Mindset and Meditation
How They Work Together
My business coach, Dean Holland, posted on Facebook the other day about his difficulties practicing meditation. I found this fascinating, because his post illustrated the level of inner chaos he has while outwardly he is highly successful and organized. Until then, I just assumed people who had become as successful as him had already managed to quiet that inner noise, how else do you develop the right mindset to succeed if you don’t?
As a coach, I understand the importance of mindset – a growth mindset, a goal oriented mindset, a healthy mindset. Almost everything my clients accomplish comes down to changing their mindset in someway, doing the inner work first allows you to get the outer work done that changes your reality. As I’ve gone through my journey I’ve found meditation to be critical in my life for so many things that it would take a whole post on its own to list them. There’s lots of research about the benefits of meditation already, so feel free to seek that out yourself if you need convincing.
For myself, I’ve developed my own approach to meditation that helps me maintain the right mindset to face challenges, remain calm and focus on achieving my goals. That’s what I want to share with you now.
First, you must understand what meditation really is. Its not quieting your mind, its not eliminating all thoughts. Mediation is best described by two words – Focus and Awareness.
The goal of mediation is focus – choosing what you think about or focus your attention on. Most people begin mediating by focusing on their breathing, but it can be anything. You can focus on the sounds around you, or an object, or a mantra or affirmation. I find certain kinds of manual tasks meditative because I focus my attention on the task itself. The main thing is that the thing upon which you focus should not be complex or difficult, it should be relatively simple and repetitive.
Eventually, your mind will wander and you’ll realize you’re not focused on the thing you chose to focus on. This noticing is awareness. You become aware of your thoughts and that they change. When that happens, you simply return to you chosen object of focus and continue.
Its important not to judge your thoughts or yourself for straying off topic. Simply notice that you did and return.
The subconscious mind does not understand negatives. If you think to yourself, “I’m not supposed to think about that right now,” your subconscious hears “I’m supposed to think about that right now,” and continues to think about it. If, on the other hand, you give yourself a positive instruction, “I am focus on my breathing right now,” you’ll find it easier to regain your focus.
In a nutshell, that’s meditation. With practice, you ability to maintain focus for longer periods of time grows and that translates into your daily life. You awareness of your mind and body also grows, and that’s a skill that can translate into all kinds of useful things, but that’s a topic for another time.
One of the key side-effects for mindset that comes from learning this basic mediation is awareness of your inner critic and the ability to redirect your focus away from those negative inner thoughts. There are a lot of techniques to coping with your inner critic and I employ many of them personally and teach them to my clients, but I’ve found the meditation is by far the most effective long term.
Coping with your inner critic is critical to developing the healthiest and most productive mindsets, which is the first way in which mediation can be tied to mindset. The less you hear that inner voice telling you all the ways you will fail, or all the reasons you’re unworthy of success, the easier it is to succeed in anything.
Goals and Visualization
The first step in achieving anything is having a clear goal. Goals setting is key to success in any area of life. Again, a whole post can be devoted to the process of developing laser focused and clear goals, but for now I’ll assume you have some very clearly defined ideas of what you want to achieve.
Since mediation is the practice of focusing on that which you choose, you can choose to focus on your goals. If you have a very clear outcome in mind, you can spend your time meditating by focusing on that. Visualize your outcomes, fill in the details with all five senses. Increase the vividness of the sensations with each pass. When you reach the end, start over until your meditation time is up.
Strong visualization causes your brain to change how it filters all the sensory data coming in. It constantly works to make your reality align with your subconscious, and visualizations enter your subconscious. Repeatedly visualizing your outcomes during your daily meditation programs your subconscious mind and thus your brain will work automatically to make that a reality.
And the great part is, while your doing that, you’re also getting all the other incredible mental and physical health benefits of meditation – many birds, one stone!
Mantras and Affirmations
Another time tested strategy for success is affirmations, the oldest self-help and success gurus all recommend them and they are backed up by research. But if you’re only saying your affirmations once a day, like in the mirror first thing in the morning, it can take a long time -weeks or months – for them to sink in. But who has time to repeat them over and over and over every day? You do when you meditate.
Monks have meditated on Mantras in various forms for thousands of years. Your affirmations can be your mantras. Instead of focusing on your breathing, you focus on repeating a chosen affirmation for your entire mediation session.
“I am entitled to wealth and success. I am entitled to wealth and success. I am entitled to wealth and success. I am entitled to wealth and success…”
I have found this one especially powerful, and here’s why:
As you continue to increase your awareness of your thoughts, you will notice patterns of thought and repeated phrases coming from your inner critic. When you do, you can formulate a positive mantra to counter those negative thoughts, then meditate on that mantra. Often when I do this, I find my inner critic rebutting my mantra, telling me how its wrong, its silly, its a lie, all the ways I have failed to succeed in the past, etc. But, as I simply redirect my focus back to the mantra, eventually that inner critic runs out of arguments and gives up. At that point I’ve silenced it by replacing the old subconscious thought with a new empowering one.
Again, the practice of mediation helps you both find a problem area in your thinking and beliefs, and provides a solution to it – all while improving your mental and physical health.
“Meditate 10 minutes a day, unless you are too busy, then meditate 1 hour a day.”
I find for myself and my clients that 20 minutes a day is a good time to meditate. At first, if may seem like a very long time, but with practice you will find it goes by very quickly. I recommend committing yourself to 30 consecutive days of 20 minutes a day of mediation. If after that you aren’t convinced of the benefits, then you will know you gave it a good effort and maybe its not for your right now.
Mediation is like exercise in that it takes a little time to show results. Its also a skill, so it takes regular practice to get good at it. But it is not difficult and it is easily attainable for anyone. You don’t need to spend hours a day at it like the Dalai Lama to get the benefits of it.
Lastly, there is no specific position or pose you must be in to meditate, as long as your are comfortable. Just sitting in a chair with good back support, with your hand in your lap is good enough. I usually mediate laying down, often in a hammock. I do recommend avoiding laying down for beginners, though. Mediation is not sleep, and when you’re good at it, you’ll be surprised at how awake and aware you are in spite of appearing to be asleep and unmoving. However, in the beginning, as you relax, many people tend to doze off. Being seated in an upright position will help avoid this until you are past that point.
Have you tried meditation in the past and given up? If so, why? Or if you have your own style of mediation that works for you, share it!
If you’d like some personal guidance getting started on your mediation journey, you can contact me through my website, Revel Craft Life Coaching.
I also did an episode of my podcast, Slap The Basil about mediation you might find interesting, check it out.