Unlock Your Potential with Meditation
The topic of meditation is coming up much more frequently. I myself have been an avid meditator (5-10 min daily) for about 4 years. So what’s the hype? What’s the point? WILL IT MAKE ME MORE FIT? Or what is it going to do for me? And (if you want) how do I get started?
Why I Started Meditating..
Depression ft. Social Anxiety & Stress Galore
I started my business 6 years ago and of course was very nervous about the pressure to succeed in the public spotlight. (You know, my family, 2 friends and the 5 people from high school that I still kept up with lol). Funny, I know, but it really did make me very nervous about starting something and it not working out. I was excited about how I was doing training for myself, and as people began to ask ME for help I thought “Am I really qualified to confidently train other people?”
But they wanted to train with me, and I wasn’t going to say no. So I added person after person to my daily schedule, and with each new person I added, the fear that people would eventually find out that I actually WASN’T AT ALL THAT GOOD grew more and more. Now I know from your vantage point as the outsider looking in you’re probably thinking something like.. “But wait Braxton, if they are coming to you to train, staying with your program, getting results, and getting more people to come too, isn’t that all the proof you need?”
The answer is yes. But in case you’ve never struggled with self-doubt and anxiety let me educate you on how it works: MY FEARS DIDN’T CARE ABOUT LOGIC. THEY ONLY CARED ABOUT ENSURING I SELF-SABOTAGED AND WAS AFRAID TO DO MORE. They succeeded for quite some time. I was the smiling (red) face that was eager to help anyone (because that’s the polite thing), but inside my anxiety and stress was growing faster than my new business.
For further context I was so anxious/scared that I didn’t even want to talk to people about training. I would try to leave conversations as quickly as possible because I was afraid of being found out that I was a fraud. (Illogical thought pattern that really has no reason.) But I had to talk with people everyday about “my services” because they were now messaging me and calling me to ask how much I charged. Charged? For WHAT? Getting lucky for the few clients that I had helped so far? I didn’t really do anything… At least I didn’t think so at the time (again, insert illogical thought pattern of thinking you are not really any different than anyone else). Who are YOU to think you’ll be successful?
Things Change: I decided This Thing Was Bigger Than Me
So where did it change? I decided this thing was bigger than me. People were really happy training with me, they were really making great progress and loved the service I provided. I couldn’t just take that away from people because I was having panic attacks. I needed to get out of the way and think LESS about myself, and just allow the service to happen, and my scared brain not interfere with the potential my training (and business as a whole) had.
So I sat down on my couch. Crossed my long legs like I was in a game of duck-duck-goose. Closed my eyes and sat in quiet (by quiet I mean everywhere else was quiet, not inside my head) for 30 minutes. Immediately the same voice in my head starts telling me “this is dumb.. What are you gonna do? Drown me out? You can’t ESCAPE ME 😈!” This was the same voice that told me I wasn’t going to be any good at training or REALLY be able to help people. I wasn’t able to escape it, but I sat there until I almost fell asleep. (A typical problem for new meditators because “trying” to meditate can be exhausting lol. But actually meditating is not tiring at all – quite the opposite. )
My goal was to sit in silence, and have my brain be quiet too. How was I going to do this? I had lots to learn. I did exactly what I did when I was interested in training: I googled, youtube’d, and bought books on mindfulness.
Meditation Lesson #1: Tell My Brain to STFU? (Shut the Fridge Upstairs)
I learned that meditation isn’t about telling my brain to be quiet but more about PAYING ATTENTION to what was going on in the current moment. The sun light on my skin. The weight of my body in the chair. The way my body moved with my breath. The way my fingertips felt. The way my muscles felt underneath my skin. Etc. This is mindfulness. Being UBER concerned with the present instead of replaying the past, or planning the future. This exercise of UBER presence really got me in a good mood. So I started doing it daily. Like 5-10 min each day. Then I started to do some gratitude reflections with them. So for a few minutes I would focus on presence, then I would get filled with love by reflecting on the good things in my life right now. REALLY feeling how grateful I was for them and allowing zero tolerance for harsh self-doubt thoughts and being a “meditation phony.” Not easy. But with time I was getting better and better, and looking forward to my practice. I really felt good and it wasn’t just for the 5-10 minutes. All day I was feeling more…calm.
When It Really Started To CHANGE Me: (Braxton Realizes It’s Not All About Him. GASP!)
I’m always looking for the next level to things–always wanting to get better and push myself. So I thought the next best thing would be to find stillness and quiet in the middle of loud and busy environments. So my daily meditation began taking place in public places. I would do meditation outside a coffee shop curb, or off to the side of a side-walk on the college campus in my hometown (University of South Alabama – go jags.). NOW YOU TALK ABOUT COMING FACE TO FACE WITH THE SOCIAL ANXIETY MONSTER.
EV-ER-Y footstep, side conversation between people passing, giggle, everything it was being directed at me. Behind my closed eye lids my mind filled with thoughts like “THESE PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE STUPID AF – You look like x, y, z, and fo SHO looking like a damn try hard. Who are you Mahatma Gandhi? I’ll tell you who you are.. You a DUMB LOOKING A** BOY. You look like …” and the voice continued. Even with my eyes closed and breathing slowed, my face was burning red with embarrassment and heart rate faster than a horror movie. Why? Not because the peaceful park I was sitting in, but because the internal TORTURE I was creating for myself with my HORRIBLE self talk. Like forreal, I am sitting in a quiet peaceful coffee shop and my body is in the state that I would be feeling if I was to give a speech to 10,000 angry people who disliked me. This is not good, I noted. Great, a new challenge all over again.
So I sat. And breathe. Nowhere to go. Only the thoughts. And once I stopped assuming people were talking about me, I started enjoying being a fly on the wall for passing conversations. I found I really enjoy feeling “like a plant,” absorbing sunlight and feeling the wind blow on me. People might be giggling at me, but they also might be giggling at their phone. People might think I look dumb. Or they might think I look cool. How am I supposed to know? I realized that most people probably didn’t even care about me. Even if they did laugh, they wouldn’t be able to remember my face tomorrow–so what does it matter. Now I looked forward to these daily meditations. Why? Because I found out that ONLY I CREATED MY EXPERIENCE. If I wanted to feel pressure, hate, anxiety and fear, I could choose the critical thoughts that I knew well. If I wanted to feel peace, presence, calm, and love, I could choose to pay attention with uber presence, and reflect hard on things I am grateful for! It was up to me to choose what channel to tune into.
The ultimate take away, I stopped caring so much what my brain said about me, others, situations, or anything. My brain became, and still is a quiet place of stillness and neutral. Not encouraging, or discouraging, not good or bad, just “here-ness”.
What is amazing, is how much more I am (and I am sure anyone would feel this way) able to step out to talk to a cute girl, ask a question in a work meeting, lead a conversation with peers, etc. I am not afraid to fail, I am not afraid of what others think of me. My brain doesn’t work against me by creating new problems, but works for me to find solutions and helps me to view the world much more objectively. This can be helpful for anyone no matter what kind of project you are working on. Fitness, relational, etc., you’ll need the ability to detach and problem solve objectively. Plus, who can find the motivation to create solutions when you are stressed, anxious and self-doubting? Not me.
What will meditation become for you? I don’t know.
There’s only one way to find out.
Set a timer for 5 min. And see how well you can get UBER-present. Day one.