We get it: Your day piles up with demands on time and attention faster than you can say “cold call.” Whether you’re pursuing new leads, meeting with your sales team, or simply trying to map out all the stops on a given day, you have to focus a lot of attention outward.
Yet to borrow from Ben Franklin, is it possible that too much of our day translates to motion, as opposed to action?
Once regarded as outside the mainstream—the realm of hippies, rock stars and mystics—meditation today has gained much more widespread acceptance. And there’s abundant evidence that meditation helps its adherents maintain their composure in stressful situations, as cited in this recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The research reveals that meditation training over time might affect emotional processing in everyday life, and not just during meditation itself.
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“I am passionate about bridging both worlds—delivering ancient wisdom but also grounded in current advances in neuroscience and other research,” says Jaymie Meyer, a wellness expert specializing in meditation, stress management and therapeutic yoga based in New York City. Through her business, Resilience for Life, Meyer has delivered stress reduction and wellness workshops for more than 13 years at work sites and educational institutions including the National Institutes for Health, IBM and Panasonic.
And here’s what Meyer has to say about the role meditation can play in the life a no-nonsense sales pro: “Training the brain is not unlike training yourself to learn how to play a musical instrument or ride a bike. People understand that.”
It’s also probable that you understand this, too: Scattering your energy in 1,000 different directions gives you all the focus of a cheap flashlight on low batteries. You can’t have laser-like focus unless you know how to center yourself. But to do that, you have to slow the rapid spin of thought and direct your mental and emotional energy on things that matter most. Meditation is definitely a gateway to achieving this.
“The benefit of learning how to disengage our attention from our thought stream is that we can then apply our minds more readily towards constructive things, such as completing goals and connecting with other people,” says Jeffrey Gitterman, co-founder of Beyond Success, a consulting firm that brings holistic values to the business and finance worlds. “[Meditation] creates space within us—an opening that allows more energy to flow into us.”
The question is: How do we do this? It’s easy to laugh at the novice who hasn’t tried meditation for their lack of experience. (“How do you breathe? What do you do?”) Like anything else, meditation and controlled breathing are disciplines that you can learn and then practice. To start, all you need are willingness and a level of commitment as you get the hang of it.
Here are some tips for developing a better understanding of the meditation practice, and getting started:
1. Find a resource
If you live in or near a major urban area, meditation centers are easy to find—but you’ll want to do your homework and vet the teacher and/or the program before you walk in. The best way is by word of mouth, and the user-driven website Yelp lists countless meditation centers with ratings.
2. Give it three weeks
“I encourage people to give it at least 21 days,” Meyer says. “It’s helpful for people to have a guide and support during that time so they can ask questions and be inspired. It’s also normal for the brain to resist change and to default back to the status quo, even if the status quo is not serving you. People often need to hear that to understand why they experience resistance and why it may seem hard at first.”
3. Practice as you go
Think you need an hour to meditate? “I recommend mini-meditations and have taught them all over the world,” says Kathy Gruver, Ph.D., who runs thealternativemedicinecabinet.com. “You concentrate on the breath and on the inhale think, ‘I am,’ and on the exhale think, ‘at peace.’ This stops the stress response and readies our brain for higher functioning.”
4. Identify goals/issues you want to work on through meditation
Whether you struggle to manage anger at work, or hope to visualize new sales breakthroughs, meditation can help on both fronts. But the important thing is to learn the ropes first before you dive headfirst into problem solving mode. Just learning how to meditate will reap benefits as it elicits something Dr. Herbert Benson famously labeled “the relaxation response.”