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Down From the Mountaintop: Meditation in the Modern World

Personal reflection helps us to change our natural, default setting to a more aware and considerate state. It helps us conquer instinctual negative reactions and to become more proactive.
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The Jan. 9 issue of Parade magazine says that meditation is the No. 1 health booster available.

And a recent NBC News story revealed that Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco falls quiet twice a day as the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students meditate for 15 minutes, with remarkable results. "Quiet Time" has decreased suspensions by 79 percent and attendance and academic performance has noticeably increased.

So, why is meditation just now being discovered (or re-discovered)?

All the evidence says quiet reflection creates greater awareness of your thoughts and feelings. It helps you to see things in a different way. It has a calming effect and can help relieve stress and frustration. In that space, you can make decisions with greater clarity and think more positively, creatively, and productively. It brings greater harmony between your brain hemispheres, which are often, if not usually, at odds with each other.

Personal reflection helps us to change our natural, default setting to a more aware and considerate state. It helps us conquer instinctual negative reactions and to become more proactive. In our reflection time, we can consider how we've thought, felt, and acted in past experiences and how we could have reacted differently. This then carries forward into how we act in the future.

Consistent personal reflection can also help us to break deeply-embedded negative habits that may be dragging us down. Personal reflection is a powerful way to become more aware of our decisions, to get the brain "participating" in decisions where previous habits may have shut it down.

And when we make personal reflection a "keystone habit" in our lives, the results over time can be astounding. Keystone habits are seemingly small and simple habits, but which can catalyze a ripple effect and have a major impact on every aspect of our lives. One proven example of this is exercise. As Charles Duhigg explains in his book, The Power of Habit:

When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It's not completely clear why. But for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.

From personal experience over the years, I know that consistent personal reflection has a similar effect. It makes me less stressed, frustrated, and reactive. It gives me greater clarity and makes me more aware of my thoughts, emotions, and motivations behind my choices. It makes me more kind and patient in relationships. In short, I know of few other ways to dramatically improve all our life's results. And the beauty of it is that it's incredibly simple to do. Not easy, but simple.

My clients, and high achievers in general, are doers and hard workers. They wouldn't have gotten to where they are without having the courage to take action, the drive to take initiative. So when I suggest that personal reflection, or meditation, may be useful for them, they usually don't get it at first. They're looking for advice on what they should do to overcome their challenges.

I respond that meditation is doing something -- and probably one of the hardest things anyone can do. I tell them that they are the experts on their business and they have the answers. They just have to find them and fish them up from their subconscious mind.

Most importantly, meditation (or quiet time, or whatever you may call it) creates space for you to choose and act proactively rather than reactively -- to widen the gap between stimulus and response. In his great book, Ownership Spirit, Dennis Deaton teaches:

Between stimulus and response we experience a mental interpretive gap. In that gap, we make choices; and in those moments of choice, the juice of life is squeezed ... Without awareness, the gap between stimulus and response narrows to the point that it seems to vanish altogether. When that happens, our responses become fairly mechanical and predictable -- just a series of conditioned responses to the routine flow of repeated stimuli, and we become unwitting victims of our habits. When we are mindful of the gap, however, and pause for a split-second consideration, we widen the gap and that begets options. We then see a spectrum of choices, and usually opt for something better.

If we want to discover a solution, the first step is to envision and focus on the desired outcome. What are you trying to make happen? What will your life and/or business look like when you've broken through your ceiling of limitations and achieved an ideal solution? What is your vision of the ideal outcome? Got it? Good. Now spend just 15 minutes a day sitting quietly, pondering that vision. See it in minute detail. Let the emotions flow through you of what it will feel like when you achieve your vision.

This helps you release your worries. Your random thoughts drift away. The power of your mind is harnessed and channeled toward the achievement of your goals.

Who doesn't want or need that?