As COVID-related stress continues to wear on, more of us are turning to mindfulness meditation as a coping mechanism either as newly remote managers or simply for our personal well-being. It's a smart move, during particularly stressful times globally or within our own entrepreneurial journeys.
Recently, however, I've seen from own practice that meditation itself is more like an opening gig rather than the main attraction. Though meditation's benefits are undeniable, what matters more right now is the group context in which it can be practiced.
Having a regularly scheduled time for a support group within our networks to meet - to check in with each other and to make virtual eye contact on a consistent basis - has in many cases proved even more calming than the meditation itself.
Here are four key guidelines I've learned, for forming a meditative support group for your own network.
Connecting on a regular schedule and making eye contact, even virtually, are two fundamental components of a healthy group experience. The audience for a meditation group I organized, for example, was scattered throughout the US, Europe and Australia, so we set "in stone" two separate hours on Sundays in order to accommodate the geographic dispersal. The Friday or Saturday before we met, I sent a reminder email about the time, login information and agenda for the hour, which always led with "Touch Base."
Create a safe space.
It may be assumed, but it's a good idea nonetheless to say explicitly at the beginning of each session that the group meeting is a safe space, and that nothing that's said is expected to leave the parameters of the "container" of that hour. There's a significant amount of trust involved here, and that may influence who joins the group. For my part, knowing that the meditation portion of the hour would be recorded and made available at subsequent times, I didn't start the recording until after the "Touch Base" session was finished.
Motivation to join may evolve over time.
It's the nature of living in the era of corona: emotions vacillate, and the "new reality" seems new with alarming frequency. That rate of change will likely extend to your group as well. At the beginning, for example, people signed up for our group out of a friendly curiosity. Over time, and as the seriousness of the global pandemic has taken hold, that friendly initiative has felt more like an urgent motivation. Whereas some people may have seen it as a lark at the start, they now recognize the weekly hour as an important mental health check-in for themselves and our community.
Know that the discomfort you're feeling may be grief.
Scott Berinato's article last month for the Harvard Business Review has gone viral within hospitality circles, as we watch livelihoods evaporate literally overnight. Sometimes the lost livelihoods are friends' and colleagues', and sometimes they're our own. There are layers of emotion involved that can range from anxiety and fear to shock and devastation. Underneath, however, is the recognition that our world as we knew it no longer exists. There's an element of grief that needs to be reckoned with and allowed space to exist.
The idea of a support group for your network at this time is not meant to replace the skill or capabilities of mental health professionals. The idea, instead, is simply to create a container to express a shared experience. Within your peer group -- whether that's fellow entrepreneurs or colleagues at similar life stages -- there are commonalities of emotion whose patterns reflect that of a roller coaster. Just as you never want to get on a roller coaster alone, the reality of our current experience isn't something to experience solo, either.