I was reading a book on meditation the other day. I’ve been meditating off and on since college and I find it to be something that has always helped me get through tough times. As an entrepreneur – there’s a concept from meditation that is super useful for running your business: developing The Witness.
When you meditate, you are told to focus on the breath. When a thought comes in, you let it go, and go back to the breath. Each thought is like a balloon – and when you see the thought, you release the balloon into the air, gently and without judgement.
I remember when I first learned how to meditate in college. I was in a small meditation group with a professor who was also a Zen monk. Meditation was the first activity I had ever done that wasn’t about achieving or getting it right. I grew up with the message of, “Be the best, or don’t do it at all.”
I went about conquering meditation in the same way. Every week I showed up to the group more and more frustrated. My meditation practice was like some strange animal I’d never seen before. I couldn’t classify it in my brain. It wasn’t like anything I had done before. The very notion that you just had to practice it for practice’s sake was crazy to me. There wasn’t a goal or an outcome. It was an activity that you just did every day for no apparent reason. In fact, if you thought about winning over your thoughts – you lost right there. For weeks I couldn’t even get through five minutes. My teacher laughed at me with love, and told me to keep going. The whole thing felt like a cosmic joke.
Then one day something clicked. I stopped “trying” to do it right and I just did it. I’m sure I had a thousand thoughts in that five minutes. The breakthrough was that I didn’t judge myself for having those thoughts. They came and went. And I kept going.
This was the birth of my Witness. The little person that notices a thought and then lets it go without judgement. The practice of meditation actually strengthens our recognition of the Witness – so that eventually you can start to catch yourself in the midst of negative or unhelpful thoughts all day long.
The Witness is incredibly powerful for entrepreneurs. The Witness can catch us procrastinating in the moment and gently nudge us back to our work. The Witness can sense fear and help us get to the root of it. The Witness can see the rising of anger – and calm it down before harsh words are said.
But most importantly, the Witness teaches us not to judge ourselves too harshly in the face of being human. And it keeps us moving forward without too much delay.
Photo: flickr, Nadir Hashmi