Meditation For Entrepreneurs
We can thank mobile technology for making us forget what it was like to live in a time where people actually couldn’t reach us. Where we could have an hour of peace, jogging through the park. Where we could spend an afternoon out in the garden under a favorite tree, reading a novel and shutting out the rest of the world. Now even our kids have mobiles, and if we’re not anxiously wondering why they didn’t check in right after school. Then we’re up a ladder, paint drying on the bedroom wall, trying to explain to our own mothers why we can’t talk just now or making half a dozen phone calls in between the gym and the car to make travel arrangements for next week’s live event.
To be an entrepreneur nowadays is to become an expert in living in a state of overwhelm and distraction. Except that we’re not really experts in living in overwhelm and distraction. There’s simply no way to shut off the noise and be still. Besides, on the rare occasions that you finally manage to do that, you quickly discover that the silence and the stillness drive you crazy. How can you stop your mind spinning and get mind and body back in harmony with your inner peace?
According to over-the-top entrepreneurs like nationally-acclaimed ABC news anchor Dan Harris, you do it with meditation. And mindfulness. Harris was forced to confront the need for strategies like meditation after suffering a “nationally televised panic attack” and was surprised to discover how necessary meditation was to his well-being.
Before we jump into our seven mindfulness and meditation wins, let’s take a moment to examine what these two Ms are – and aren’t.
According to the Google dictionary, mindfulness in its simplest form is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”. It also gives the definition popular in modern psychology, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”.
Boiled down to its simplest modern terms, mindfulness is learning to be present within and aware of the present moment, neither dwelling in the past or rushing along with one’s head in the future, unaware of one’s surroundings. Mindfulness used to be easier in the days when human beings were focused on survival – food, water, air, shelter, sex, and sleep. We could also add “work”. The farm laborer coming in from the fields had the satisfaction of knowing his day’s work was done. There was nothing beyond eating his dinner, going to bed and recovering from the day’s work. People have always had to work to physiologically survive.
But then along came that darn Maslow, with his whole hierarchy of needs, and all of a sudden, you’ve got these other layers for people to fight their way through after the physiological needs have been appeased. Maslow demonstrated his Hierarchy of Needs in pyramid format. At the bottom – the broadest level – are the survival (physiological) needs that we just mentioned. On top of that comes safety. Above that, we have love and belonging – social connection. On top of that, we find self-esteem and, finally, self-actualization.
Self-actualization is something that Maslow postulated was hard-wired into the human psyche: The need to fulfill one’s potential to its highest level. A need so overwhelming, we are miserable without it. Back in the days when mom stayed at home looking after the kids, and dad worked at a rope factory for pennies per hour, putting bread on the table and keeping a roof over the family’s head took every last bit of energy. There wasn’t much time or energy left over for dreams, and “potential” could be a dirty word. There was no time for self-actualization or thinking about oneself.
Nowadays, we have more leisure time and more money than ever before – and yet we spend all our time chasing the elusive bird of self-actualization, trying to be all things to our businesses, and live our passion with joy.
What happens? We spend hours on our mobiles, work eighteen-hour days and spend embarrassing sums of money on the next amazing course, which quickly disappears like the last one in the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” giant warehouses of our hard drives since we don’t have time to take these courses. All the time beating ourselves up for not achieving our full potential. We end up chasing self-actualization at the expense of esteem (and sometimes survival itself!)
Hold that thought. We’ll get back to it.
Effects of meditation
Meditation is a way of stilling the mind and quieting the relentless inner chatter. Its biggest medically-accredited benefit lies in the area of stress reduction, reducing the production of cortisol (a.k.a. “the stress hormone”) and lowering blood pressure. It has another physiological function that is not so well-known among laymen: Namely, by suppressing cortisol, it also suppresses cytokines, body chemicals responsible for inflammation.
If you have high levels of stress, physiological effects spill over into poor-quality sleep or insomnia, depression, fatigue, memory loss, confusion, and anxiety. So, as you can see, meditation is not about wind-chimes or pastel websites. It’s not about incense or visions. It’s a cold, hard, scientific fact. Meditation is good for you.
It’s good for everyone.
It’s especially good for stressed-out entrepreneurs like you and me. And if you ever want to achieve mindfulness, meditation can be a handy tool to help you slow everything down and still the chaos.
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