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It’s like flossing our teeth–we know it can do a lot for our health, but it’s just one more thing to do.
But what if it wasn’t just a health issue? What if that one more thing could help your startup?
More and more, smart entrepreneurs are taking time out from their busy days to practice the art of mindfulness through meditation. Building a new startup requires constant motivation, extreme focus, and the ability to see things as they really are, not as we emotionally perceive them to be. None of these are easy to accomplish when you’re overwhelmed by the demands and stress that compile when launching a new business.
For those of use who may still be skeptical about the new-agey, incense-filled notion that surrounds meditation, consider some of its more famous practitioners. Steve Jobs used “Zen mindfulness meditation” to enhance creativity. Hip-hop producer cum business magnate, Russell Simmons, is a devotee of Transcendental Meditation. Media mogul Arianna Huffington is such a believer that she started an entire course around it.
With such heavy hitters espousing the benefits of the quiet mind, it’s no surprise that companies like Ford, General Mills and Target also teach their employees mindfulness. Neuroscientists have researched the effects of mediation on the brain and found that subjects who had practiced five years or more of meditation had more “gray matter” in the hippocampus, an area crucial to memory and learning. It’s possible that the practice helps the brain generate new neurons more quickly–which means mediation may help your brain get bigger.
All of this sounds great, but the art of mediation is not as simple as sitting cross-legged in your bedroom humming “om” for a few minutes. It takes practice and patience. Here’s how to start incorporating meditation into your own routine.
Get Comfy: You don’t need to contort yourself into a yoga pretzel to get the benefits of a peaceful mind. It’s all about finding a position and a place that will allow you to be calm. Turn off the cell phone and television. Your surroundings should be as distraction-free as possible.
Breathe: Close your eyes and breathe deep, concentrating on the “shape” of your breath. Inhale through your nose and exhale through the mouth. How does it feel? (Hint: it feels awesome.)
Shut Out Brain Chatter: Your mind is not going to magically realize, “hey, we’re meditating here!” and switch into immediate transcendental mode. Distracting thoughts will be buzzing around in your head, and that’s just fine. When your brain shouts, “OMG, I still have to finish that blog post by this afternoon,” don’t scold yourself. Acknowledge the thought–“Yes, thank you brain. Got it”–and return to concentrating on your breathing.
And don’t be freaked out if these distractions happen every three seconds. You’re not a meditation-failure because your mind is racing. This is normal. In fact, in the beginning the majority of your meditation may very well be simply trying to calm one thought after another in rapid-fire succession.
Try a Mantra: Some people find repeating a sound, word or phrase is helpful to them (thus the “om” that’s so associated with meditation). You can choose your mantra yourself; anything that you find inspiring or calming will do just fine. Just be sure it’s not reinforcing negative thoughts: “I must clear my mind or else….. I must clear my mind or else…” is not going to be a very helpful mantra.
Start with Short Sessions: Three to five minutes is a great place to start. Don’t think that you can hop right into an hour-long session and get a head start to nirvana. This is about quality time, not quantity.
Do it Regularly: Whether it’s first thing in the morning, during a lunch break or the last thing you do before going to bed, remember to meditate for a few minutes every day. After a while it will become part of your regular routine and you can begin to lengthen your sessions.
Don’t be discouraged. There’s no magic position or incensed candle that is going to clear your mind of all thoughts. Only practice can make your sessions more meaningful.
And of course–there’s an app for that. Apps like Headspace, The Mindfulness App, Take A Break! and Smiling Mind are all free or free-to-try apps that will walk you through your meditation. Similarly, some people have the best luck joining a meditation group or taking a class.
There’s no formula for perfect meditation. It’s about finding the way that works for you and sticking with it.