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How to be at ease with disruption

By David Penglase

Recently I stumbled upon a word the Japanese use to describe serenity in the midst of activity or chaos.

The word is ‘Seijaku’.

While it has other meanings including peacefulness, this idea of finding serenity in the midst of chaos has significance for any organisational leader looking for ways to better manage disruption, distraction and change, for themselves and for their work teams.

I’m pretty sure that most of us would want to be able to achieve Seijaku – to find a sense of serenity, peacefulness, in times of chaos and disruption.

For some, the path to Seijaku is experienced through hours, weeks and years of mindfulness meditation. Science has validated a host of benefits that mindfulness meditation practitioners gain.

Beyond Mindfulness Meditation

However, practically, most of us (me included) won’t find the time, or have any inclination to pursue the necessary hours of mindfulness meditation.

So what other evidence-based strategies might we try to help us experience Seijaku? How can we be more intentionally mindful in more moments that matter more often?

Here are five evidence-based strategies I personally practice, enjoy and find hlp me experience Seijaku. Each of these strategies can take as little as 1 minute and can be completed in 3 minutes (take longer if you want, and where practical to do so your personal situation):

1. Breathe – Yes, I know we all do it naturally, but one of the best lessons I have learned from a couple of years of personal yoga tuition, is the calming effect of being more intentionally aware of how our breathing can impact our calmness.

HOW: This only needs to take 1 to 3 minutes (do more if you enjoy and find value).

Sit comfortably in your chair. Close your eyes and close your mouth (you want this to be nasal breathing – not through your mouth). Don’t adjust your breathing, just become aware of your diaphragm rising as you breathe in and it relaxing as you breathe out. As you take your next breath, you might notice the cool air through your nostrils, and notice the warmer air as you exhale. As you breathe in again, staying focused on your breath, you might begin to notice how your body is feeling, where any tingling might be happening. Keep following your breathe, in and out, and just become aware of what thoughts enter your mind. Don’t try and battle them, or focus on them, just be aware, and then return to focusing on your breathing. After a minute or so, or when you're ready, open your eyes, stand slowly, stretch gently, and you're ready to get going with refreshed vitality.

2. Pattern Interrupt – This again only needs to take 1 to 3 minutes (again, do more if you enjoy and find value).

HOW: There are a number of variations here. One is to simply stop what you’re doing and if you’ve been sitting for a while, just stand up and stretch a little. Another variation is to take a walk in some fresh air outside your office. This might sound like escaping chaos rather than managing within it, and you're right. Escaping and resetting is a valid evidence-based strategy for managing in times of disruption, distraction and change. Just remember, it's a short break, not a permanent 'quit' strategy (although that may also be an option for some).

3. Switch – Switching is intentionally stopping what you’re doing and doing something that you really enjoy (even if you enjoy what you’re doing, remember, this is about feeling serenity in chaos).

HOW: Take a break, listen to your current favourite song. This strategy is like a reset button on your computer. Another strategy is to swap what you're doing and do something else. This is mono-tasking, not multi-tasking. Mono-tasking is being very focused just on what you're doing and trying to remove all other distractions.

4. Connect – Relationships matter. They help us find meaning at work and in our personal life.

HOW: If things start to get too chaotic for you, make a phone call, go visit someone, and take a little ‘us’ time.

5. Visualise – This is a highly evidence-based strategy where you trigger a sense of serenity by imagining an image in your mind, or have a picture that you can look at. Yes… it’s a bit like finding your ‘happy place’, but practically it’s up to you what that image might be.

HOW: For me it’s taking a moment to visualise the beautiful Jacaranda trees in full purple bloom here in Sydney. Many of the Jacarandas around Sydney were planted by women who had given birth to a child in the North Shore Hospital. Each new mum was given a Jacaranda tree as a parting gift when they left the hospital. I just love that story, and it’s a vivid image that calms me quickly, brings a smile to my face and helps me achieve Seijaku.

So what will you do to experience Seijaku?

Not all of these strategies will appeal to you, and maybe none of them do. That’s ok… I hope they trigger other ideas that you might like to try.

I find Seijaku to be a wonderfully aspirational word. To be more intentionally mindful in more moments that matter more often, and to find a sense of serenity in chaos is not easy, but it is certainly within the practical reach of anyone seeking to give it a go.



If you'd like to have me present a keynote or masterclass at your next conference or professional development day so that you and your team can better manage in a world of competition and disruption, visit or call me at our Sydney office on 02 9546 2492.

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