Credit: Jason Weiss for Fredi
If you didn’t know, meditation is BLOWING UP.
In fact, the number of people practicing meditation has TRIPLED since 2012. Science has shown that meditation can help with anxiety, depression, ADHD, headaches as well as many other conditions. With that being said, it’s no wonder why high achievers such as Oprah, Arianna Huffington and many others have touted the vast array of cognitive benefits of meditation.
I think we all experience anxiety to a certain degree and I am certainly no exception here. For me, I feel like anxiety really began to set in as the initial excitement of starting a career began to subside and transform into an almost panicked search to find lifelong fulfillment in my career. In my opinion, this is when adulting truly begins (if kids haven’t already entered the equation, that is).
Anyway, back to meditation – intrigued by the science and the praise coming from these high achievers, I figured I would give meditation a try in an attempt to ease the anxiety I was experiencing and increase my focus. I am now about 2 years into this journey and couldn’t be happier with the results.
"I figured I would give meditation a try in an attempt to ease the anxiety I was experiencing and increase my focus."
I’m writing this post to 1. walk you through what you should expect as you begin meditating and, 2. outline the benefits that I have realized over the short course of my meditation practice.
In the most literal sense – what should I be doing?
Close your eyes.
Focus on your breath.
Clear your mind.
Do this for 5-10 minutes.
Now, what should you expect to experience?
I can’t be doing this right… right?
Feel like a dumb f*ck and get frustrated.
Steps 1-3 probably don’t seem too challenging…. Until your mind inevitably begins to wander from your breath to the laundry list of other things going on in your life.
*Inhale*… *Exhale*… *Inhale*…*Exh..SHIT I need to follow up with Jenna on tomorrow’s deliverable… I really hope she realizes that I need to review it in the next few hours….
*3 minutes later* SHIT I’m not meditating, I just keep thinking about work. I am horrible at this… maybe I’m just not the type of person who can meditate… It’s always been difficult for me to calm my mind…. it always seems to jump from topic to topic, it’s why I can’t sleep and…..
*2 minutes later* SHIT I’m not meditating, I just keep thinking about how I can’t meditate!!!!
This is normal and EVERYONE feels this way at first.
Begin to notice the tiny moments in between your racing thoughts.
As you begin to notice your mind wandering, you will begin to attempt to drop that thought and get back to clearing your mind. The goal here is to NOT DWELL on the fact that the thought popped into your mind. Let them come…. and let them go…. no need to get angry over the fact that your mind wasn’t clear for a moment. Acknowledge the tiny moments in between
It’s not easy, but after some practice, you will begin to notice TINY moments in between your racing thoughts.
The presence of these short moments, where your mind is clear, where no tangible thought is present in your mind, is your first sign that YOU ARE MAKING PROGRESS! Notice them, cherish them and try to hold on to them!
Expand these moments.
It seems like a small accomplishment, but now that you have recognized these moments of mental clarity, you can now start focusing on them: the feeling they give you and the visual representations that emerge in the darkness during these periods.
Allow yourself to sit in these moments. You will find they naturally begin to get longer and longer as you practice focusing on these moments.
Allow these moments to become the main event.
Eventually, you will get to the point where these moments are the main event. Only occasionally will other thoughts pop into your mind – meaning you will only need to occasionally need to re-focus your efforts. This is when you will begin to really feel the benefits in everyday life.
Why do I care?
The most simple answer: FOCUS
Most people don’t understand that focus applies to so much more than the project you’re working on or the book you’re reading.
Our brain, because of the way it’s wired, CONSTANTLY generates thoughts. As we workout, as we walk through the grocery store, as we listen to music…. We’re always thinking about things.
A huge amount of the time, our brain puts thoughts in our head that are not self-serving – thoughts that make us ruminate about past negative events or make us worry about future events we have no control over.
"A huge amount of the time, our brain puts thoughts in our head that are not self-serving."
What if, instead of constantly focusing on negative thoughts, we constantly spent our energy thinking about things that empower us? What if we were constantly thinking about the amazing things that were happening in our life and how exciting our future is?
How much happier do you think you would be? How much more confidence do you think you would have? THIS IS EXTREMELY ACHIEVABLE.
Meditation is a practice that helps us control our focus – it helps us practice re-focusing our thoughts on what we WANT to focus on…. not just what our brain puts in front of us.
"What if, instead of constantly focusing on negative thoughts, we constantly spent our energy thinking about things that empower us?"
After two years of meditation, I can say confidently that I am SO MUCH more aware of what I spend my energy thinking about. When I catch myself spending time doing something like having a fictitious conversation where I angrily argue with a colleague in my mind – I notice it, I acknowledge it, and I actively switch my focus to something that serves me – my business, my friends, my family.
I have been so surprised at how much this has affected my motivation, focus, energy and overall morale and happiness. As you can imagine, the ability to stop ruminating on negative thoughts works wonders for anxiety.
Give it a try!! It’s a process, but it’s worth it.