I’m type A. I like to stay busy. I run a business and work until 7.30pm most nights. Sound familiar? As you can imagine, slowing down for meditation wasn’t something that appealed to me, and may not appeal to you right now either.
When I first discovered meditation, it was during a challenging time in my life, as I was going through a tough digestive treatment. Despite the treatment, life went on, my schedule stayed busy, and I was determined to make that challenging time about more than just the treatment. I started meditating as a way to reduce anxiety and relax my body (necessary for treatment to be successful) – and to my surprise, came out of my first two-minute meditation with what felt like a completely different set of eyes.
While people think of this ancient practice as a way to improve yourself personally, and it can be, I found meditation to be helpful as an entrepreneurial minded, busy career woman as well. With just one few-minute session each day (my initial goal was to meditate every single day for the entirety of the treatment – about 65 days), I was suddenly calmer, more in control of the daily low hum of anxiety, and to my surprise, getting more and more requests for work as a result of being more open and ready to receive whatever opportunities came my way.
Meditation, though it may seem “woo-woo” or “too spiritual” is something we can all use to get big results in life, whether you’re building a career, starting a business, or just trying to figure out what you want to do. To help you reach a place of peace and success, I’ve solicited the advice of a wide range of experts. When you allow yourself to slow down and take a few deep breaths, you may just feel like a new person too.
Take it seriously
To achieve big results with meditation, you need to take it seriously, whether you’re sitting for just one minute or 20. “It's just like starting a new sport or activity. You will get out what you put in. Keep your practice consistent as best you can. Pick a time in the morning or night and make that 10, 15, 30 minutes your dedicated meditation time. Schedule it on your calendar!” says Jenay Rose, yoga teacher and owner of Namaste Jenay.
To make it a priority, treat your regular practice like an interview for a new job or a meeting with an important business person. When you dedicate yourself to the practice in this way, you’ll reap the greatest benefits, including improved memory and emotional processing, as well as greater resilience, mindfulness and empathy. As Yogi Bahjan, who brought Kundalini Yoga to the Western World, said: "Keep up and you will be kept up."
Don’t rush back into work
Meditation requires you to slow down – but that doesn’t mean your schedule hits the brakes along with you; emails are coming in, deadlines are ticking away and you’re antsy to make it all happen. Instead of jumping back into work responsibilities and ushering in the stress that comes with it, move slowly out of meditation. Give yourself time to come back to reality, suggests Veronica Parker, meditation coach and Kundalini Yoga Teacher:
“One of the most important things you can do after a meditation is to just sit in silence for a few minutes. Don't rush into getting everything done on your to-do list. Just notice what you notice. You can even ask yourself, what am I noticing that is different now? Bless yourself and all the activity of your day and plan the next time you will sit down to meditate.”
To avoid the anxiety of letting your work sit while you continue to relax, give yourself a window of time for meditation and allow yourself to use every last second. If you plan to meditate for five minutes, give yourself a 10-minute timeframe. This will help reduce that “must get back to work” feeling because you already planned to have this down time.
Explore and find what works for you
When you think of meditation, what comes to mind? Someone sitting cross-legged, in silence; eyes closed, fingers in mudra (most commonly thumb and forefinger touching), and a slight smile on their face. Yet, like anything in life, meditation isn’t always this perfect vision that we might imagine.
You need to find what connects with you and what suits your needs to get big results from your meditation. To do so, explore meditation variations, including the following:
- Active meditation: If you have trouble sitting still, do a walking meditation. To get into a meditative state, quiet the mind, find your breath, and start paying attention to something specific, like the sound or feeling of your footfall. If you get distracted, turn back to your breath and start again.
- Guided meditation: I found this style to be helpful when I first started. Guided meditation is exactly as it sounds; someone guides you through your practice, sometimes with music in the background. They’ll give you things to think about, run you through a body scan, suggest mantras and more. This helps for people who find their internal chatter to be impossible to quiet – which is nearly everyone. There are many apps you can download to find free guided meditations, and my personal favorite is Insight Timer.
- Laying down: If you find it hard to sit up straight comfortably, and many people do as a result of back pain or general feelings of discomfort, lay down. You don’t have to be sitting straight as a board, or on the floor. If you don’t want to lay down, find a chair that allows you to sit upright with support, with both feet firmly planted on the ground.
If you want to try different meditations, test just one per session, suggests Rose: “If you're going to try body scans don't mix it with breath work until you feel really comfortable in each practice. You don't want to muddy the waters especially when you're just starting out.”
Don’t give up
It’s easy to beat yourself up during and after meditation. “Ugh, I can’t stop thinking about this big project;” “That meditation was terrible;” “I can’t breathe in deep enough.” Instead of beating yourself up, remember a few things:
- There’s no wrong way to meditate. What feels right for you is what’s right.
- Even the most experienced meditators have trouble quieting their mind; that may never change for you, and that’s okay.
- Simply sitting in silence and stillness will help mitigate stress, reduce burnout, increase self-awareness, and can still lead to those juicy “ah-ha” moments.
The key is to quiet this negative feedback and not give up. “Even if you have tons of chatter going on in your mind, just keep on showing up and practicing. You will be rewarded with dynamic wellbeing and a powerful and clear mind. This will translate into more success in your business and life where you get to be more present to what is happening, without having to jump around between your future and past,” says Parker.
Experience big results
Meditation is a seemingly small act that can have expansive results, from reducing burnout to improving memory – all of which can drive greater success in your personal and professional life. As you get started, remember to take it slow, be okay with stumbling and struggling, and find consistency that works for your schedule. You’ll experience those big results when you can make meditation as important as every other meeting or appointment on your calendar.