If you’ve listened to an interview with a CEO you admire, you’ve probably heard them mention meditation.
Most founders and coaches know they *should* meditate, but they’re so distracted that they can’t sit still for 20 minutes. Then they feel guilty, give up and never go back.
But sitting in Lotus pose isn’t the only way to meditate. You don’t even have to do the deep breathing stuff to start. Build up to that over time. Here’s how I tell CEOs to build up to the calm, relaxed meditation that you see on the cover of books on Buddhism.
Step one: Working Meditation.
Pick an activity that involves easy manual labor. I like pushing a lawnmower around, or carrying wood and stacking it. This should be an activity that doesn’t require thought, just movement.
The goal here is “thinking body, dancing mind”. Let your mind wander, and just notice the emotions that arise. That’s it.
Spend at least a half hour on this. While many people will say “I have my best ideas in the shower!” because it’s a working meditation, you want an activity that you can stick with for awhile.
Or just take longer showers.
Some people say the same about driving or golfing alone. The key is to avoid external cues (no conversation or music) and just let your thoughts flow while your body is otherwise occupied.
Exercise coaches: this is best done in heart rate zone 1, or 40% of your max heart rate. Barely enough to break a sweat.
Step two: Cathartic meditation.
Pick a medium that allows you to “get it out”: writing, praying, reciting something, or even talking into a voice recorder.
Pick a topic and write 750 words. Autobiographical stories are fine. Ranting is fine. If you don’t like to write, use a voice recorder.
The point here is to notice your thoughts and try to organize them a little, but not to control them. Just let them come out. Don’t worry about correcting spelling, just sit down and vent through your voice or your fingers. It’s okay if you’re ranting for the first few sessions. I like to think of it as “clearing the log jam”.
It helps to have prompts. Jordan Peterson’s Self-Authoring course is great for this.
I use www.750words.com daily.
Step three: box breathing with stretching.
Find a stretching video on YouTube (I use www.dynamiccyclist.com, which is specific for people who ride bikes.)
Turn off the sound and follow along.
While following, do box breathing:
Breathe in through your nose to a slow four-count.
Hold your breath in for a slow four-count.
Breathe out through your mouth to a slow four-count.
Hold your breath out for a slow four-count.
That’s one ‘box’. Repeat 5 times for each stretch.
Step four: the 5-4-3-2-1 technique.
Stand or sit still. Start your box breathing (as above).
When you get into a good breathing pattern, start paying attention to your surroundings. In your head, find:
Five things you can see
Four things you can touch
Three things you can hear
Two things you can smell
One thing that you can taste
Then do 5 more box breaths and stop.
You just did meditation!
(that last one came from Jay Shetty, author of “Think Like a Monk“.)
Next time, you can go longer, or not. But the point of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts: it’s simply to notice them. Accept them. Let them pass through your mind…but you can find thousands of videos on that stuff. I just wanted to get you started.
When we think of meditation, we probably picture a white-robed figure sitting in stillness under a tree. That’s just not realistic for most people. When I’m at my best, I can meditate for about 12 minutes at a time. But when I get out of practice, I often have to start again from square one (working meditation) and build up again.
How do you meditate, center yourself and free your mind?