I was surprised but also excited to be asked to guest post here. I’m excited because I want to tackle an issue. Firstly, let me say that I’m an experienced meditator and business person. I want to talk about the kind of business that you mentally jump to, when I tell you that I’m an experienced meditator. Perhaps I sell green smoothies? Or I’m a crystal dealer, you imagine? Not the case at all. Let’s dig into this common assumption and stereotype.
I think the reason that people associate meditation with free-spirited, no-life-plan, creative types, is because meditation came to popularity in the 1960s. That’s in the western world, of course, in the east, people have been meditating for thousands of years at least. In any case, there’s an association with free love, free drug use, and free-spirited people. I’m not a hippie, but I do meditate. What does that mean? It means the world is more complicated than the dozen or so buckets that we’ve encountered on TV or in movies.
When the writers of a TV show are trying to come up with characters, they want to do it quickly, and have the characters come across as believable. Time is money. So, one fast and effective way to do that is to pick some existing stereotypes, and strengthen them. It’s a jarring moment to have a “good guy” suddenly do something terrible, right in the middle of a TV Series. You would want to look away, like the writers have done something embarrassing right in front of you. To avoid this, people write their characters to be completely consistent, so that when people see them, they know what to expect, they can guess what they will do, and there’s even an element of humor to it. On the popular show, Seinfeld, the crazy antics of Kramer are to be expected. His next wild behavior is simply what you’re looking forward to. It would be weird and disconcerting if he was suddenly serious and consoling one of the other characters in a subdued and heartfelt way. Similarly, we simply cannot permit ourselves to have a meditator in a movie or TV series who does not look like, act like, or transform into someone from the 1960’s. I think this is holding us all back, because we look at those characters, and all of their behaviors, and then we look at ourselves. “I couldn’t possibly become like that!” we cry to ourselves. But the mistake we’re making is that these fictional characters don’t exist in the real world: there are lots of Kramers that console friends, and who can be serious. There are lots of people who meditate and who are not outrageous hippies.
What if you were told that going to university was only something that academic philosophers did? Imagine, for a moment, that was how the world was. Imagine you were totally opposed to the idea of your own attending university. What a feeling of loss! But let’s continue on down this hypothetical scenario. So you’ve sworn off college education as something for navel-gazing bookworms. Would that stop you from picking up a book occasionally, with the aim of learning something new? No, it wouldn’t. You’d look at the benefits of learning from a book, even if you believed that some forms of serious learning were bad. You’re able to break through the stereotype and seize the fruits of the activity, when you focus on the practical benefits. Let’s now apply this to meditation.
I am in fact a businesswoman. I do not even own one set of flared jeans, nor do I wear flowers in my hair, and I’ve never been to San Francisco. So you should take if from me, that there are only practical benefits to be gained from meditation, whether you’re in the business of millinery, Motorsport, or marketing. The more analytical and stressful your business is, the more you need it. As an example from my own work, when you’ve had a really difficult and frustrating negotiation session, that didn’t go the way you want, it can kill your whole afternoon. No-one needs a drop in productivity in the afternoon, when you’re already at your most tired. So, practically, one way to clear out your mind of all the emotional baggage is to sit quietly for 5 minutes (sometimes even 3 minutes is enough), and focus on your breathing. I’ve done this many times, and I can say the exact dollar value of that time investment is easily a hundred dollars per minute. So, my advice to you is to focus on the practical benefits of meditation, grab a cushion, and get breathing.