It’s taken a long time for me to learn that, that the way to make hard things easy – is to relax into them (I do seem to like doing things the hard way).
Over the past 20 years I’ve attended numerous courses, classes and workshops on meditation. For past for five years I’ve meditated pretty regularly too – about one hour per day for 365 days/year (give or take a few days for parties or celebrations or when I forgot or got too busy).
How many hours is that? Somewhere over 1,000 hours, probably less than 2,000. Meditation is hard. It’s simple. But it’s hard. Most people, cannot hold their minds still for more than three seconds (go on – try it right now). Trying to be mindful, can be a very frustrating experience.
A common response from many beginners, is to try harder. To really squeeze down and focus as hard as you can. In fact, that is our approach to most challenges – when we are confronted by an obstacle we push harder at it – hoping we’ll get through. Think about a boss, colleague, or challenging work issue – when we get stuck, we tend to just push harder. This is especially true when we try to persuade other people of our point of view, for example when we are in an argument, or trying to convince someone else that we’re “right”.
Recently, however, I’ve changed my approach. I’ve been spending some time learning from Alan Wallace – a master meditator. Alan has more than 40 years of meditation experience and tuition directly from the Dalai Lama and here’s what I’ve learned:
To make something that’s hard, into easy, relax.
Turns out, that in mindfulness training, and in life, trying ever harder is the opposite of what you need to do. Focusing harder just makes the whole thing really exhausting, and does seem to “solidify: the problem. What Alan taught us to do, when our mind wanders is three things:
- Return – to the object of meditation
- Relax – let go
- Restore – your focus
There is an often told story that the way to catch a monkey is to put a banana in a jar. The monkey will reach into the jar to grab the banana, and then be unable to pull its hand out while squibbing the banana, and so the monkey is easily caught. If the monkey could only let go of the banana – it could free its hand and escape.
So too with life. Next time you get stuck, instead of pushing harder, try this:
- Return to your objective
- Relax – take a breather
- Restore your focus onto the big picture. What are you really trying to achieve? Will letting go and releasing, help you get to a bigger, better goal, than the one you’re banging your head on right now?
So, what can you let go of to achieve your bigger goal? What bananas are you gripping so tightly that are keeping you trapped? How can you relax, restore and refocus? Not easy skills but highly worthwhile. If you’d like some coaching, get in touch.
Cris helps senior executives build and maintain their focus all day long. His newly launched program, “Executive Focus” , will help you maintain your focus, concentration and energy all day long, make better decisions and help to get home with something left in the tank for your family and friends. If you need stay on the ball for long hours dealing with high consequence, high volume issues, and you’d like to keep your stress levels down – get in touch for personal or group coaching. Contact Cris on +61 438 545 607 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.