20 minutes.

Is what it takes me a day to reset my thoughts.

Is what it takes me to regain control of my narrative.

Is what it takes me to calm myself and find peace within.

10 minutes in the morning. 10 minutes at night.

20 minutes total. Every day.

That’s my mediation practice and it really has changed my life.

I have been meditating for a while now and it’s become the core practice for me to rid myself of the the stress that has plagued me most of my adult life. I wasn’t always this way though — choking on stress, nerves and anxiety.

I can remember as a kid I was the classic lazy, unmotivated type. Never tried hard in school. Got really bad grades. Was a dreamer. Free spirit. My home life was pretty messed up so I learned to bury the things that scared me way down deep inside and just kinda not give a crap.

Something changed though when I was in my early twenties. I was a college drop out –just couldn’t seem to either get motivated or successful at learning in a classroom. So I just quit. I had no clue where I was headed or what I was gonna do. But I started working and something just clicked. While I didn’t necessarily have the greatest skills, I saw that I would just outwork everyone around me. And that became something I could attach to and feel better about myself as a result.

And it worked. And I worked — my ass off for a long, long time becoming a “successful” entrepreneur. But I also developed bad emotional and psychological habits along the way…the inability to shut off, the constant brain in motion, the never-ending sense of paranoia that it would all come to an end at any second, etc…I literally just could never relax. My mind, my stomach and my anxiety was churning 24/7.

After twenty years or so of this constant stress and relentless focus, I was a mess inside. So stressed I couldn’t sleep. So wired I couldn’t relax. So consumed that I never had a minute of downtime.

As I have described in this blog, I went searching a few years ago for answers, and changes. I left the company I built to be more present with my family. I decided to start a new company that would allow me to work from home and slow down my pace. I made many other lifestyle changes and guess what? They didn’t really change much.

I finally realized it was my thoughts that were stressing me, not my environment. The physical was merely the window dressing. The spiritual was the thing inside that controlled everything.

So I began devoting time every day to reading and spiritual discovery. I started practicing Buddhism and Mindfulness. And, just as important as anything, I started meditating.

For me, meditation has become the cornerstone of my finding an inner calm, and the tool to reset my brain when it starts to race. It teaches me how to get control of my own internal narrative. It helps me focus on my breathing.

My routine is the same every morning and night.

Early rise, 2-3 minutes of gratitude and silent prayer, followed by my ten minutes of mediation. In the past, as soon as my eyes opened, a rush of thoughts, reminders, to-do’s and worries would enter my mind. They still do. But now, I have a tool to help them gently go on their way.

And it’s how I finish my day as well.

What I have learned about meditation is is that it’s not just the time you meditate that helps you refocus your thoughts and arrive at some sort of  a zen place, it works for the entire day. It gives you a focus and tool to fall back on when you do lose control of your thoughts throughout the day. And inevitably, that happens. Alot.

For instance, I might be in a situation where I feel my heart racing or I sense a negative thought coming — I then simply refer back to my meditation practice which has taught me how to acknowledge those thoughts but not to act on them. To see them and then brush them aside.

There are so many amazing meditation apps to get started and I think they are wonderful for all sorts of practitioners. I don’t personally use them because for me at least, the silence and the focus on letting my thoughts pass through me is the actual focus I need. The discipline in fighting the battle to let my thoughts go is just as important as actually having no thoughts at all.

When I do seek a bit of guidance though I love Sam Harris’s Guided Ten Minute Meditation, it’s really a great one to get started meditating.

Charlie Ambler who writes The Daily Zen is someone who has had a really big impact on my mediation practice. Here is a wonderful blog he has written on the subject. I really hope you will read it. Another great read on meditation from The Daily Zen is this entry served up from the great zen philosopher Alan Watts on meditation.

The things I love about meditation is that it doesn’t cost any money, there is no fancy things to purchase, you can do it anywhere, and it’s something you can do whether you are  my daughter’s age (9) or mine (52). All ages. All walks of life.

It’s helped me to know myself better. It’s helped me to understand the thoughts I am obsessing about. It’s helped me center myself. And just about the most important part of my own practice is that I start my day and end my day with the right mental framework.

And I can actually tell when I haven’t meditated for a few days — I just feel off (and my wife will remind me of this of course:).

In the past, I would do what most people do to alleviate stress. I would go for a run perhaps. I would work towards a vacation where I could give myself permission to stop worrying for a week. I would try and distract my mind with other activities. And by the way, none of this ever worked!

Now I simply meditate.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about meditation:

I sincerely hope that you will consider meditating for stress relief, your health and for a truly amazing way to get control of your thoughts and, as a result, of your life.

Namaste,

Mike

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