The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Meditation - What Every Entrepreneur Can Gain From This Practice
“You should meditate every day for 15 minutes. But if you’re too busy, you should meditate for an hour.” — Old Zen saying
“Sh*t hit the fan” was not an uncommon phrase when I stepped into the world of business. In fact, I can use this phrase to date, every day, though in varying degrees.
The point is, business as usual is stressful. For entrepreneurs who handle all the responsibilities on their shoulders, stress is just the name of the game. Often, many ambitious ones say that stress is helpful — that it helps them achieve their goals, push their limits and stay on their toes.
I don’t want to rain on your parade here, but that’s just not true. People say an entrepreneur is one who jumps off a cliff and builds an airplane on his way down. Well, if you keep stressing about the fact that you’re falling, you’ll never be able to build anything in the first place.
That may be a weird top-of-the-head analogy. But you get the point. As an entrepreneur, your life is often riddled with stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep. While a never-ending, fast-paced environment is often what leads an entrepreneur to success, over time, it can cause you to burn out.
As entrepreneurs, we need to be, as Yogananda said, “calmly active and actively calm.” The meaning is twofold. First, you need to work on your calmness using activities like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, walk, exercise, etc. Then you need to bring that sense of calmness into your daily life.
Calmness is the ultimate virtue and weapon of the ambitious entrepreneur. When everyone around you is on their nerve, you can use your dynamic calmness to figure out a solution to just about any problem.
Now that we’ve established that, let’s see how you can use mindfulness and meditation in your life to be an effective entrepreneur.
Meditation and Mindfulness: A Quick Primer
Contrary to what you might read on the Internet, meditation and mindfulness are different things. And for the busy entrepreneur, this distinction is absolutely important to grasp.
There are hundreds of different definitions of meditation which all basically say the same thing — meditation gives you awareness deeper than what you experience otherwise.
It is a state of intense awareness achieved by stilling and concentrating the thoughts. In a way, this process is very natural because you don’t need to learn to meditate.
Instead, you only need to unlearn all the habits and attitudes that keep us from going into the core of our own being and experience higher reality — realities that are beyond the perception of our sense which can only perceive matter.
Mindfulness is different from meditation. Let’s break it down.
“Mind” and “ful” mean that your mind is fully absorbed into whatever you’re doing. In other words, it’s our ability to fully be present and aware of what’s in front of us. Compare that to the distracted, half-focused, multitasking state that we live in today.
Being mindful means letting go of all judgments, fears, emotions, and thoughts about the past of the future.
People often use mindfulness and meditation interchangeably when they actually mean different things. As the definition says, mindfulness refers to the ability to be present whereas meditation is a practice. That’s the basic difference.
That said, you can also practice mindfulness without using meditation. Other ways to train your ability to be present include mindful eating, yoga, mindful walking, i.e. anything and everything done with an intense awareness that you otherwise do haphazardly or automatically.
Anyway, now that we’ve covered that, let’s see how it can improve your life as an entrepreneur.
Staying Mindful in the Midst of Chaos
The temptation to be restless and get carried away with the plethora of opportunities is strong. All of this drives us away from our center. And when we’re “off-center” we can’t focus on anything.
“Mindfulness is one way that many entrepreneurs choose to combat the toll wrought by round-the-clock emails, long working hours, and other aspects of our accelerated business culture,” says Richard Branson.
The founders of the startup I work with love to tell one story. And it’s the story of the time when nothing was going right. But more importantly, the founders themselves weren’t happy to come to work. Imagine a company where the founders don’t like to work!
When they asked themselves why they felt that way, they realized that they were too focused on their goals and the fact that they were not hitting them. They forgot that happiness is in the present moment — it’s in working with people you like. And when you’re happy, your goals take care of themselves.
Engaging with the present moment reminds us that life is happening now. We may have big goals, but if we’re constantly looking ahead or dwelling in the past, we miss out on the rich experiences available at this very moment.
Again, happiness is only in the present moment. Everything else is just an illusion.
The Hustle Is Costly
I’ve yet to meet an entrepreneur who’s succeeding at some level but isn’t tired or exhausted. We need to change this. Yes, we agree with Elon Musk that “Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week” (Although I can’t say that for other things he tweets!). Achievement takes a lot of work and devotion to the craft.
But pursuing productivity for its own sake is self-defeating. It’s only a part of life. And when we realize that through meditation, we can have a much healthier relationship with our work.
Gary Keller said it right:
“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls — family, health, friends, integrity — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”
At the cost of working every minute, we fail to savor what’s happening around us. Soon, you find yourself answering emails while playing with your child and thinking about the board meeting on a date with your partner.
All this stress that you go through can be alleviated with a little mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness activities have shown to:
I can make the list laughably long if I want to. But that’s beside the point. We all know about the benefits of meditation. The challenge is doing it.
Because meditation is just one of those things that people say they do, but very few actually do it. When I think about implementing meditation into someone’s life, I like to focus on two aspects:
Formal meditation, and
Bringing mindfulness to daily life
Let’s see how both of those play out
The Practice of Meditation
You don’t need to attend hours of classes or overhaul your lifestyle to practice mindfulness. Instead, you can get started with just 10 minutes a day — or even less.
Spending a few minutes to center your mind and let go of distracting thoughts can help you achieve the numerous benefits. If you’re consistent with it, you’ll gradually be able to meditate for longer and see even more advantages.
When you’re starting out, remember only one mantra — “Something is better than nothing.” Even five minutes is better than skipping it altogether. (And if you don’t have five minutes, then do you really have a life?)
To meditate daily, you have to make it a priority. There’s no way around it. Do it first thing in the morning and you’ll be set to building a solid habit.
To get started, here’s a meditation technique you can try. To make it even simpler for you to stick to your practice, here’s a step-by-step template that you can follow:
Source (Owned by the author)
Bringing Mindfulness to Your Daily Life
Just you cannot eat a carrot in the morning and have junk food all day to get good health, you can’t expect a 10-minute meditation to take care of the whole day.
You need to make conscious efforts to remain mindful at different points. That way, you stand a solid chance of making it a part of your life and amplify all the wonderful benefits.
Here are two ways to do that.
Often we believe that to experience stillness and mindfulness, we need to stop moving. And while that is true, stillness doesn’t always mean the cessation of movement.
You can move and be still at the same time. The stillness we’re after is deeper than your physical state. Walking meditation unlocks a different state of consciousness, especially after a sitting session.
Most of your time is spent rushing from place to place. We all are preoccupied with what is to be done next.
Researchers have found that most mind-wandering in our brains is related to the next 24-hour period. Hence, we’re not really experiencing every moment, rather thinking about how to live the next one.
Walking is perhaps one of the most automatic activities we perform. You don’t think about placing one step in front of the other or shifting your weight from the heels to the toes, every time you take a walk. It just happens.
So while doing a walking meditation, the goal is to reverse this cycle — from automaticity to awareness. This can increase our enjoyment of our own physical bodies, nature, and the surroundings in general — all the things we tend to miss out on when we live on autopilot.
From a larger perspective, it helps us be aware not only about where we place our feet but also our emotions, and actions — for the mindfulness you experience while walking percolate to other areas of your life as well.
A meta-analysis of 20 studies found that the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) which includes an 8-week training program including walking meditation, improves symptoms and psychological wellness of participants suffering from a variety of illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and depression.
Walking meditation is one of the easiest mindfulness exercises at our disposal. We all can take 10 minutes to get up from our desk and just walk. It will train you to love the simple pleasures of life that are absent from the chaotic lives of entrepreneurs.
Mindful eating similarly, is all about being fully aware of what you’re eating, your cravings, and other physical cues.
According to Healthline, some basic points to practice mindful eating include:
Eating slowly and without distraction
Listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until you’re full
Distinguishing between true hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors
Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food
Eating to maintain overall health and well-being
Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure
Appreciating your food
Mindful eating is not the average cookie-cutter diet. It also isn’t about weight loss (though it’s a nice side-benefit). The main purpose is to enjoy the experience of eating fully by paying attention to your emotions, taste, feelings, and much more.
I remember when I was a kid, it was a rule in my family to not talk while eating. It’s a common practice in India though alas, it’s a lost art. In any case, its more popular counterpart, ‘mindful eating’ is here to save face.
It doesn’t have to be this elaborate complex act either. Avoid watching TV or talking to people while eating. Feel your five senses and the emotion they’re experiencing. Are you elated while having the sandwich? Are you resisting the vegetables inside it?
Let every thought and emotion come to the surface. Don’t distract yourself. Be aware of your cravings and wants. Over time, this will help you calm down instantly and cultivate a better relationship with your food. (You can read the complete guide full of ideas [here](https://medium.com/the-ascent/mindful-eating-101-the-complete-beginners-guide-fc85ec8d5afe).)
Leading a mindful life is possible even for the busiest person on the planet. All you need is a little discipline and the right teaching. Soon enough, you too can flow through life effortlessly without losing your most prized possession — your inner peace. Just as the Bhagavad Gita says:
“Without peace how is happiness possible?”