In the last leg of this past tax season, a close friend of mine randomly sent me a link to a seminar about channeling creativity and unlocking your inner artist.  This particular seminar had two instructors, one, a mega pop star, whose career I have been following since the mid nineties.  I freely admit it was my inner groupie that clicked on the “register now” button.  So, one week after April 15th, I found myself in downstate New York about to have a life changing experience; although I didn’t know it at the time.

Over the course of two days, surrounded by highly creative people, I discovered something I never would have ever thought I would be open to: meditation.  It all started with ten minute breaks during the seminar, consisting of guided meditations lead by one of the instructors.  After these breaks, I was amazed at how refreshed I felt, invincible almost.  On the second day, I was convinced I could do one of the full meditation classes.  I trekked up to the temple, with the pillows and heated floor and instructor who fit the “guru” bill to the tee.  I think at this point I great overestimated my abilities.

The instructor wanted us to get comfortable so we could breathe easily.  He encouraged the participants to listen to their bodies but to try to be as still as possible. If we felt an itch, resist the urge to scratch it, etc.  He told us to quiet our thoughts and just be in the moment.  As thoughts came into our heads, gently push them aside and refocus on the breathing.  He hit the bowl-like gong, and we were off…for a 20 minute, silent meditation.  Almost immediately, my mind starts running like a getaway train.  Instead of the guided meditations where you had a voice to focus on, this was complete silence.  Random thoughts about work, dinner, and my children all began to flood in.  My brain was literally doing the one thing it was not supposed to be doing; thinking.  A few minutes in, my leg started going numb and I swore I felt an ant crawling on my neck.  Minutes, feeling like hours later, I felt another ant, and I could not resist the urge to peek, and it was an ACTUAL ant!  At its conclusion, my first silent meditation felt like a complete failure.

Even after encountering what felt like defeat, I returned from the retreat and have remained interested in the concept of meditation.  Another friend recommended I read a book about a newscaster whose on air television meltdown lead him on a path to discover meditation.  After reading the book, my interest and desire to meditate has proliferated and as such I have wanted to share my experiences.  Thing is though, if you say you meditate in a group setting, well, you risk “the look.”  You know the one, where the individual is uncomfortable because they think that you might be a little crazy and they actually have no idea what you are talking about.  That being said, I go for it!

Amazingly enough, I recently found myself in a deep conversation with the CFO of a client, discussing mediation and how useful it is.  Maybe it isn’t as taboo as I thought after all! We both agreed that taking a few minutes of reflection during the day can help improve focus, mood, and quiet that sometimes overly critical and negative inner voice that can really hold us back in life.  My continued research on the topic has lead me to discover that several corporate giants like Apple, Google, and Yahoo! are encouraging meditation for stress relief, promotion of creative thinking, and overall employee mental health.  Some companies even provide quiet spaces for their employees to retreat to during the work day.

The key thing I have discovered is that quieting that inner voice we all have, even for five minutes a day, is an incredible tool.   I have used it to try to become a more responsive person instead of so reactive.  Even when it seems impossible to cease the constant barrage of thoughts, I continue to practice in hopes of increasing my self-awareness, managing my personal stress levels and aiding me to better manage my emotions.

If five minutes of daily meditation can accomplish all that, it should help me to be a more focused, caring, calmer employee and leader….and that would be truly enlightening.