I tell you frankly that one reason I go to church regularly is that it forces me to to be still for an hour. Or, when I was younger, I tried keeping up a Buddhist practice of chanting three times a day for over a year, mostly for the same reason. Perhaps this is unsound theology, but it has a practical usefulness for me.
Mohandas Gandhi is quoted as saying, “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” (My practical version of this is “When you are in a rush, slow down.”)
I believe that meditation is particularly important for us entrepreneurs. Who among us is not constantly up to our ass in alligators? I certainly am. The impulse is to stay in frantic motion. Even in writing this blog post, I want to move on to a myriad of impinging quotidian actions. It’s like having a gerbil on a wheel inside me. In this very moment my urge is to write with a glib celerity, to settle for an unseemly glibness so as to quickly get back to the pinging demands of answering 400 emails.
For this reason entrepreneurs particularly need to stop regularly. Otherwise they increasingly see only the trees, not the forest itself.
So how in God’s name can I justify doing “nothing” for even a few minutes?
The benefits of meditation are that it keeps us in the now, allows our instinctive wisdom to emerge, and helps us cope with fear and sensory overload. It calms our lizard brain, fight-or-flight reactiveness, and helps us resist distracting urges. It buttresses and strengthens our willpower muscles.
I particularly appreciate the latter as a former addict. While most entrepreneurs are not addicts, as I have been, the act of entrepreneurship itself is an addiction. Few vocations carry the addictive high, the adventurous frisson, that comes with business risk-taking.
“When I sat down to meditate this morning, relaxing a little more with each out-breath, I was successful in letting all my concerns drift away. My mind was truly empty of everything that had concerned it before I sat. Everything except the flow of my breath. My body felt blissful and I was at peace.
For about four seconds.
Within a breath or two of emptying my mind, thoughts came flooding in—nature abhors a vacuum. I felt an itch on my face and wanted to scratch it. A great title for my next book popped into my head and wanted to write it down before I forgot it. I thought of at least four phone calls I wanted to make and one difficult conversation I was going to have later that day. I became anxious, knowing I only had a few hours of writing time. What was I doing just sitting here? I wanted to open my eyes and l look at how much time was left on my countdown timer.”
The important point for Bregman is that he takes no action on his concatenation of ideas and urges during meditation. He renews his self-control and self-awareness mechanism.
“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing: wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing: there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
Thank you, T. S. Eliot.