Mindfulness for CEOs – Essential Tools and Techniques

Patricia Raya PhD

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.
–John Pierpont, “J.P.” Morgan

The What

Mindfulness for CEO’s and senior leaders is an integrated program of tools and techniques that help individuals experience the living benefits of mental clarity and focused attention and improved vitality and equanimity. There is an array  of mindful practices, but at the fundamental level the purpose of mindfulness is to settle the mind and body so individuals can alter their inner experience of what is happening around them. Mindfulness tools help to cultivate calm, clarity, and resilience in ways that do not lend themselves to compulsive and impulsive thoughts and behaviors and inner communication that perpetuates the stress response of fight-flight-freeze.

There are no religious beliefs, rituals, special equipment, or new age clichés associated with this program. Mindfulness for CEOs is a practical and well-researched program that incorporates gold standard tools and techniques to cultivate resilience, calm, optimism, and happiness. Mindfulness is most often associated with seated meditation, but sitting to meditate is only one of the many different ways to engage mindfully in daily activities.

“I paused and slowly took a few breaths…. By not responding in an emotional manner, it resulted in his not only becoming supportive but also becoming an ally in making the company a success.”   –      Dr. James Doty, neurosurgeon, Stanford University’s School of Medicine, CEO of cutting-edge medical device company


 The Program

“When have I lost the ability to discriminate between people, places, or behaviors that are well match to me and those that are not?”—Sondra Barrett

The program is designed to help clients work toward their preferred state of leadership and to maintain a mindfulness practice on their own.  Modifications may be made to meet the current needs of each client. An optional component of this program is the integration of yoga postures to help metabolize tension held in the body. 

Week 1: Getting Started, Assessment, & Goals.
Week 1b: Simple Awareness Through Breath, Be As You Are, and The Body                    Scan.
Week 2: Attention, Flight-Fight-Freeze, The Brain-Mind, and The Relaxation               Response
Week 3: Impulsive and Compulsive Thoughts and Reactive Decision Making.
Week 4: Reactive Verses Unconscious Mindset and Conscious and                           Responsive Mindset.
Week 4b: Mid-Program Assessment and Modifications.
Week 5: Difficult Situations and Sensations, Softening and Allowing.
Week 6: Mindful Leadership, Communication, and Problem Solving.
Week 7: Next Steps to Maintaining Your Own Practice.

The Why

“What’s stressful is all the mindless negative evaluations we make and the worry that we’ll find problems and not be able to solve them.” –Harvard Business Review Emotional Intelligence Series, an interview with Ellen Langer

Stress related problems continue to escalate. People are overwhelmed by toxic thoughts, moods, and relationships. We want quick fixes for the unpleasantness of life and turn to drugs, food, alcohol, and cigarettes. We know more about our “smart” phones than we do of each other. We trust Google and Yahoo to think for us. We cling to social media for solace and connection while it stealthily drains our capacity to connect with our selves and the people with whom we live and work. We are at risk of losing our ability to discern what is true for our well-being.

Bruce Friedman, a pathologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, elaborates on how the quality of this thinking and reading has changed because of computers in medicine: 

“…thinking has taken on a staccato quality…I can’t read War and Peace anymore. I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”

Scientific findings on the effects of overwhelming stress on our mind-body-brain and the healing potential of mindfulness are plentiful. The facts can no longer be ignored. Robert M. Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, wrote a comprehensive book about the effects and mechanism of stress. Nicholas Carr wrote of the power and perils of technology in The Shallows. Biochemist Sondra Barrett described the inner wisdom of letting go, engaging in relaxation, and the innate intelligence of human cells in Secrets of Your Cells. Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote in Full Catastrophe Living about the wisdom of the body and mind in situations of high stress.

“The evidence that behavioral factors such as diet, smoking, and physical activity influence health is overwhelming.” –David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD

The Who

In 2015 Harvard Business Review reported that CEO’s and senior leaders who meditated experienced the following benefits in the workplace, which were also corroborated in research studies.

  • Building resilience
  • Boosting emotional intelligence
  • Enhancing creativity
  • Improving relationships
  • Sharpening focused attention.

CEOs who meditate include:

  • Rupert Murdoch, Founder of News Corporation
  • Arianna Huffington, Founder of Huffington Post
  • Russell Simmons, Co-Founder of Def Jam and of Rush Communications
  • Roger Berkowitz, CEO of Legal Sea Foods
  • Marc Benioff, Software Veteran
  • Bob Shapiro, Former CEO of Monsanto
  • Robert Stiller, Founder of Green Mountain Coffee
  • Rick Goings, CEO of Tupperware
  • Steve Rubin, former CEO of United Fuels International
  • Alak Vasa, founder of Elements Truffles, former trader at Goldman Sachs and ITG
  • Jonathan Tang, founder and CEO of VASTM. 

 “At the very highest levels of any field—Fortune 50 CEO’s, the most impressive artists and musicians, the top athletes, the best teachers and mechanics—you’ll find mindful people, because that’s the only way to get there.”—Harvard Business Review Emotional Intelligence Series, an interview with Ellen Langer

*The programs offered by Patricia Raya and Flowering Rock Enterprise, LLC., are strictly educational and are not intended to replace or alter any medical and mental health advice given by licensed medical and mental health care professionals.