“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from”– Seth Godin, Tribes
I’ve always grappled with meditation. It’s one of those things that I ‘squeeze in’ when I’ve got time. Not exactly ideal I know. So here’s a snapshot on why I took up this challenge… Enjoy.
My 40 day challenge
Like all good challenges, one way of helping me commit is to go public with it. I’ve volunteered my time for a study, nothing too harsh or serious, but a 40 day challenge never-the-less! It’s a challenge that will enhance me as a person but doesn’t sit well as it intimidates me slightly and I have to be committed.
What’s the challenge? I have to sit and meditate twice a day for 40 days. 15 minutes upon waking and 15 minutes before bed. Just sit there quietly, curbing my thoughts and being as present and in the moment as I can. So there will be no hitting the snooze button in the morning or fitting in one more game of Words With Friends at night.
“Keep your distractions to a minimum” I’m told, and keep a record of any changes within myself for 40 days. Sounds easy right? I’m not so sure, but I’m going to give it a go anyway.
Why am I doing this? Good question! To answer this we have to turn back the clock about 7 years to be exact, as it all started from that damn quote I read! And just like a dodgy ABBA song, it wouldn’t leave me alone. So here’s a short tale on why London life, a dutch barman & that damn quote has led me to try & find my rhythm
“Life should not be a struggle, but yet like a peaceful walk through a lush green valley on a sunny day” – Stuart Wilde
The first thought that sprang to mind was ‘lunatic’.
Why? At the time I was living in greater London, it was thick with snow and the roads that led to work were a daily car park. Sydney’s Parramatta Road looked like a bicycle lane in comparison. I had to allow up to 90 minutes for the commute that sucked the life out of me before my day had even started!
At 6am five days a week I would scrape the frost off my car windscreen in minus degree temperatures and then sit in the car while I was waiting for the engine to warm. My head hung like a beer gut and each working day felt like somebody was trying to attack my soul with a meat cleaver. If this continued it would only be a matter of time before I ended up in pieces. The life I was creating for myself assured me that the guy who wrote that quote was probably a ‘lunatic’.
I was quickly realising that my career and the life I was shaping for myself was not really what I had in mind. But how had I got this far without really questioning it too much? My answer? It was just the ‘normal’ thing to do, with everyone around me doing the ‘normal’ thing too.
But ‘normal’ wasn’t working for me so I started to question whether that guy was actually a ‘lunatic’ or did he have a valid point? When the quote was put in context with everything else he had written he was actually making some sense, the problem was I wasn’t quite ready to hear it.
The ostrich head-burying approach was working just fine for me up until that point. I had pulled my head of the sand out a few times to travel and explore, but it’s been much easier to pop it back under. But with my ass sticking out like a prime target it was only a matter of time before something would come along and try it’s luck!
Things were getting so unbearable I took refuge by myself in Spain for 10 days. I figured if my head was going to hang like a beer gut for most of my working day, I may as well start working on a beer gut for a week or two… Maybe that will sort me out?
A random meeting with Dutch Barman
After about my third margarita, I got chatting to the Dutch barman. He happily let me off load my troubles for a while, and then said “Guy, it’s pretty simple really. The one thing you need to understand is that the questions are the answers.”
At first I didn’t get it. I was about to pigeon hole this bloke in the same category as the guy who wrote that quote. Good job I didn’t, I soon learned he owned the bar along with many others and was doing very well for himself.
He continued “You have to get up in the morning and start asking yourself the right questions. Our brain will always come up with an answer… always. The more empowering the question, the more empowering the answer. But to do this you have to be present and in the moment as often as possible. Your thoughts can run off quickly like wild stallions, and if you don’t bolt the gate on them they will dictate you way more than you can imagine! If you want to make something special of your life, and deep down we all do, control your thoughts, ask yourself the right questions, honour the answers you come up with and you’ll go far my friend”
Sounds easy, right? Try not thinking negatively for 10 days or not let you fears take control. Words roll off the tongue much easier than controlling how you think.
So the million dollar question to the Dutch Barman was ‘how do you propose I do this?’
“You have to take time out and give that time to yourself. You are off to a good start by jumping on plane and getting away from it all for a couple of weeks. If you are not careful though, you’ll go home and end up slipping back to where you were. You need to give time to yourself daily. If you can’t connect with yourself, how do you propose to really connect with everything else in your life? Career? Family? Health? Relationships? Everything in life you have to deal with on a daily basis can suffer if you are not happy with in yourself first. The only reason why I’m so successful is that I give myself that time each day before I go about giving it to everything else.”
And there it was, that one word that I was so far removed from at the time he may as well have said it in Latin – “Meditate.”
“Guy, I learned a long time ago that some of the most successful people out there meditate. By giving time to myself first, doors began to open for me. I managed to be quiet within and started to listen and the right questions would come. I took the courage to answer those and my life changed forever. Look at it this way; if life was a dance, I learned rhythm. It will always test us and if you want to make something of it, you will have to trust your instincts. Every now and then you will have to take a leap of faith and back yourself. But do what you love.”
Trying to find my rhythm
Fast forward to today: I’ve flirted many times with meditation, but never really followed through with a regular practice. If meditation was the equivalent to exercise, I’d be pretty unfit right now.
I can picture some guru mimicking what I say to my clients ‘ it’s such a simple process and over time you will benefit greatly!’ Just like a couch potato, that’s not exactly what I want to hear. But hang on don’t I need to just ask myself the right question to get a better answer? When it boils down to it, I was asked if I wanted to undergo this study. There were a million reasons why I would not, and there where a million reasons why I would! I bit the bullet and chose the latter by asking a different question. If it is the right question only time will tell, but I did stop to listen first before asking.
So the question is this, what questions have you been asking yourself lately?