Sunday, March 28, 2010

Increasing Productivity Using Controlled Breathing

You can read the iAM Tip of the week 3-29-10 below or watch the video here.

The iAM Tip of the week is about increasing productivity using controlled breathing. There are two things I want to highlight about the breath:

1) Did you know that if you are feeling anxious, for example, before giving a public talk, taking deep breaths in might actually increase your anxiety? Too much oxygen and not enough carbon dioxide can cause anxiety and an agitated stated. On the contrary too much carbon dioxide in the body can cause depression and fatigue. The solution is not deep breathing but controlled breathing. By slowing down the inhale and exhale you re-balance your system.

2) The second point is that the mind oscillates between the past and future. Our productivity and creativity is compromised when we are not living in the present moment. But how can we be present to what is when the mind is so busy? As rightly pointed out by Einstein, “you can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” This is where the breath comes in. The breath is directly related to our emotions and mind. By controlling the breath we can control our mind and emotions.

There are many practices around breath work like the Sudarshan Kriya, which is what I do and highly recommend to everyone. But what I am demonstrating today is a very simple process for slowing your breathing that can be done easily any time that you feel stressed or the need to energize yourself.


Sit in a comfortable position, with a straight back. Close your eyes or soften your gaze and observe the quality of your breath – are you breathing fast or slow, is it deep or shallow. Start to relax your body – your feet, legs, stomach, chest, arms, back, shoulders, neck, and face. Relax your eyes, your mouth, and jaw line, your forehead, simply let go and let any tension melt away.

Now start to slow your breathing – count to four as you inhale and count to four as you exhale. Let there be a natural pause at the end of each inhale and exhale – count to two at each pause if you like. If you are new to deep breathing, you can put your one hand on the chest and one on your stomach and as you breathe in make sure that your hand on the stomach is pushed forward and when you exhale your hand on stomach goes back in. Continue this slow breathing process for a few minutes or even a few rounds can be enough to slow down your mind.


1) Energizes the body

2) Helps to de-stress

3) Slows down the mind so you can think clearly

4) Helps you become more present to dealing with current situation

5) Become more mindful. (you can read more about mindfulness in business here).

6) Before public speaking practice slow deep breathing to feel more centered and don't feel out of breath when you speak.

7) If you have trouble sleeping at night practice slow breathing, emphasizing the slow exhale

If you feel any discomfort with slow breathing please discontinue and check with your doctor. The idea is to be able to make your breathing cycles become smooth, deep, and slow.


The Art of Living Foundation hosts published research articles related to benefits of breath work.

Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Call to Be Zorba the Buddha: Mindful Actions

A Call to Be Zorba the Buddha is inspired by my daily interactions with people who are either very active doers in the external world or very busy searching for meaning in their inner worlds. Could all our actions embody mindfulness and our search for meaning be woven into all our actions?

Many people are driven by actions and events external to who they are and don't spend any time knowing their inner worlds comprising their emotions, motivations, and conditioning. The outcome of continuous striving without resting and taking time to know your self results in stress, dissatisfaction, and inefficiencies. Inefficiencies because you can get caught in old thinking patterns if you are too busy to stop and take stock of the changing environment or have not broadened your perspective to notice things outside of the lens you are used to looking through.

On the other extreme, there are people who primarily dwell in their inner world with the purpose of understanding the nature of self and consciousness. These people are not driven to take actions like people in the first category. Such people are likely to feel frustrated because they are not able to share their gifts by taking the right actions and/or blame the world for not appreciating their inner gifts, which of course they have not shared enough so are quite hidden.

There is a third category of people who are active doers and also create time to develop their knowledge of self and consciousness. Yet, they keep the two aspects of their lives separate. When they go to work they are adhering to the expectations imposed on them from the dominant culture. Their inner work of self-discovery is a private practice that is not integrated into their daily work and actions.

Is it possible that our actions are inspired by who we are and our personal experience of Truth? Could we take out time from our busy schedules and train our busy minds to be silent so we can really listen to what Is? And then take necessary actions as easily as we breathe.

I guess my only point here is that all you people who have been too busy doing things STOP and listen to what is happening inside of you; and all you people who have spent too much time listening to your inner worlds TAKE ACTION.

Be Zorba the Buddha - Let your business be an authentic expression of who you are and let your inner world guide you to take mindful actions.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

If You Cannot Blog Regularly, Then Should You?

“We don’t want to start a Blog because we cannot keep up with it regularly.” I hear this from most of my clients, who are mostly small to medium businesses driven by a purpose or are non-profits. This post addresses the question, if you cannot post “regularly” should you have a Blog?

There are many posts out there addressing this question. For example, read the one by Liz for a decent perspective. And of course Seth Godin is always insightful.

Many of the popular posts consistently advicePost only when you have something to say” (Godin) or “Do what works for you.” Yet, the experts do suggest a need for some kind of regularity and may make recommendations, “post at least three times a week.” (Liz). This can scare many people away from giving Blogging a shot at all.

I will make some points that may have been made by someone somewhere, but to the best of my knowledge, I have not seen anyone explain it this way. And yet, this is what I see as the most authentic way of doing business and all related activities, including Blogging.

The New Mindset for Blogging

1) What is the purpose of your Blog?

If you are blogging primarily with the purpose of driving traffic (we all want traffic but here I mean primarily for traffic) then regularity and frequency may be very important. But what if you were a doctor or a research scientist, whose insights and new discoveries were not as frequent as a wine connoisseur’s musings on which cheese goes with a particular wine or the top Blogger’s discoveries of the best video games in the market, should the doctor or scientist not have a Blog?

The point I am trying to make, in case it was not obvious, is that if you are inspired or have something valuable to share, then share. Don’t hide away because you cannot post regularly. I am sure people will understand if you did not have a new discovery to write about each week :)

Main point here: If you are a person who has cool ideas, insights, and inspirations that can uplift people and bring more awareness, then let the Blog be a channel for you to share your insights. Period.

2) The Two Boxes: Please step out

There is one group of people who reside in a box of “should” and “have to” Blog a minimum number of times a week or day or month. Then there is another box of people whose mantra is “I can’t” do it regularly so “I won’t” do it at all. Any kind of pre-conception, involving the like of “shoulds,” “have tos,” “can’t,” involves living in the past or the future and certainly not in the present moment.

So, if you are a person committed to writing a minimum number of posts a week, ask yourself the questions – Is the writing inspired and flowing? Is the process of Blogging enjoyable or a struggle, another task you need to tick off on your list? If you feel Blogging is a struggle, then you are probably not operating from the present moment. And consequently, when you write from a stressed place your audience will also not connect with your writing.

On the other hand, if you are a person who shies away from writing all together because you feel you don’t have the time to write regularly, let me ask you, what do you do when you have an inspired thought that could change the lives of many people? Do you just channel those thoughts in service of the few people you meet in the course of your work and deprive access to all the other people who don’t know you but could benefit from the same?

Main point here: Operate in the present moment. Don’t get boxed one way or the other. Stay open to the possibility of Blogging and Blog when you feel inspired.

3) I am Blogging now, but no one is reading

Okay, so you have come out of the box of “can’t” and “won’t” and have started to Blog when inspired. But you find that no one is visiting your Blog or leaving any comments. But wait, did you invite anyone to your Blog? Or does that feel intimidating or just plain wrong – isn’t that like hard core selling – asking people to come to your Blog?

Now think about it this way. You have prepared a great meal, nutritious and delicious, enough to feed a 100 people. So many people are going to be nourished by your meal. Just one problem, you did not invite anyone. There are so many starving people who could gain from what you have to offer, but they have no way of knowing that your home has this food to offer. So, what you could and would do, is let people you know spread the word that nutritious food will be available from time to time and let people who need it get in touch with you.

In the world of Blogging this would mean that you tell your personal contacts and social networks to spread the word to people who can benefit. You may use other social media tools like Facebook and Twitter as well. And people who are interested in your nurturing posts can stay in touch with you by subscribing to your Blog because they know that every now and then you will have something amazing to offer and they want to be there to receive it.

Main point here: When you have something valuable to offer, let people know about it.

4) Invitations have been sent, yet no one is coming or commenting

So you write an inspired post and even invite people and nothing happens. There are many reasons people don’t comment. Here is a good post on 10 reasons why people don’t leave any comments

Worse still, no one comes to your Blog. What do you do? Do you think this is a waste of your time? Should you stop Blogging? If you have such thoughts it is time to go back to point 1 above – If you are a person who has cool ideas, insights, and inspirations that can uplift people and bring more awareness, then let the Blog be a channel for you to share your insights. Period.

What this means is your being and doing is one and the same. You wrote because you were inspired to do so and you did it in the spirit of spreading awareness. Writing when inspired - that in itself is the goal and the reward.

Like the man who made beautiful statues of sand on the beach and watched them get washed away, enjoy the process of inspired creativity, with no other expectations.