I often speak with people I coach, either one on one or in groups about mindfulness and meditation.
I speak about the benefits of meditation, and how it can allow us to live more mindfully through the day. This often draws a few more questions about what this really means. I will try to explain this briefly in this article. At least from how I see it all.
I by no means am a guru and am like many others simply on my way to learn more about this myself. I will say though that over the last 8 years I have went from just playing around with meditation to a point where I never go a day without making time for it. In short, I would say that my regular meditation practice has been a key contributor to the changes I have made in my life. Changes that have led me to a point where I feel much calmer, and more connected to my true self.
Being calmer and connected to my true self are great. I do think the most important benefit I have received though is the gift of being able to better see thoughts as they arise in my mind allowing me to choose whether I react or respond to a situation. What does this mean and how can this help you?
Imagine you come home from work after a long stressful day, open the door to your house, take your shoes off, and as you walk into the living room you step on a piece of Lego. Do you know that feeling? Now what happens. I think for most of us this is when we curse (possibly out loud) and lash out at whoever is right in front of us for putting that Lego in our way. Imagine now as the scene progresses. You just snapped at your spouse scolded the kids, booted the dog and everyone is upset. How does the rest of the night go? How does your belly feel as your read this? Do you feel uptight? How would you rather feel?
So how could have this been different. What if everything still unfolded the same way, you still stepped on the Lego, but what if at that moment you perhaps were able to notice you were having a feeling of anger, and rather than lashing out you were able to choose how you respond to stepping on the Lego. Do you choose a future that comes after you react as above, or do you choose a future that comes after you calm yourself down and then perhaps having a lighter discussion with the kids about how stepping on Lego hurts and what they may be able to do about picking up their toys?
Imagine now you were able to catch yourself more regularly throughout your day and choose which thoughts to follow and which ones to discard. How may your days go then? What else may you be able to notice. Perhaps in the example above you may have had just a bit more energy as you arrived home to the point you were looking for the Lego pieces on the floor before you stepped on them.
And this in my mind is the biggest benefit of having a regular meditation practice. Being able to increase your awareness of the different thoughts arising in your mind and being able to respond rather than react. I by no means have this mastered and still get tripped up by the Lego pieces life throws my way, but I do know things are far better than before I started a regular meditation practice.
To start out there are tons of great apps out there. Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm are a few that I use and are great tools to use if you would like to develop your own regular meditation practice.
A practice where you can simply sit for a couple of minutes to start with, bringing your attention to your breath and as you notice any thought arise to simply let it pass. Let the thought pass and bring your attention back to your breath. This regular practice can be seen as doing mental exercises. Much like physical exercise the more you do the more mental strength you will build.
Start small, just a few minutes a day as a start can provide a great benefit. A benefit where you start to be able to become aware of which thoughts you choose to follow and which ones you choose to discard.
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