Thinking About Thinking

How Do You Clear Your Mind?

Posted in Pop Culture by larrycheng on June 11, 2009

I was at a wonderful dinner last night with a number of CEOs/Presidents of private and public technology companies.  The conversation evolved to being a very candid one about the level of stress we feel in our daily lives and how commitment to work can really take its toll.  The experiences have ranged from having to make dramatic life changes after near-death experiences to finding ways for a regular tune-up.  It seems that in a connected world, the level of stress is magnified.  Our minds don’t relax, so we don’t relax.  We ended up having a very real conversation on how people have learned to compensate. 

  • One executive talked at length about how he has learned to meditate after a year of practice.  He practiced at a monastery for a whole year with the goal being to have an empty mind for even a few minutes.  Now he meditates for an hour every morning after he wakes up. 
  • Another executive talked about having found a great 70+ year old Chinese acupuncturist who he visits every month.  Despite the 50 needles, he said it’s the most rejuvenating hour and a half nap he has. 
  • Another person talked about how fishing was his way to clear the mind.  Fishing is the one thing he could do that hours could fly by and he wouldn’t have a thought or care in his mind. 
  • There also were a number of folks who consistently exercise as a way to decompress.  I would put myself in this camp.   

It seems in this connected world, the holy grail for many executives is just to have a relaxed and unencumbered mind.  It’s great to drive 120 mph, but you have to turn off the engine every once in awhile.  It is hard to come by but everyone recognized the value.  If you have any great lessons learned on this topic, please do share. 

7 Responses

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  1. Stephen J said, on June 11, 2009 at 9:24 am

    I have long term yard projects I can work on over periods of time. I am building a 480 sq ft bluestone patio right now. Digging dirt and laying stones clears my mind. I also sit on a ergo (rowing machine), I find the intense concentration (and pain) very theraputic

    • larrycheng said, on June 12, 2009 at 12:15 am

      Actually, now that you mention it, I think Don Haile is the same way – tends to like gardening as a way to relax.

  2. Rick Umali said, on June 11, 2009 at 9:27 am

    A colleague recently said that he’d need a “detox day” after all the work that’s been happening. I found it very fitting: we all need a way to flush out the work the dominates our thoughts. Of late, due to projects, I’ve been very pre-occupied, and it’s gotten me thinking about how to “relax”. For me, taking walks help (though I should be doing more of this). I also think driving slower helps too. In the end, I feel we do need to disconnect from work at regular intervals in order to let our subconscious process the work we’re doing.

    • larrycheng said, on June 12, 2009 at 12:14 am

      I love the idea of a detox day Rick. I may have to find a way to work that in. The question is – what do you do on the detox day? Or is that a Type A question?!

      • Rick Umali said, on June 15, 2009 at 7:22 am

        That’s a “Type A” question! :-)

        But seriously, what I do is “not work.” But I let my mind think about work. If you’ve ever seen the movie “A Few Good Men”, there are a few scenes of the Tom Cruise character mindlessly watching baseball, that court case playing very much on his mind. He wasn’t “working”, but he was thinking. So that’s what I try to do. I’ll mindlessly run errands, browse the library, go to the park (I have a daughter).

        I’ll turn my brain off, but on its own it’ll flit to some thought about work. I stop working so my brain can produce some ideas to try the next time I’m banging away on the keyboard.

  3. Albert Zhang said, on June 11, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I cannot agree with you more. In Chinese, there is a saying “文武之道, 一张一弛”. I think that’s the same meaning.

  4. Jin said, on June 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I think the question should not be how we clear our minds from the toils of our lives. Instead, the question should be what do we replace it with.


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