A high-level fashion executive was in a panic. A report was supposed to be on her desk by Monday morning, and it wasn’t. She was angry at the employee and couldn’t let it go. Now, her whole week was thrown off.
So, Jeff Cannon told her a story. Not about how to manage your subordinates, but about a monk carrying a geisha across a river, with a “leave it behind” moral at the end.
His approach to working with CEOs might sound unorthodox, but for the meditation teacher and author, it’s par for the (karmic) course. Cannon’s put the ancient practice into powerful service as a tool in the modern (and often fashionable) work place.
“What I’m doing is teaching people how to leverage this wonderful practice in the real world, so that in the short-term, they can reduce stress, increase focus, and manage distractions,” says Cannon, who’s coached executives at Gucci, Armani, and Harper’s Bazaar.
The method explained in his book The Simple Truth, applies particularly well to business, a group that’s embracing meditation despite lingering New-Agey stereotypes. “You don’t have to start shaving your head, wearing sandals, and dedicating two hours a day,” Cannon emphasizes. “You can still wear Prada and meditate.”
We noticed in speaking with Cannon that many of his career boosting and balancing tips for fashion industry CEOs work just as well for the rest of us. So, here we share some of the most enlightening:
1. You Don’t Need to Go to the Mountain Top to Meditate… or Even Leave Your Desk
Instead of waiting for meditation to occur in a quiet place, Cannon says you can incorporate background noise into your meditation (including honking horns and loud talkers in the next room). You can also create short practices, so that you don’t have to commit to a 10-day silent retreat in order to benefit. A few minutes in your corner office or cubicle should do just fine.
2. Breathing Before a Meeting
Cannon teaches grounding techniques you can use before a big meeting or presentation, when you should be at the top of your game but your nerves undermine you and send you into a panic. He’s a fan of belly breathing.
“Stress in the workplace was getting to me—deadlines, deliverables,” says Roget Roman, a well-known record executive who attended a training session with Cannon. “Since then, the breathing techniques have helped me tremendously.”
3. Walking Meditation to Quiet the Negative Self-Talk
Got a head full of “what-ifs” and “I-can’ts”? Cannon gave us an example of a college-level golfer working on going pro. She had trouble quieting the voices in her head between holes (“That last shot was horrible! Will the next one be a bogey?”), so he taught her walking meditation, roughly counting and taking calming steps, which helped her focus on the course.
You should find enjoyment in life whether you’re super successful or striving to be. Cannon uses meditation to help working professionals explore whether they’re in the right field and to manage their workload in the context of their lives. “There is no work-life balance,” he says. “There is just life, and work is part of that.” What does that mean? Well, after exploring the source of her professional unhappiness via meditation, the aforementioned fashion executive decided to ditch her big-label brand for a small company that stoked her passion. —Lisa Elaine Held