I was teaching yoga to a group of beginners in Amsterdam and about four weeks into the course I introduced a 10 minute meditation session. For all of them, it was the first time they had ever done any meditation. At the end of the lesson we discussed what it had been like. A couple of people said that is was the first time they could remember not having constant mental chatter going on in their minds. This silence only lasted a minute or so of the ten minute session but it was a revelation that the chatter was not something they just had to live with.
That really is the joy of meditation. To observe the silence behind all the noise. And that could be enough. Just to become more and more comfortable with the stillness. More and more able to be present with the breath and the simplicity of each moment.
That doesn’t mean that our lives should be about sitting around cross-legged and closed-eyed. Whatever we do, our lives will be full of change, activity and interaction. A regular meditation practice can help us to bring stillness, presence and purpose into everything we do, making us calmer and more effective. Meditation helps calm the chatter of our mind. For many of us, negative self talk and self image can be so negative that, it can be very helpful, perhaps even necessary, to combine this calming activity with an active re-programming of the unconscious mind.
Jason Selk is a sports coach who has developed a procedure for athletes which uses powerful visualisation to programme what the mind believes is possible. He has gone on to transfer this approach to business in the book ‘Executive Toughness’. (Excellent book. Shockingly bad front cover of men in suits on a running track.)
- using a centering breath to bring the physical arousal to a useful level and to calm the mind
- voicing an identity statement of who you want to be and how you want your life to turn out
- playing a mental ‘highlight reel’ of how great it will feel to have achieved your goals and of what you have done in the past that gives you confidence you will achieve them.
- repeating the identity statement
- repeating the centering breath.
This process has a powerful effect on the person’s physiology and their belief in their ability to live the life they want to.
The way I see it is that meditation helps us understand that we are enough as we are, that this moment is all we have. Performance programmes, such as the one Jason has developed, help us use our talents to their full expression. Combining the two can create a life of joy and purpose, where a real difference is made, where every moment is lived completely, without anxiety or comparison.
To live our life on the highest, most purposeful level and to bring a level of absolute mental peace to the most challenging and confronting situations is when stillness and change sit side by side.
Executive Toughness, Dr Jason Selk, 2012, McGraw Hill