Paula Kiger

The Dharana of Planning

By: Paula Kiger | November 17, 2014 | 
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The Dharana Of PlanningBy Paula Kiger

Does anyone else see post-it notes in their mind’s eye when reading the planning-oriented posts this month?

Surely you’ve all been there.

As a member of a group charged with charting your organization’s future, you’ve been handed three post-it notes and directed to roam around the conference room, affixing them to three out of the nine needs you deem most critical for the organization as it grows.

The activity is supposed to give insight into which needs resonate most.

Today, as we approach the middle of “planning” month, I encourage you to take a step back from the planning itself and ask: How are you contributing your most focused self when you are in planning mode?

Let me share with you a story of a different post-it, a lonely solo post-it clinging precariously to a beige wall in a yoga studio.

As a bonus, you’re going to learn three Sanskrit words!

Yoga for Planning

The Dharana Of PlanningOne of the most common admonitions yoga teachers give their students is to pick a drishti (focal spot) to help them maintain their steadiness during balancing poses.

Many studios have murals or intricate tapestries on the walls that give the student something to look at in order to enhance balance during difficult poses.

When I recently tried out a new studio for the first time, there was no mural, no tapestry. There was the solo post-it.

One 3” x 3” post-it clinging precariously to a beige wall.

Without the drishtis I was used to, the likelihood of a face plant increased.

Likewise, if you are bringing inadequate focus to planning (or if you are facilitating a planning session and are inadvertently erecting obstacles to full, focused participation), your strategic planning process may fail to thrive.

How can you create an atmosphere of focus (or, to use the Sanskrit term, Dharana) in your planning activities?

How can you foster an environment that nurtures a centered strength of presence of mind without the bending under the weight of the overthinking that Karol Krol warned about?

Applying the Principles

I have yet to see anyone pull out a yoga mat in a strategic planning session, but there is a place for yogic principles in your planning efforts.

Although many common perceptions of yoga here in the West center on the “limb” of physical postures (asana), downward dog and its cousins only comprise one of yoga’s eight limbs.

In their book, Yoga Wisdom at Work, Maren and Jamie Showkeir discuss all eight limbs of yoga, including Dharana, or focus.

Dharana is, according the Showkeirs:

Training the mind itself to gain mastery over what it pays attention to (and how that attention is paid) as a way of staying present.

The Showkeirs suggest these checks and balances for maintaining focus in workplace interactions.

They are especially fitting for planning activities:

How often do you zone in and out of conversations at work, even in important meetings?

How many times do you use your mental faculties to start formulating an argument to what the person is saying, instead of trying to understand what is being said?”

I was fortunate to start yoga at a studio with many drishtis on the walls.

As my practice expanded, there were times when drishtis were not available.

I have been in sessions too crowded for me to see the wall. I have been at the beach where there were no drishtis on the horizon (not that I was complaining!).

I have been at the aforementioned beige-wall studio.

As I grew in my practice, I learned to harness the power of my mind even when no one made it easy.

Focus on Your Purpose

If you are in charge of a planning process, or a participant in a planning process, connect with the power of your Dharana.

Keeping the gaze of your people and your organization fully intent on today’s purpose will manifest a future growing into the place you aspire to be.

With or without post-its.

NOTE: It would be impossible to reference the book “Yoga Wisdom at Work” without noting one of its subtitles: “Eliminating the Spin Cycle” (which is a reference to the moral code of “satya” or “non-lying”).

Folks, I think the authors “get us”!

About Paula Kiger


Paula Kiger believes her Twitter bio says it best: Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. She is a communications professional who provides writing, editing and social media services through Big Green Pen. She was the community manager for the Lead Change Group for two years. Paula has a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Human Systems from Florida State University. She is an active advocate for many causes, including access to immunizations for children worldwide.

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