We’ve all heard the stories about how meditation is the pathway to enlightenment, but are there secular and practical advantages to spending time with a quiet mind?
As a former Silicon Valley IT executive turned international multi-award-winning thriller author, I can answer that question from experience.
During a time of post-collegiate corporate dissatisfaction when I lived near the beach in Los Angeles, California, I began practicing yoga and meditation. Float tanks were all the rage then, and I volunteered at a center called the Altered States to have the ability to use the equipment during off-hours. Besides the coffin-like flotation tanks, they also had meditation sound and light devices that put me into a relaxed state. Later, I practiced brained-wave biofeedback with a student of distinguished English biophysicist C. Maxwell Cade, who wrote The Awakened Mind. Using a special EEG machine, Cade studied the brain-wave patterns of monks, mystics, priests, and meditation experts, discovering a common brain-wave pattern. That pattern, like learning to walk, takes a little practice to achieve, but once you’ve got it, you can tap into your subconscious, and some would say, universal mind, at will.
Those were glorious times. Did I bliss out and sit in the sand for hours listening to the surf? You bet I did! And then, I decided to get back into the information technology field.
During extended stretches at the computer, my meditation practice helped me stay focused and keep me from blowing my top when the stress was built up. I would take a mindful walk at lunch and come back to my desk with a clearer set of priorities to tackle during the afternoon.
Staying mindful can be tricky when disagreements arise at work or at home. It’s easy to blame others for your emotions, but when I learned, through meditation, that those one-eyed, wild-haired, thick-clawed, pesky, emotional beasts that were clamoring around inside my chest were a result of my own thoughts, beliefs, experiences, and choices, my entire life changed. The subconscious is the final frontier, full of adventure and lessons to be learned. All we need to do is sit quietly and listen.
About seven years ago, I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a fiction author, and my meditation practice helped keep me sane while I wrote chapters after long days at the office. Eventually, I let go of the corporate world and now sometimes get stuck when plotting out exciting twists, or caught on how to add breathtaking conflict to a chapter. During those times, instead of pounding my head on my keyboard, I lean into my meditation practice and allow my mind to drift into a creative space where white-knuckle action scenes fountain up from the hidden recesses of my mind. Using meditation as a creative tool must be working, as it has helped me achieve several international literary awards, and my books have become instant bestsellers.
I write about heroes who have a conscience, and in each of my books, one of the main protagonists meditates or learns to be mindful. How do I pull that off with action thrillers? The U.S. military is taught meditation and mindfulness because deployment takes a large physical and emotional toll on soldiers and covert operatives.
Studies, such as the STRONG project (A University of Miami-led research study, led by neuroscientist Dr. Amishi Jha, and funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command) have shown exercises in staying present can prepare warriors for combat stress, help them perform better, and allow them to recover more quickly.
As per the recent articles in the New York Times, besides the U.S., the New Zealand Defense Force and Britain’s Royal Navy have given mindfulness training to some personnel to improve memory and performance. It works for my heroes.
I credit much of my success in life to my ability to be present and control my thoughts and emotions. My go-to tool when I’m upset, stressed, or stuck is always meditation.
If you have yet to learn to meditate these days, there’s a variety of ways to figure out how to get into your zone. Perhaps you’ve seen some new float tanks? No longer claustrophobia-inducing caskets, these sleek, tall, modern mini-rooms contain twelve-to-eighteen inches of purified saltwater and are a delightful way to relax your mind. Until the pandemic passes,…maybe a one-on-one mediation coaching session over Zoom would be more appropriate. They’re out there. There is also an international consortium of trainers using Maxwell Cade’s mind-awakening meditation techniques. Many online yoga trainers offer meditation at the end of class. Post-exercise is an excellent time to get into the zone as your body and mind are more aligned.
I experimented with a variety of tools before I found a technique that worked to consistently get me into the zone. It was worth it. I encourage you to find your path to both bliss and productivity.