I’ve just spent a couple of days with a client here in the French Alps – someone who regards his personal development as of paramount importance in his life, someone who has altered his daily routine, going to bed one hour earlier to ensure that he has an extra hour each morning for meditation. He has been regularly meditating for up to an hour each morning for the last two years. The benefits? His health and fitness have greatly improved. His level of focus at work and at home has altered immeasurably and he has suddenly discovered a new-found creativity – in terms of news ideas and problem solving. He is on the crest of a wave.
And, yet, a couple of months ago, he was confronted by a major career decision and, in the process, found himself reverting to the indecision and stress that had almost ruined his life some years ago, that had almost cost him everything. So, his point was this – why, when it came to the push, did his meditation have no effect in the cut and thrust of daily life? First of all, of course, he freely admitted that things would have even been a lot worse had he not been meditating. As I said to him, at the very least, he is one of a small minority of people who are fully aware of what they are thinking and fully aware when what they are thinking is unhelpful or damaging.
But the key point is that, unless you put what you learn in meditation into the moment to moment living of your everyday life, you are not going to get the downstream and all-important benefits of clarity, focus and presence of mind. And, you don’t wait until something goes wrong to start putting what you have learned in meditation into practice – you do it when things are just normal. It’s a little like training for a big match or contest – you train in advance so that you can play your best on the day.
This training consists of regularly checking your state of mind throughout the day – every day. If things are simply running normally, chances are that your mind is wandering and distracted – after all, this is the normal adult default state of mind. Research shows that the normal adult pays about one percent attention to what is going on when all is running smoothly. Obviously, this level of commitment to one’s life is not sufficient to have a great life – and this is why normal people tend to be “not-too-bad”. Therefore, the ordinary of everyday life provides us with the perfect training ground. Simply stop yourself at various points during the day and become aware of whether you are clear, present and focused or not – the way you feel during meditation will be your guideline for comparative purposes.
If, when you stop and perform your quick self-check, you’re not in a clear and present state of mind, bring yourself back to that state by coming back to now. My friend asked “But how do I do that? What do I come back to?” You simply come back to what one or more of your five senses is actually experiencing in the present moment. This means that you take a few moments to pay full attention to just what is before your very eyes. For example, if you’re in a meeting with someone who is raising your stress levels or, if like my friend, you find your mind so all over the place that it simply cannot weigh up the decision to be made, simply smell the aroma of the cup of coffee in your hand (or whatever!), see the way the light dances on the liquid’s surface, feel the warmth of the cup in your hand, take a sip and taste the bitterness and listen to the ambient sounds around you – could be the hiss of air-conditioning, the noise of passing traffic, whatever. Do you understand? You see, our contact with the present moment and, therefore, reality – and the opportunity it provides us with to live our ordinary day extraordinarily – is through and only through our five senses. In other words, you need to come to your senses!
You need to practice this when nothing crazy is happening in your life – when all is just ambling along normally. These normal days are the times that you will use for your training – you will train when it doesn’t matter so that you can play at your very best level when it does. Because, then, when something does stress you out, when someone does something that really gets under your skin or when you have a major decision to make in your life, you will already know how to notice and prevent the state of mind that makes things worse rather than better and, in doing so, you will actually change the course of your life.
Willie Horton has been enabling his clients live their dream since he launched is now acclaimed two-day Personal Development Seminars all the way back in 1996. His clients include top leaders in major corporations such as Pfizer, Deloitte, Nestle, Merrill Lynch, Wyeth, KPMG, G4S and Allergan together with everyone from the stay-at-home parent to sports-people. An Irish ex-banker and ex-accountant, he lives in the French Alps from where he travels the world as a much sought after motivational speaker and mentor. In 2008 he launched Gurdy.Net where is self-help seminars are now online. For more information visit Willie Horton’s Personal Development Website Gurdy.Net