A few years ago I decided that in order to be a better person, more balanced and less aggressive, I would learn to meditate. unfortunately I didn’t last very long as sitting still for more than 5 minutes just drove me crazy. Meditation in itself is simply deciding to do something good for yourself. The practice of meditation comes in different forms. The most typical is quiet meditation, breathing and yoga; but there are many other types.
I figured that since I was so full of energy, I’d join a yoga class and try to incorporate meditation with some form of physical methodology. Unfortunately being as stiff as a rusty gate, even the most simple yoga positions were so uncomfortable, meditating was nigh impossible. All I could focus on was the numbness slowly creeping into my legs from the lack of circulation! I was too fidgety to be still. My mind would not slow down.
I had just started golf and was reading some Chopra (he is an avid golfer) and I realised that there was a technique that would probably suit my purpose far more effectively than quiet meditation – I decided to learn more about mindfulness. Mindfulness is both a general awareness of the world and a formal meditation practice; it’s two things in one. Meditation and mindfulness overlap in mindfulness meditation, so it is fast becoming one of the most popular types of meditation.
Golf is the perfect medium to learn mindfulness. It is a game that requires extreme mental focus and emotional triggers can make or break your performance. Learning how to recover mentally and emotionally from a bad shot, and not hit the next one into the closest ditch was a task worthy of the Dalai Lama. I soon learnt to carry out simple mindfulness techniques like body-scans and sensory awareness while practicing on the range, and eventually progressed to the golf course. My handicap dropped significantly.
I have now elevated that practice to my running, particularly during extreme runs of 100km or more, where pain, discomfort, hypoglycaemia and cramping all connive to drive your emotions haywire. There is no better time to be able to zone in and push aside negative thoughts then when swimming across the Bonifacio Straits in 3 meter waves, with your mind playing all sorts of tricks on you (think ‘big fish’…).
Today it is an everyday tool. I use it to predispose Flow State, zone into a particular task that requires full concentration, or help me sleep when I have a lot on my mind. It is a tool that I teach many of my clients (both business and sport) and I’ve even attempted to get my kids to have a go. I have top CEOs and Olympic Athletes using them before and during stressful and demanding times. I don’t feel that I have cheated by copping out of meditation. Some say they are similar if not the same. To me, being a pragmatist, I use what works for me. I want results so the quickest way to get me there is my preferred choice.
Mindfulness is a process that is both practical and simple. It is suitable for all and it can be done anywhere and at any time. Whether you are eating, washing the dishes, on a morning run or sitting quietly at your desk, mindfulness is an amazing tool that enables better wellbeing (less stress, lower blood pressure) and mental clarity (beneficial brain chemicals, greater oxygen uptake).
There are plenty of resources online and in the library. My favourite ‘manual’ that I pick up time and again for inspiration is The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. Here is a quick link There are also plenty of apps, many of which like ‘Headspace’, are free of charge for the basic sessions.
Today, I combine techniques from the fields of Emotional Intelligence, NLP and Mindfulness into one powerful workshop that teaches participants to increase self-awareness, how to lead and influence others, and how to prepare themselves for Flow State. This workshop, preferably done outdoors in nature, is a fast-track practical mindfulness session that has enabled me to manage anger, stress, and ‘brain fog’ to become a more agile decision-maker, purpose driven leader and boosted my EQ substantially.