In this interconnected and collaborative age, an increasing amount of time in the average workday is spent in meetings – both actual and virtual. Since meetings are such a large part of the typical workday, it follows that any attempt at creating a conscious culture in an organization or community will need to involve having more conscious meetings. Conscious meetings can make people feel more awake, involved, energized and committed to the agenda and outcomes.
How can we create more conscious meetings? The following are three guidelines that can help us:
- Start with a clear intention
- Allow short breaks for silence and reflection
- End with appreciation
One reason people are not fully involved in meetings is because they are ‘required’ to be there. Someone else has usually set the agenda and often, there is not complete clarity about the real purpose of the meeting.
For this reason it is worthwhile to begin conscious meetings with two to five minutes for “setting an intention”. Every person is invited to write down the “best possible outcome” for the meeting. A question asked to all present can be, “What would make this a truly meaningful, high quality meeting for you? Please write it like it has happened already!”
Participants then go on to write any process or outcome intentions for the meetings as though they have already happened. This is an important point. Writing the intentions like they have already happened releases some of the doubt or skepticism that it may not happen and creates a joyful inner shift towards taking responsibility for the outcome.
Over the next three to eight minutes, all participants share a quick summary of their most important intentions for the meeting. If the group is very large, this can also be done in sub-groups. Listening to everyone in this way creates a sense that this is our meeting, and everyone feels more involved.
Allow Short Breaks for Silence and Reflection (1 to 5 minutes)
Successful meetings require authentic speaking, deep listening, disagreeing respectfully and suspending strong assumptions. Whenever there has been a lot shared and there is a need for a short break of silence and reflection, anyone present at the meeting can request for a minute of silence.
It helps if there is a small bell kept in the meeting room. The facilitator or the participant can ring this “mindfulness bell” to indicate the beginning and end of the minute of silence. This can be repeated several times during the meeting to facilitate reflection and deeper creative thinking.
Though simple, this practice can greatly enhance the quality of exchange in meetings and bring a measure of mindfulness and clarity by honoring the value of silence and presence in the midst of all the interesting ideas and discussion.
End with Appreciation (5 to 10 minutes)
It is a powerful practice to end all meetings with appreciation. Each participant is invited to briefly share as to what aspects of their intention for the meeting were fulfilled and what they appreciated about the meeting in terms of content shared, decisions reached or the specific admirable qualities of any of the individuals present at the meeting.
Ending with appreciation also dissolves any tension from earnest and well-meaning debates, which may have occurred during the meeting. Hurt egos are soothed and people leave with a sense of lightness and goodwill, ready for the next activity of the day.
For shorter meetings of 30 to 60 minutes we can have a shorter period of time for all three guidelines. For example step (A) intention setting can be done in one minute followed by two minutes of sharing only those intention points that are in addition to what others have shared. For step (B) there can be a maximum of two or three silent breaks. And for step (C) the appreciation round can also be summarized in two or three minutes if everyone limits themselves to one clear sentence.
In this way, in less than ten minutes, these processes can be included in the meeting. Much like a bow that needs to be pulled back before it can shoot the arrow, it is important to see these not as time lost but as important investments in a group process that support the flow of the whole meeting.
Applying these three guidelines for conscious meetings can make our work together more focused, mindful and joyous. It can help create a culture where people take responsibility for creating high quality outcomes everyday and in every way.
In a broader sense, these guidelines apply not just to meetings but also to our whole life. One of the ways to be more conscious in our everyday life is to start each day with a clear intention (e.g. ‘May I be a channel of blessings for someone today!’); to have several pauses to return to the simple feeling of being present during the day; and ending the day with gratitude and appreciation (either silently felt in our hearts or expressed to our loved ones).
May you apply this simple yet powerful process to create more conscious meetings and a more conscious culture wherever you are! All good wishes!
Nithya Shanti is a spiritual teacher, educator and writer committed to supporting those who wish to awaken their natural wisdom. He shares timeless teachings and practical wisdom for making every day the happiest of our lives. For more information visit http://www.nithyashanti.com/