accustomed to being active, alert and
productive throughout your day, be
prepared that your first experiences in
meditation might be less than ethereal.
In fact, you could find it irritating.
Don’t expect the earth to move simply because you are sitting still. Your
body may protest. You might itch or
twitch. You may feel anxious and wiggle or jiggle. You may sneak a peek at
the time and discover that only three
minutes have passed. But hang in there.
Attendees from my stress manage-
ment workshops complain that my sug-
gested 10-minute trial meditation
“doesn’t work.” They lament, “I end up
more stressed after spending 10 min-
utes trying to sit than I was before I
started. I kept thinking about all the
things I should be doing instead of sit-
ting here doing nothing.”
Then, I explain why “sitting and
doing nothing” is stressful for them. It’s
because they’re not used to it. The lack
of activity is foreign and uncomfort-
able. “Being” is harder than doing.
Maybe meditation is called a practice
because you don’t have to work at it.
Like expertise in speaking, coaching
and consulting, it’s an acquired skill. In
the learning phase, not only will your
body protest, so will your brain.
There’s mindfulness and
Warning: In your first attempts to meditate, do not expect your mind to magically go blank. Your thoughts will
regenerate like fruit flies:
• Whatever happened to that jean
jacket I liked so much?
• How did Barry Manilow ever make
it so big anyway?
• Why hasn’t that client sent the
• That mole on my face—I think it’s
growing—I need to get it checked.
• Whatever happened to __________?
• I swear, my butt has gone to sleep.
And I’m bored.
• What was that sound? I’m hungry. I
itch. What time is it? Are we there yet?
Now, for some comforting thoughts.
Your creative mind will keep pumping
out thoughts, so don’t expect them to
disappear into the ether. Let them happen. I had almost given up meditating
when a friend said, “Imagine those
thoughts coming into your head through
the front door.” She touched her forehead and continued, “Instead of trying
to banish the mental cavalcade, let each
thought freely flow through your mind
and exit out the back without grabbing
onto it.” She waved her hands on either
side of her head as a tree limb might
blow in a gentle breeze.
It works! The parade moves on with
no intervention, no judgment, no trying
to stop the flow, you just let it all march
by on its own. Focus on your slow,
steady breath, in and out, in and out.
(“In…Out…” is my mantra). When
your mind drifts, go back to your
breath. Get comfortable with that
uncomfortable state of doing nothing;
adjust to simply being, even for just a
few minutes. As our mothers would say,
“It’s good for you.”
Sitting Serves You
It may sound paradoxical, but as Teplitz
says, meditation can help you be both
more relaxed and energized, especially
when you’re on the road. You see,
Consider how easy it would be to
meditate while you’re flying home from
a speaking engagement—after all,
you’re already sitting. Instead of arriv-
ing home wired and tired, you can
recharge your battery on the plane and
enjoy quality time with your family or
Even if you don’t “feel” it, meditation can bring about subtle changes. If
you’re curious, conduct some Internet
searches on the subject, and you’ll find
research papers, articles and documen-taries describing what meditation can
do for you. You can read about how an
MRI can record brain wave changes in
Buddhist monks, thanks to their years
of meditation practice. In the Netflix
documentary Happy, you can see actual
footage of a monk’s prefrontal cortex
lighting up as he engages in Compassionate (Loving Kindness) meditation.
Some Breath-taking Benefits
Recent studies on breathing have
unearthed some new findings about
brainstem neurons and their connection
to various breathing states (known as
the respiratory pacemaker). By blocking
various groups of cells, scientists think
they have isolated a subgroup of calm-ing neurons that connect to breathing.
One article posits that even if you don’t
believe that calm breathing can make a
difference, you should try it because it
might help you.
You can find studies on how meditation calms individuals who suffer from
panic attacks and other disorders. Or
how violence-prone teens become more
self-regulated and civil after participating in regular meditation practice.
Both Teplitz and I have used meditation for various dental procedures. He’s
Warning: In your first attempts to
meditate, do not expect your mind
to magically go blank.