The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Slow Down

Take time to notice the impact of your communication

By Andrew Silberman

In 1994, I attended training offered by a qigong/taichi master, who taught “standing meditation.” On the third evening, he asked us to imagine a ball of energy in front of us. At one point, he took my hands and raised them slightly. When he did, I felt a surge of energy like a magnetic force between my hands—a strange sensation!

The master was a showman, a Bruce Lee “wannabe” to me. Some of his methods of teaching qi (pronounced chee, meaning vital energy) seemed staged and cult-like. Over the next few years, I would occasionally practice, and I sensed those magnets, but that was the extent of qigong for me.

Five years ago, following the advice of Darren McKellin (chair of the Information, Communications and Technology Committee), I started going to Koh Samui, Thailand. Darren had said, “You go [to Thailand] every year to get your health checked. Why not go get it improved?”

At The Spa, a retreat on Samui, I met a German who taught qigong. I really liked his style—none of the showman stuff—and I video-recorded his sessions. Armed with these exercises, I started practicing qigong regularly.

Still, I could never meditate much longer than eight minutes. I had been reading about mindfulness, and attended workshops and presentations on the topic, but meditative bliss remained elusive—as did any major practical benefits.

Then, last December at The Spa, I was reading a fascinating book called A Heart Blown Open, about Denis Kelly, a big-time LSD maker in San Francisco in the 1960s. As Amazon’s description says, “Denis Kelly’s life is part Hunter S. Thompson, part Timothy Leary, and part Eckhart Tolle.” What a character!

Far out
At The Spa, a man who called himself Bodi was discussing experiments he was doing in Germany. He is a psychiatrist and had been taking LSD with groups of 100 people, once a quarter, for four years.

I told him about the book I was reading and said, “This Kelly guy saw LSD as a shortcut to enlightenment.” Bodi said, “No, it’s not.” I said, “Right, there’s no shortcut, is there?” He looked straight into my eyes and replied, “Actually, there is!”

Shortcut to enlightenment?
He suggested we meet the next day if I wanted to learn more. We met at Bodi’s bungalow, and the two of us invitees sat outside while Bodi played a recording, a guided meditation that took us to outer space—in 30 minutes. When we “came back,” everything looked, felt, seemed different.

Ever since, I start each day meditating. Usually, my schedule, like yours, is packed, so I target from 15 to 50 minutes. I slowly count breaths, which, after two minutes or so, come at the rate of less than two per minute. Sixty breaths, or once around the clock, takes a half hour.

The more I read about how the brain functions, with its massive consumption of oxygen, the more I realize that to communicate better, we all could benefit by slowing down.

That means slowing down our rush to judgment, slowing down our rate of speech, and especially pausing between ideas, so that our listeners can process what we really want to communicate.

Getting into vs getting through
Most people view presentations, performance evaluations, and sales pitches as one more thing to “get through.” They only relax after their interactions; therefore, they miss a lot of the action—namely, the impact their communication is having on others.

For years, I, too, saw meditation as something to get through. Now I choose to see it, and the rest of my day, as something to get into.

As leaders, we want to get through to people. One secret is to get into the moment. Check in. Notice what’s happening. Breathe. Notice how your communication “automagically” improves.



Andrew Silberman is president and chief enthusiast of AMT Group ( and an elected governor of the ACCJ.