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Posts Tagged ‘courage’

18 October 2013 Improving leadership through the Vagus Nerve

By Stephen Josephs, Ed. D
October 17, 2013
Exchange Magazine

Vagus nerve stimulation allows us to tame our inner dragons: fear, insecurity, anxiety, anger and self-importance.

You’ve heard the expressions: “He lost his nerve;” “He doesn’t have the stomach for it;” “No guts.” “As it turns out, those expressions are anatomically accurate,” says Dr. Stephen Josephs. “The nerve that you lose when you’re afraid is the vagus nerve, which runs from the belly to the brain. It transmits messages about whether the world is a safe or dangerous place. What we now know about the functioning of this nerve has direct applications making leaders more effective and all of us happier and more courageous.”

Josephs, author of the new book, Dragons at Work, teaches executives how to reliably create states of optimal performance by achieving control of the vagus nerve. When making decisions about resources, leading teams or talking with the board of directors, courage and poise in the face of rapidly changing business environments are essential for a leader.

“Rather than losing your nerve, you can strengthen it. Courage is a skill you can learn and a capacity you can systematically build. The vagus nerve has been linked to everything from digestion issues to stress and depression,” he says. “A benefit of inner body balance includes the projection of true poise; authentic confidence from a leader is what can create a business culture that breeds financial success because employees and clients trust the person in charge to make important decisions from a stable perspective.”

Using specific techniques from martial arts, meditation and other mind-body disciplines, Dr. Josephs guides executives to build resourcefulness and courage as a habitual response to challenge.

He offers tips for business executives to promote a healthy, vagus nerve-friendly environment:

• When angry or afraid, take a high quality breath: People might tell an agitated person to “take a breath,” but it’s the quality of the breath that makes all the difference. For someone who has practiced breathing has wired in an automatic relaxation response, one breath immediately begins to calm them. To practice do this when you’re not under stress: As you inhale, relax your belly and the muscles of your torso, and soften your muscles on the inhale. On the exhale become still. Widen your peripheral vision – take in more of the room, and rest in a more wide open awareness. At this point, your vagus nerve will be sending you messages that the world is a safe place and your ability to respond intelligently will be greatly enhanced.

• Move forward with a relaxed vagus nerve. Now, in a calmer, more resourceful and masterful state, you can apply a saner perspective to a variety of tasks: connect with employees; complete the agenda; let good ideas emerge from employees, with less pressure from management, so they affirm their own competencies. Acknowledge what’s already working well by giving individuals and teams credit. Enjoy your work, knowing that whatever emerges, you can handle it.

• Get over thyself and lighten up: See how much you can accomplish with the least amount of force. And drop self-importance. Remember, unless you’re Donald Trump or Miss Piggy and self-aggrandizement is part of your brand identity, it’s bad for business. It introduces unnecessary noise into the system and distorts communication. Drop self-importance and you’ll hear critical bad news faster, and people will trust that you can handle it.

26 November 2010 Meditation: The Key to Resilience in Caregiving

By Sharon Salzberg, Posted: November 19, 2010 in the Huffington Post

As I look forward to co-leading this retreat, People Who Care for People: Tools for Resiliency at the Garrison Institute, I find myself reflecting on caregivers I know. Some practice caregiving professionally, as nurses, first responders, chaplains, non-profit attorneys; others in their personal lives, as parents, children, siblings, friends. As difficult and pressured as caring for others can be, as tiring and overwhelming as it often becomes, many express a very powerful happiness at being able to serve.

An important element in how we keep going is being able to touch that happiness, broadening our perspective beyond what we see just in front of us, reminding us of our deepest motivation and what we care about most. In a challenging environment, facing our own or others’ suffering, we need to draw on inner resources.

Whether you care for a young child, an aging parent, a difficult-to-understand teenager, a client at work with no clear resolution to their problems in sight, any skillful relationship of caregiving relies on balance — the balance between opening one’s heart endlessly and accepting the limits of what one can do. The balance between compassion and equanimity. Compassion is the trembling or the quivering of the heart in response to suffering. Equanimity is a spacious stillness that can accept things as they are. The balance of compassion and equanimity allows us to profoundly care, and yet not get overwhelmed and unable to cope because of that caring.

I have been involved for several years in a program run by the Garrison Institute, bringing the tools of meditation and yoga to domestic violence shelter workers, and then to shelter supervisors and directors. These people are very much on the front lines of suffering, dealing daily with their clients’ issues of betrayal, heartbreak, fear, anger, humiliation. They might be survivors of trauma themselves. They might receive very little institutional support. They inevitably rely on inner resiliency to sustain their work over the long term.

Our premise has been that fostering greater balance of heart and mind is a key to that resiliency, and that one valuable avenue to cultivating this balance is meditation practice. Meditation helps us see our own difficult mind states — such as anger or fear or a sense of helplessness — with compassion instead of self-judgment. It also provides a refuge during life’s storms by helping us connect compassionately with others, no matter the circumstances.

Especially in times of uncertainty or pain, meditation broadens our perspective and deepens our courage. The spaciousness of mind and greater ease of heart that naturally arise through balanced awareness and compassion are fundamental components of a resilient spirit. They bring us an unusual kind of happiness, one not determined by the conditions we find ourselves in, not defined by the amount of “success” or “failure” we saw in our efforts today. Meditation helps us return, again and again, to this unique happiness.

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