted briefly with another woman who was working hard to navigate the steps out of the pool. She stopped, holding the railing, and laughed so hard I could hear her over the jets. What a gift, I thought to myself. Soon, he had successfully entered the whirlpool with his own injured knee and was sitting between the H2O walker with whom he had shared a lane and me. I decided to practice what I tell others to do all the time: see and say what you appreciate. Do this often and with people with whom you have no familiarity or rapport. Over time, this practice increases the ease and confidence we need for speaking when conflict is present as well. I took a moment, thinking of the words and finding my courage to say something heartfelt to a person I did not know. I waited until he looked in my...

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