For years, I heard people I respect admire talk about the power of meditation. Occasionally, I would try it out, but it never stuck. I wasn’t very good at blocking out my thoughts. And the idea of achieving inner peace seemed a bit “woo-woo” to me.
Then, I had the opportunity to attend a Dallas Conscious Capitalism workshop on leadership led by Dr. Daniel Friedland, author of Leading Well from Within. Danny explained that meditation is about the ability to notice and choose. We practice “paying attention to our attention” and focusing on what is most important now. Meditation is not the end. Rather, it provides an opportunity to practice being present during real life.
Okay. That’s much more interesting.
During a mindfulness meditation, we focus on our breathing. The goal is not to block out our thoughts, but simply to notice when our mind wanders and bring our attention back to our breath. A great meditation is not about feeling relaxed or having a clear mind. Instead, the best meditation may occur in an internally or externally noisy environment where our attention continually drifts and we simply choose again and again to focus on our breath or what is most important now.
One technique Danny shares is “name it to tame it.” When we have a thought, simply say (aloud or silently), “thought.” Watch it pass through our mind and disappear. If that thought stirs anger or sadness, simply say “anger” or “sadness.” If we notice an ache in our shoulder, simply say, “ache.” Each time we have a thought, feeling or sensation, we name it and then calmly bring our attention back to our breath.
The payoff comes in real life when we notice our mind wandering – perhaps during a meeting or at home hanging out with our spouse, kids, or friends. We simply acknowledge that thought and bring our attention back into the present moment.
The ability to notice what we are thinking or feeling also allows us to choose how we show up. We humans are emotional creatures, but we are not our thoughts and emotions. We have the ability to observe how we are feeling and then choose to be positive or proactive.
When someone make us angry: “You made me feel this…” or, “You made me do this…” – we can realize our consent is required to feel this way. Instead, we can be intentional about our attitude and our mood.
This “superpower” of paying attention to our attention and choosing how to respond is available to us at any time.
Reflection: How present am I in my life? How would I rate my ability to “be here now?”
Action: Notice my mind wandering today and gently bring my attention back into the moment.