Connectedness is crucial for successful leadership and mentoring since it directly leads to a sense of responsibility. The feeling of connectedness can be cultivated by meditation, which at its core is about dissolving the feeling of self which often separates us from others. Here is how connectedness manifested in my life without active effort besides daily meditation (no chanting or religious mumbo jumbo).
In the fall of 2015, I started to mentor three undergraduate students on two separate projects. As has repeatedly happened for my in fall, I was overworked and stressed because of major conference deadlines and an unusually high amount of travel to present previously published work. This all led to me being mostly focused onto my own stuff and seeing the additional mentoring responsibility as a burden rather than a fun opportunity to serve. Accordingly, I did not spend much time with my mentees leaving them mostly unguided in their struggles.
Then in January 2016, I attended a meditation workshop during MIT’s independent activities period (IAP). Focused on developing happiness and satisfaction in live through connectedness, service, yoga and meditation, the workshop changed my life. Soon, I was finding myself spending more and more time with my mentees. Taking the time to show them some C++ trick, helping them with some tricky piece of math or giving them detailed feedback on their project writeup. I felt connected to them and with that came a profound sense of responsibility. They were at a point in their education where all the attention and feedback that I received from my mentors had a huge impact on my way of working and thinking. I am deeply grateful for all my mentors. And helping my mentees became a way of giving back that feels deeply satisfying. Seeing them succeed (they all received awards for the work from the department) was an exhilarating side product. I am convinced this connection can be felt on the receiving side as well and it probably motivates as well.
Since the workshop in January 2016, I have been meditating every morning and I am convinced that this was key to developing and maintaining this feeling of connectedness not only with my mentees but generally with the people in my life. Feeling connected to a person directly translates into a feeling of responsibility because you are not separate entities anymore. Serving and helping her helps you both.