One of the best things you can do for your career, your personal and professional development, is to do nothing. Yes, that’s right, nothing. For at least 15 minutes a day. Maybe even 30. Stop, let the brain recharge, regroup, tidy up the clutter etc.
So the other day, engaging with my support network over a coffee, I was chatting away about how busy I was, how much action there was, when my coach said to me in an almost accusatory manner, “Can you sit still? Like on the train, when you’re travelling. Can you just sit still and do nothing?”
“Of course I can,” I replied defensively. I paused. “I don’t,” I admitted reluctantly. “Why would I – it’s a waste of good time. I read and research for my articles.”
The fact is I did. I did used to sit still. I had a one hour train trip morning and night. I could sit on the train with my eyes closed for more than 40 minutes of that trip without opening them. There could have been a mugging, 2 hip-hop dancers with a ghetto blaster and 4 ballerinas passing by doing the dance of the cygnets, Act 2 of Swan Lake, and I could sit unmoved, eyes closed, good posture. Wait for it…
I used to meditate
Ok, a heap of you just turned off. Here we go, touchy feely mumbo jumbo, no place in the corporate world for this soft stuff. Meditation shmeditation. Isn’t that just for hippies who have too much time on their hands, or on their butt with their legs in the lotus position.
Well, I have been meditating on and off for 20 years. I could never be accused of being a purist, so don’t think you’re about to get the ethereal Himalaya experience here. You’re not. In fact, meditation for me has been a bit like dieting. It’s always there in the background, nagging at me. “When is it my turn to become your current fad?” pleads the meditation monkey on my back. But I have done lots of meditating over the years.
Meditation Guru in a week – too easy
I agree it’s not for everyone. Twenty years ago I wanted to learn how to meditate properly. I could shut my eyes, but not my mind. In fact my mind typically went into overdrive. So as I do now, I shot out and bought a book as a matter of urgency and read cover to cover what I needed to know to become a guru. I gave myself a good week, painfully long time, but I had to give it a fair go.
Meditation Guru in a month – ok, this is taking too long
After a week it was clear that mastery might take a month, but I didn’t have the patience for that so I signed up for a course. Ten weeks with other likeminded souls (perhaps a little more relaxed and patient than me), all in a circle being guided every inch of the incense-drenched uncomfortable way. So in a circle we were guided in our various meditative states through fields and houses, down staircases, into clouds and so on. I still desperately wanted the real experience , but it wasn’t working for me. When we reviewed our feelings and visions, some people had been on a slow boat to China, some on camels in the desert and some had been visiting departed relatives. But me, all I had was a flash of violet for a split second, nothing mystical, most likely a result of looking too closely at a light bulb before closing my eyes. How embarrassing when it’s your turn to announce your spiritual travels with awesomeness, “Well I saw nothing and went nowhere, but regardless it was good for me, thanks.”
By now you’re thinking, this bloke is not a meditation fan at all, what’s this all about. Not so. Not at all. I am a big fan. And I have never discounted the fact that the effects impact people and present themselves in many different ways. I remained committed to the benefits I knew I would get eventually, and in fact I did.
Get completely wired for relaxation
Now as an embracer of technology and being incredibly impatient, I was overjoyed when I found that there was a technological alternative. Yikes!! I discovered that there were companies pioneering brainwave entrainment. Not only did this sound very sophisticated, but had to be easier if you could get a machine to do all the work – that’s how everything else goes.
What is brain wave entrainment? Someone else can explain, ey?
“Brainwave entrainment is any practice that aims to cause brainwave frequencies to fall into step with a periodic stimulus having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state (for example, to induce sleep), usually attempted with the use of specialized software. It purportedly depends upon a “frequency following” response on the assumption that the human brain has a tendency to change its dominant EEG frequency towards the frequency of a dominant external stimulus…
Hemispheric synchronization, a potential and generally desired result of brainwave entrainment, refers to a state when the brainwave pattern of the right and left hemispheres become alike. A person with similar activity in both hemispheres is alleged (typically by companies trying to sell a product) to be happier, more optimistic, more emotionally stable and less prone to mental illness. Increased levels of synchronization are found naturally in people who meditate regularly and people who are very content with their lives in general.” Wikipedia
Wow, you get that?
For the layman, it’s technology that effects the brainwaves, causing them to move into different wave states such as Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta.
So when a person is really effectively meditating, their brain is more likely to be in a Theta state, and when you’re out cold, you’re going to be in a Delta state. Can you imagine my excitement when I realised I could put on a set of stereo headphones, lie down on my bed (yes, lie down, you don’t have to sit up, and dislocate your hips when you cross your legs), close my eyes and disappear into a state of meditative bliss?
Let’s go shopping
I did what every sensible Google-ister does and I researched for as long as I could, until I could stand it no longer (at least an hour) and I committed my credit card to a hefty sum purchasing specially formulated CDs from overseas. They arrived a week or two later in a box big enough for two pairs of shoes, which added to the excitement.
Now here’s what you need to know. This process actually works for me. Like everything you do, if you think you’re guaranteed results the first time you put the ear phones on, then think again. It takes a couple of goes, but not too many. The CDs are designed to slowly take you into the desired brainwave frequency and slowly bring you back over 30 or 40mins (they all vary in duration from 20 to 50mins). In order for you to get maximum results then you need to sit or lie somewhere quietly (I lie on my bed) and close the door and your eyes. What I find amazing is I disappear (it feels like sleep) and I reappear, awakening automatically as a result of the track I am listening to, and I am refreshed. It’s not at all like when you have a mid-afternoon snooze and wake up forty minutes later feeling considerably worse than when you went to sleep and wonder desperately why you didn’t just wait until bed time.
Well, I couldn’t face taking out a second mortgage to buy more meditation CDs. That would be a terrible cycle, buying CDs to cure the mortgage pain, mortgaging the house, creating more pain that required more CDs and so on and on. After much searching around, a few years ago I discovered BrainSync – Kelly Howell, a very sensibly priced option. This is a wonderful resource for the lazy meditator like me, but also provides options not just for relaxation meditation, but for high focus, exercise, dieting, goal setting, and much more. I have been using BrainSync MP3s ever since.
It really is acceptable to cheat
Now if you’re sitting there, sipping on your lemongrass and ginger tea, Tsk Tsk-ing me for taking the magic out of meditation, then I can’t help you. But if you want to try and bring this amazing practice into your busy and stressful life and you struggle for time and patience then I recommend you give this a go.
The following is a very simple explanation of the state of mind in the various brainwave states. There are audios that can be used to induce any of these states. Obviously you should always read and understand the potential impacts of using any of these audio tracks.
Gamma – for inspiration, higher learning and focus
Beta – for alertness, concentration and cognition
Alpha – for relaxation, visualisation and creativity
Theta – for meditation, intuition and memory
Delta – for healing, sleep and detached awareness
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Many thanks to my nephew James Westmore for his wonderful artwork and to Rosie Broadfoot for her continued enthusiasm for editing my posts.