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Meditation as mind floss - make it a daily practise
03 June 2016
Before retraining as a counsellor, I spent 20 years in both corporate and business environments and if it wasn't for my foundation of meditation, quite frankly I don't know how I would’ve survived.
It truly surprises me that we all don't go more cuckoo around work. With searing deadlines, financial pressures and the occasional client, colleague or customer that seems to be perfectly designed to push that big ol’ red button of ours.
Work can be immensely stressful, insanity making at times and even more so when we are running our own businesses.
It calls us to dig deep, real deep...to find that motivation to keep going, remembering why we are doing all this? and most importantly feel that we have the internal resilience to pull this thing off!
When I work with individuals and corporate clients, teaching them how to meditate, the most common question I hear is...
1. How do I turn off that ever active mind...(So I can get some sleep) and
2. When I do have that occasionally escalated moment at work (or even in life), how can I best regain my sense of balance and move on.
As a meditation teacher, I'd say simple, meditate. But as a counsellor, let's take a look at why it is so important to power down and regaining balance particularly after a heated encounter.
Our mind's greatest function is to help us function. From simple tasks like following a recipe and assembling Ikea furniture (...wait scratch that last one). To working on complex problems, similar to the tasks we may encounter in our work every day.
It's functioning however is not so good for relaxation and definitely not for getting to sleep. I am quite sure you know intimately the experience of trying to get to sleep and there is that little you inside your head, pleading "Please, please you guys can you quiet it down in here? You know we are all going to be a complete wreck tomorrow if we don't get some sleep!"
The mind keeps us in a state of activation and alertness. It is essential part of helping us to achieve the things in life we wish to achieve. As well, at times, our mind it is in a state of vigilance, looking for the the next beneficial opportunity to come our way or on the more negative side, possible threats to our ability to meet that deadline or how to ward off that big ol’ red button pusher.
When we are in a continual state of activation, only getting true profound respite when we finally unplug and take ourselves on a much needed holiday, our functionality starts to suffer, losing productivity, loss of focus and at worse the body pulls us and we get sick. Having a way to find deep relaxation equivalent to lying in a hammock on a deserted isle should be part of our daily practise just like brushing our teeth.
Meditation as mind floss
The practise of meditation allows not only to not hang on to those non-functional thoughts, but also the thoughts that at get us activated, the thoughts that are beyond the simple… “I’ll just add two eggs and stir”. Non-functional thoughts are those that are more loaded; such as opinions, desires, worries and fears. They are the ones that trigger feelings and emotions and can activate our adrenal system and keep us from a state of deep relaxation. Of course there are times we need to be in activation and not in deep relaxation for example, whilst at work, driving a car or in front of a group in a meeting. (Except of course if you are me and a in a deep state of relaxation in front of a group teaching the blissful and rejuvenating practise of meditation!)
Although it is a couple of thousand years since we had a mortal threat from a sabre tooth tiger, it is surprising how much the body registers threats from either subtle or overt sources all the time.
The simple ones can be someone moving in on our personal space on public transport to feelings of being challenged in a business meeting.
When such threats occur, even subtle ones, we go into fight, flight or freeze mode, every time.
Taking the public transport personal space scenario for example we may fight; titching under our breath and maybe even shooting a disapproving stare to the offending party. Flight, we might jump back disproportionally to the perceived threat from a person’s accidently nudge. Or freeze, feeling totally uncomfortable having our personal space invaded but unable to rectify the situation by speaking up or getting our self out of the sticky spot by moving to another place in the train.
Now I know this sounds a little over stated, but check it out next time you are on public transport or waiting in line to buy movie tickets and someone stands a little too close for your liking. You will literally go into a state of fight, flight or freeze, even subtly.
But this simple example illustrates the very real somatic (from the Greek meaning ‘body’) experience that occurs during subtle and overt threats and how both our body and mind go into activation and can make us feel unbalanced and fatigued.
Now amplify this ten times to when we are feeling under stress or even under attack at work and you can understand that the body goes into a very real adrenal response and the mind quickly goes in to rapid thought on how it can get you out of there as quickly as possible.
Regardless of whether we under play a stressful situation in our minds or choose to ignore the sensations pulsating through our body, we, just like that rabbit in the headlights, are tapping into the very primal coping mechanism of survival that all living things experience, in many moments throughout our day.
Whether you are conscious of it or not we are being triggered and activated by external events either great or on an unperceivable level all the time. No wonder you come home at the end of the day exhausted, heh?
Meditation, taking even just 10 minutes out of our day, allows us to put to rest that over activated mind and allow our body to reset, ready for the next time it may need to go back into fight, flight or freeze.