4 years ago I thought meditation was crap. People thinking they could levitate? Enlightment? Closing your eyes for 10 minutes would save your life? Yeah, right. In this post, my intention is to share the things I’ve discovered during this past 4 years that made me realize meditation is a great tool and why I think all executives (everybody, actually) should be doing it.
It’s not about levitation
The first time I heard about meditation, it was through the art of living. Some of the teachers were saying that eventually, people could levitate from the floor. Being an engineer, I couldn’t believe that was actually possible. This drove me away from meditation. However, some years later, I decided to dig some more. I realized that there were a lot of different train of thoughts about meditation. Not all people doing art of living think they can levitate. Furthermore, there’re some other meditation currents like mindfulness that are more aligned with modern science and engineering. In Search Inside Yourself, a book written by the engineer who installed the mindfulness courses on Google, he explains some of the “science” behind meditation and why it makes sense to do it. We’ll expand more about this in the next sections.
There’re questions that don’t need answering
Most problems we have in life come from asking ourselves questions, both about the past and the future. Will I be able to succeed at this job? Why didn’t I tell that woman what I felt about her? Do I love my girlfriend? Will I be able to keep my job? Will I always have enough money to live how I want? Let me tell you something about this questions: They don’t have an answer. Let’s go into some examples: Will you be able to succeed in this job? I don’t know, but if all you do is ask yourself about that, I’m sure you’ll be draining all the energy that’s going to actually make you good at it. Why didn’t you tell the woman how you felt about her? I don’t know, but you either can do it now if you meet her again, or you accept that unfortunately you won’t ever be able to. All of this questions create feelings that will make you feel like shit. You’ll be worrying or feeling anxiety about your future, or feeling guilt or regret about something that has already happened.
What was I doing?
Do you remember all the things you did while driving/walking to your work? All the buildings you saw? Were you giving your kid your full attention when you were with him or were you thinking about work? Did you really listen to what your wife was telling you? We spend a lot of time of our lives being unconscious, doing things in an automatic way and not even paying attention. So what’s the solution? You might think the solution is not thinking, and that meditation is the answer to not think. But that’s not it.
It’s not about not thinking
This is the most common misconception about meditation. People think it’s about not thinking, that it’s about clearing your mind, and it’s actually about quite the opposite! Wether you do trascendental meditation, the art of living, or mindfulness, meditation is about focus. We’re focusing in a sound (mantra), our breath or our body. However, thoughts and questions will arise all the time. When we realize that has happened, we just have to go back to our focus point. At the beginning, every time a thought was popping in my mind, I thought I was doing it wrong, but it was actually quite the opposite. The more thoughts we have during our meditation session, the better. Meditation is like the gym for our brain. It trains our consciousness to realize when we’re asking ourselves stupid questions or thinking too much about the past or the future, so that we can stop doing that and live the present.
Meditation as an executive
Meditation has helped me be a much better executive! As an executive, you have to take strategic decisions all the time. You can’t be constantly worrying about how things are going because otherwise, it’ll drain all of your energy. You also need to be creative with your ideas and decisions. Creativeness comes from a clear mind, a mind which thinks about the present. It has also helped me give advice to my direct reports on how to be more focused, worry less and perform more.
Meditation is about the power of now
Meditation is about being present, being more focused, enjoying life more and training your consciousness to realize when your brain is acting out. I highly encourage you to try it out. It’ll change your life :).