Advertising
Advertising

The Top 10 Things I Learned Meditating for 35 Hours over One Week

The Top 10 Things I Learned Meditating for 35 Hours over One Week

I remember it vividly.

About four years ago I was at a tea shop reading a book on meditation, when a Buddhist monk walked in and sat across the room from me.

title.001

    As I read, I occasionally looked up at him, and saw that he was mindfully sipping on a cup of tea. He would slowly bring the cup to his mouth, smell the tea, then drink it slowly, savoring its taste, and slowly rest his arm back down again. He drank it so slowly that it took him about an hour to finish the small cup.

    I remember thinking, “What a complete waste of time.”

    After all, he could have gotten so much more done in that hour than just drinking tea. What if he picked up a book? What if he listened to a podcast or a few TED talks and learned something new? What if he invited one of his other monk friends to join him? He could have been so much more productive.

    Today, I think the exact opposite.

    Four years later – yesterday, in fact – I sat alone in my kitchen mindfully sipping a cup of tea. Like the monk, it took me about an hour, but I truly couldn’t imagine a better use of my time.

    Meditation and mindfulness look absolutely pointless on the surface, and that’s because on the surface, they are. The real magic of meditation happens on the inside. Meditation and mindfulness completely reprogram your mind. Both practices increase the blood flow to your brain, calm you down, and allow you to better handle stress. They also make your brain younger by increasing your brain’s grey matter, and help your mind defragment its thoughts. They’ve even been shown to boost your test scores. Not to mention that they make you feel freaking awesome.

    Advertising

    Over the past seven days, I meditated for a whopping 35 hours, and diving deep into the practice, I observed its myriad benefits first hand. Here are the top 10 things I learned about productivity meditating for 35 hours last week.

      907499_446330001

        10. If you don’t want to meditate, try integrating mindfulness into your daily life.

        Over the last seven days, I experimented with countless ways to integrate meditation and mindfulness into my daily life. I think a lot of people are put off by sitting meditation because on the surface it seems foreign and complicated (even though it isn’t – I wrote a great guide to getting started here). If you don’t want to practice sitting meditation, I think you can reap most of the benefits of meditation when you actively seek out ways to integrate mindfulness into your daily life. Last week I mindfully: shaved, showered, walked, snacked, drank tea, and a lot more. In a comment on one of my posts, Ellen Symons also mentioned a few other great activities to bring the practice to, like during yoga, a massage, and even mowing the lawn.

        Seeking  ways to integrate mindfulness into your daily life will allow you to receive the benefits of meditation, and will benefit you even more if you already meditate.

        9. You can do any task that doesn’t involve thinking, mindfully.

        When experimenting with different activities to bring mindfulness to, I found that some activities were easier to focus on than others. The main thing I discovered is that the less thinking an activity involves, the easier it is to be mindful of your actions. If you’re looking for activities to bring mindfulness to, start with the ones that don’t involve a lot of thinking, like cleaning or washing the dishes.

        8. Meditation makes you way better at playing pool.

        Or any other sport, for that matter. Pool is a game (sport?) that requires incredible concentration, patience, mindfulness, and focus. Most days I play a solo game of pool to mull over ideas and plan things for A Year of Productivity, and I was surprised to find myself sinking more shots than ever during this experiment.

        A lot of people consider sports to be 90% mental and 10% physical, and I’m confident that if you actively play sports, meditation will help you perform. It’s no surprise that athletes like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, and many others all have a meditation ritual.

        1134328_26652290

          7. Meditation clears your brain’s RAM.

          A computer’s RAM is like its short-term memory. By having a singular focus during meditation, you clear your mind of thought, which not only works out your ‘attention muscle,’ but also clears your brain’s RAM.

          This by itself is a good enough reason to practice meditation. Clearing your brain’s RAM reduces your stress and allows you to focus better throughout the day.

          Advertising

          6. Meditation lets you work smarter, instead of just harder.

          During the experiment, I made sure to work as much as I could so I had a way to measure how meditation affected my productivity.

          Interestingly, I found that meditation made it much easier for me to identify the highest leverage activities in both my work and personal lives, which made it possible for me to work smarter, instead of just harder.

          I think there are two ways to get more done: put in more time and effort, which is a crappy way to get more done, or identify the highest leverage activities so you can work smarter instead of just harder. Meditation lets you step back from the things you do so you can see the ‘whole forest’ instead of just the trees, and work smarter instead of harder.

          image.003
            image.002

              5. The bigger something is, the easier it is to put off.

              When I started the experiment, I made an effort to group my daily meditation time into one big chunk so I could tackle it all at once, but I frequently found myself procrastinating because I made such a big commitment to myself.

              When I broke down my meditation time down into a few smaller, easier-to-manage chunks, I procrastinated much less, and got a lot more done.

              Breaking other activities down into smaller, easier-to-digest chunks helps a ton with procrastination. If you’re studying, schedule time to just study one chapter instead of five. Similarly, the idea of cleaning up your basement may seem daunting (especially if it’s going to take you a day or two), but cleaning your basement for only 10 minutes is much more manageable. It’s a much smaller chunk of time, but you’ll actually do it. And, when you get started, you’ll likely want to keep going!

              4. You enjoy food twice as much when you eat it twice as slow.

              If you’re anything like me, when you eat something good, you want to eat it all right away, now! Fast! But that’s a bit backwards. When you really look at the amount of enjoyment you receive from eating something, you realize that you receive pretty much twice the enjoyment from eating it twice as slow.

              When I took the time to mindfully eat food during the experiment, that food was the tastiest food I’ve had in years, not only because I mindfully focused on the food’s flavor and texture, but also because I slowed down to actually enjoy and taste what I was eating.

              Advertising

              If you want to get more enjoyment out of your food, eat slower. Better yet, practice eating mindfully. The practice will also help you eat less because you won’t lose track of how much you eat, and because your mind has more time to register that it’s full.

              3. Meditation turns you into a more compassionate and patient person.

              When I was writing the first draft of this article, I was sitting next to my girlfriend and she added to the end of the title for this section, “and a better, more patient boyfriend!” Last week I found myself becoming more caring, patient, and compassionate as the week went on. I helped out with things I didn’t before, cleaned up when I didn’t have to, did favors for strangers just because I could, and found myself listening to the people around me much more attentively.

              Patience is a quality I work hard to cultivate in myself, especially when it comes to dealing with people. Meditating for 35 hours helped me become more considerate, compassionate, caring, and patient than I have been in a long time.

              1019649_25123638

                2. Never wish away time. You have a set amount of it, and you don’t get more.

                My mind travels to weird places when I meditate, and over the last week I thought a lot about time. As my mind revved down during each meditation session, with each passing meditation bell I could almost feel time ticking away. Last week I thought a lot about how little time I have.

                While there are a lot of ways to get more out of your time, there are a lot fewer ways to get more time. Meditating for 35 hours forced me to step back from my actions, and allowed my mind to process what the most important elements of my life are. If you’re looking to do the same, I couldn’t recommend meditation more.

                1. Your actions are your only true belongings.

                Every single action of yours falls into one of three buckets: actions you have already done, actions you’re doing now, and actions you’re going to do. The brain glitch that nearly everyone has is that they spend most of their time in either the past or the future; thinking about the stupid or great things they’ve done in the past, or thinking about the things they’re going to do.

                But here’s the thing: the past has already happened, and the future is just an idea of what you think things are going to be like (and if you’re anything like me, you’re wrong 75% of the time). The actions that you perform in any given moment shape your future, and create your past. The present is the only time that ever actually exists.

                There’s a Buddhist parable that says that your actions are your only true belongings, and that they’re the ground upon which you stand. I lived that parable last week, and can say now that I can’t think of a sentiment more true. Meditation trains you to focus on the present moment, and maybe even more importantly, teaches you that never have to (or can) deal with more than one moment at a time.

                A quick walk through the forest.

                Advertising

                911086_92912948

                  Imagine you’re walking through the picture above.

                  It’s a gorgeous autumn day; not too hot or cold, and there’s a light breeze ruffling the leaves as you walk by them. You get lost in how the branches are moving, how the day is so perfect and calm, and gaze up in awe about how beautiful your life is.

                  Now imagine that instead of walking along the trail, you’re driving down it. You pass the exact same trees – whooooosh – but they mean a lot less to you. There’s no depth to them. Sure, you might take a second and think about how nice they are, but even if you did, you definitely wouldn’t hear the wind rustling the leaves, or notice the Rainbow Lorikeet perched on one of the branches.

                  You might not even notice the trees at all.

                  ————

                  A lot of people have a go, go, go, faster, faster, faster view of their work. They want to do more, in less time, and get from point A to B as fast as possible. And a lot of the articles on this site are about just that.

                  But there’s also a flip side to productivity that brings meaning to how productive you are, and this is the side of productivity that I explored last week.

                  Productivity is completely meaningless if you don’t reflect on how it makes your life better and more meaningful. It might seem strange that sitting on your butt and doing almost nothing can make you more productive, but I personally can’t think of an activity that will bring as much perspective and meaning to your life as meditation. (Besides maybe being a parent, which I haven’t done yet. And hopefully won’t anytime soon!)

                  Meditation, unlike a fast drive through the picture above, is slow, calm, and deliberate. It brings meaning to what you do, helps you discover who you are, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best gifts you could give yourself.

                  If you don’t already practice meditation, I highly recommend it.

                  More by this author

                  The Top 10 Things I Learned about Productivity Living in Total Isolation for 10 Days The top 10 lessons I learned using my smartphone for only 60 minutes a day The Top 10 Things I Learned Meditating for 35 Hours over One Week 10 one-minute time hacks that will make you more productive You Can Easily Learn 100 TED Talks Lessons In 5 Minutes Which Most People Need 70 Hours For

                  Trending in Productivity

                  1 How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential 2 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity 3 How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck 4 How to Use Sticky Notes for More Productive Reading And Learning 5 How to Lead Team Meetings in the Most Productive Way

                  Read Next

                  Advertising
                  Advertising
                  Advertising

                  Last Updated on March 15, 2019

                  How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

                  How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

                  When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

                  Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

                  In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

                  What Makes a Leader Fail?

                  A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

                  If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

                  And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

                  What Is Effective Leadership?

                  Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

                  Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

                  Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

                  Advertising

                  “… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

                  How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

                  To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

                  1. Courage

                  The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

                  “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

                  Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

                  For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

                  In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

                  It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

                  Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

                  Advertising

                  2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

                  If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

                  The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

                  To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

                  3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

                  Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

                  Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

                  4. Likability

                  Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

                  When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

                  Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

                  So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

                  Advertising

                  5. Vulnerability

                  Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

                  When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

                  6. Authenticity

                  Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

                  Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

                  7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

                  Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

                  Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

                  Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

                  Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

                  As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

                  Advertising

                  “A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

                  8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

                  Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

                  This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

                  9. A Passion for Continual Learning

                  Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

                  These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

                  Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

                  The Bottom Line

                  No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

                  Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

                  More Resources About Effective Leadership

                  Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

                  Reference

                  [1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

                  Read Next