For the last five or so years, I have been practicing a form of mindfulness meditation. Most of the time, I was “doing it wrong,” even though there a good many people who will tell you that because you are not pursuing any goal, that you cannot do mediation wrong. Leave it to me to find a way.
I have focused only on my breath while meditating, and I have gained an ability to have absolutely nothing on my mind. I mean very literally nothing. I thought this was the goal of mediation, to quiet the mind. And in some ways, this is true.
About 6 months ago, I met with a Zen Master, someone who has literally sat on a cushion and meditated for hours a day for around 45 years (the first 30 of which he believes was very poorly done, so there is that). During our meeting, he explained to me that I was doing the prepartion work for meditiation without meditating. He suggested that I spend my time in mediation noticing my thoughts, my feelings, and anything going on in my body. At his direction, I started to practice this. Like you, there is a lot going on up there.
The trick is to observe what’s going on, without chasing every thought or feeling down every rabbit hole your mind conjures up for you. What happens to those who do this sort of meditation (or contemplative prayer, which exists in some form in every religious tradition), is that you start gain some distance from your thoughts and emotions, as they start becoming objects, making you no longer the subject. It creates a distance.
And here is an example of a small breakthrough, of which I have had many. Last week, I filled my car with gas, and I paid for a car wash at the pump. When I finished filling the last tank, I waited for the receipt that I needed to drive through the station’s car wash. That receipt, however, did not appear.
My mind decided that this was a crime against humanity: “If you want people to pay at the pump, why wouldn’t you keep paper in the machines?” It continued, “Why do I have to walk in and get the receipt?” I had decided to be frustrated.
Just then, I noticed that I had decided to cause my own suffering, and I stopped. I thought “Why wear a watch that counts your steps and then not take those steps?” I guessed it was 21 steps into the station, and 21 back, which made it ridiculous that I would choose to be frustrated over something so small and meaningless. I walked in, politely asked the clerk for the receipt for pump 14, and walked back to my car. That took all of a minute and half, if that.
The voice in your head is the primary cause of your suffering, even if you describe the emotional state as stress, anger, frustration, or some other derivation, it is really you suffering. Maybe your voice tells you not to make the call, that you are only going to be rejected, in which case you already feeling something, even though nothing has actually happened to you. Or perhaps you tell yourself that the fact that your operations team is struggling and that you have to deal with the problems they create makes you angry and upset. Whatever is going on upstairs, a highly charged emotional state isn’t likely to help you produce better results. In fact, it is more likely it makes you less effective.
Here’s the rub: You don’t have to make things worse in your mind than they really are, and not doing so can make you far more effective in dealing with the issues, problems, and challenges of your daily life. You can minimize the stress you create for yourself, and you are most certainly its creator.
How are you causing stress and suffering in your own mind?
Comment to send me your thoughts, ideas, and stories. Hit forward to send this newsletter to someone you know who could benefit from a little perspective on what they are conjuring up in their mind. Ask them to join us here each Sunday by signing up at www.thesalesblog.com/newsletter.
Do good work this week, and I’ll see you back here next week!
P.S. Thanks so much for all the support with The Lost Art of Closing. We’ve had a killer first couple of weeks. If you haven’t checked it out because you have some preconceived notion of what’s in the book, please read this review.