A few years ago, I was a highly paid professional who was, from all external appearances, successful. I’d gone to great schools, gotten a job in a good law firm, and a house in the right suburb.
On the outside, I was smiling. But on the inside, I was stressed and miserable.
There was just too much to do. It was endless. Nonstop. And I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t see how the path I was on could lead to anything more than more stress, and more misery.
And that’s when I discovered a tool that revolutionized my life.
This tool helped me to slow down, but get more done. It helped me make some big changes in my life.
That’s actually not quite accurate. When I started using this tool, the changes started happening by themselves.
There was no conscious effort to change on my part.
And yet, over the next few years, I left my law career for another, became more professional and financially successful, and met and married the woman of my dreams.
That makes it sound easy. And in a sense it was. But every life has its ups and downs. And this tool made (and continues to make) dealing with those ups and downs a lot easier, too.
Here’s a few other things that are different about my life today versus when I started using this incredible tool.
- I no longer have panic attacks.
- I sleep more soundly.
- I eat better. (No more steak dinners, and a lot more vegetables!)
- I drink much less. (Ask any lawyer—it’s an occupational hazard.)
- I’ve dropped my coffee for herbal tea.
- I weigh 15 pounds less.
- I run and practice yoga.
- I’m more creative and productive.
- I write regularly, consult, and coach, on top of a successful career in the health care industry.
- I help people to find and live their passions instead of wondering what mine are.
So what is this tool that’s given me all these great results?
Well, it’s something that is thousands of years old. You’ve heard of it. I can teach you how to use it in a few minutes.
Very few people use this tool daily.
But the research shows that those who do are healthier, happier, and live longer. They have lower blood pressure and stronger immune systems. They live with less stress and less fear.
Using this tool actually changes the structure of their brains.
And it’s free.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m talking about meditation.
If you’re like most people, even if you’re interested in meditation, even if you’ve read books on meditation, even if you’ve gone to a meditation retreat once or twice, you don’t meditate daily.
And all those changes that I mentioned, the ones that, for me, seem to emerge almost effortlessly, probably won’t happen unless you sit regularly.
But you probably think you’re too busy to meditate.
And I’d say you’re too busy not to.
I once read a story about the Dalai Lama in which he was asked about meditation. He said he meditates for two hours a day, unless he is busy. If he has a busy day coming up, he meditates three hours.
Surely you can fit in a few minutes?
I teach a workshop called “Meditation for Busy People” where I show people how to start a real meditation practice in one minute a day.
That’s right. Just find one minute. The same minute every day. Maybe it’s the minute you get to work. Or the minute before you leave the office. Or the minute after lunch or after you get your (decaf, please) coffee.
Get comfortable in your chair. Set a timer. And sit with your eyes closed for one minute.
If you notice how many breaths you take in a minute, you can do this anywhere. You might find a minute to meditate in line at the store, or on the train. Even in the restroom.
One participant was so enthused she came to the workshop a second time with five friends.
Of course, she’s a bit of an overachiever. She meditates for five minutes a day.
Whether you take one minute, or five, or ten, if you do this regularly, you will find a space beginning to open up in your life.
All those things that seemed to be happening at once will slow down a bit.
Some of those things may begin to seem less important.
And you’ll find with practice, you can create this space whenever you need it.
But maybe you’ve tried meditation. And maybe you don’t think you’re any good at it.
I hear this from a lot of people. I think they mean they can’t stop their minds from thinking.
I can’t either. And I’ve been meditating for quite a few years now.
But meditation isn’t about stopping your thoughts. It’s about becoming more friendly with them. Seeing them for what they are. Just thoughts. Just options. That may or may not be true.
Like anything, you’ll get better at meditation with practice. And like any true practice, meditation continues to reward you your entire life.
I’m amazed at the changes that I have seen from starting a meditation practice. I meditate more than five minutes a day now, but I didn’t start with much more than five minutes. You don’t have to either. Even with a little time each day, you’ll begin to see changes very quickly. As you continue, the changes become more profound.
At the beginning, though, you don’t need to worry about any of this. In fact, it can be counterproductive to look for results at first. Instead, just trust the process. The most important thing, by far, is to do something every day. Even if it’s a minute. Even if it’s one mindful breath. You can start from wherever you are, right now. And watch it grow from there.
Meditation has been the most transforming thing I’ve ever done. And I hope your journey is just as rewarding as mine has been.
Photo by W J (Bill) Harrison