Feeling Up-Ended by Constant Change? Let Meditation Calm Your Spirit!
Like many friends and colleagues, I used our shelter at home months to work on projects I had been putting off and to try my hand at things I had said I would do “someday.” I have been interested in Meditation as an idea for a long time. Having tried it 10 years ago and been terribly unsuccessful, I decided now was the time to try again.
- My life today is quite different than when I attempted meditation earlier. As a small business owner, I am in more control of my schedule than during my corporate days. This “control” had me feeling like I had no excuses for not prioritizing learning something new. I kept asking myself: Won’t I feel better when life returns to normal if I know myself better or can show up each day with new skills and awareness?
- As a coach, I was also hearing more and more from my clients about their increased anxiety levels. Their questions centered around what strategies might help them not just “survive Covid-19” but could they take actions to thrive during this time?
- Finally, the research outlining the benefits to our mental and physical health from a regular practice of this ancient training exercise is compelling. If you are not familiar with the research, check out this In Depth from the National Institutes of Health and this article from Positive Psychology to learn more.
In May, I decided to commit to a 3-week meditation challenge. Every day for 3 weeks, I would sit with my eyes closed, legs crossed and quiet the noise in my head for 20 minutes. After failing a decade ago, this time I was more determined.
I read different voices offering strategies and techniques. I talked to more experienced meditators. I learned about proper breathing and how to use a focus stone if I didn’t think Om chanting was my thing (it isn’t). The most helpful advice came from a podcast explaining how to deal with thoughts and ideas that uncontrollably pop into your head. This guru suggested envisioning my random thoughts flying around inside my head like an ecosystem of ideas bouncing all around the cosmos. When one stopped and tried to lodge itself into my consciousness, imagine myself hurling it back into space and returning it to the system in which it belonged. Not the mind I was working to silence.
The First Week
The first couple of days, I amazed myself by making it a full 20 minutes. The concept of hurling ideas was working out fairly well. Yet, I wasn’t enjoying the experience. On Day 3, I began hearing the ocean whirring inside my head. Like listening to a conch shell or cupping your ears. Only I didn’t have a shell or a cup. So, three days in and I have managed to capture ambient noise inside my head? Without any kind of capturing vessel? It all felt so strange!
On Day 5, the ocean turned to wind. A low howl starting directly from the center of my skull. It was fleeting and I found myself chasing it. Trying to sustain it. When I could clearly hear it, I noticed I was feeling happy. When I lost it, I felt frustrated. I wondered, “Is this the clarity everyone says they gain from meditation? This emotional rollercoaster of chasing wind?” I debated chucking the challenge more than a few times.
The Second Week
Toward the end of Week 2, things had changed. Instead of it taking several minutes at the start of each session to hear the wind, it came immediately when I got into position and closed my eyes. I found myself able to hold onto it for several minutes at a time. I started noticing that after concentrating closely on the wind for several minutes no thoughts were randomly flying through my head. My brain somehow felt empty, clear, refreshed even.
The Third Week
During what I consider my best session of the 3-week challenge, there were several minutes where I could “see” the wind forming a line or a path from the center of my head up to my left temple. Almost like a tornado spinning from deep inside and clearing a path for my thoughts to escape. Without me ever having to even think those thoughts. When my timer went off to signal the end of that 20-minute session, I was so startled I jumped. That happened frequently during the 3rd and final week of the challenge.
As I reflected on my experience and mentally worked through whether meditation is for me, I realized two invaluable personal benefits.
- Calmly Confident: As a 3 on the Enneagram, my natural tendency is to focus on tasks and get things done. A primary driver for me is a need to feel a sense of accomplishment. Successfully completing a 3-week challenge gave me a huge energy surge and boost of confidence. It did wonders for my psyche as we were deep into isolation from sheltering at home. I am grateful for that time and even proud of myself for making the decision to try again after failing a decade earlier. Knowing I am capable and can control my thoughts is a safety net I’ve carried with me every day since.
- Mentally Unstuck: I made two meaningful decisions during the three-week meditation challenge. One I had been wrestling with for far too long. I was overthinking it. Going from one side to the other, back and forth. The decision process had become woefully ineffective and I was stuck. The other was a decision I hadn’t even realized I needed to make. I was thinking of it more as an action that I was procrastinating about moving forward on. After one meditation session, it was so clear that I wasn’t acting because I hadn’t decided. With this new clarity, I made a decision and my actions quickly followed.
A Timely Technique for Leaders in These Times
In a typical year, I spend virtually all of my work time helping clients bring about the positive changes they want to make in their lives and in their organizations. 2020 is not a typical year. Covid-19 has swept across the globe and upended our professional and personal lives in completely unexpected ways.
These days in coaching sessions and virtual workshops, I am constantly engaging with clients regarding their anxiety, confusion, and in many cases, fear of the uncertainty and disruption. Meditation has become an invaluable strategy for clients who are working to calmly lead their teams forward. As leaders, the best thing we can do is listen, empathize and communicate. We are better equipped to do this effectively with calm emotions and clear minds.
Are you leading a team through the disruption of Covid-19? Do you want to feel more grounded and focused? Let’s Talk! I regularly coach and advise leaders and organizations who want to navigate change with ease.