“Wait, what? It’s a silent retreat?!”
I finally signed up for a three day introduction to meditation retreat, with plans to build a regular meditation practice. I had convinced myself that it would be a little meditation, some learning, and some hiking in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains. Upon arrival, I learned that this “partially silent” retreat meant total silence for about 22 hours per day. We could only talk on an afternoon break and at dinner. Uhh... crap.
I might not be the biggest talker in the world, but sitting still AND being quiet is really not my cup of tea.
But I learned a lot.
I’d love to tell you that I left that weekend having mastered meditation. The truth is that I left that weekend sucking slightly less at meditation. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I actually had a great time and left with a lot of confidence. And I learned some key points that everyone should know about meditation.
Here’s what I learned:
- You don’t have to meditate for hours to get the benefits. Yes, it’s true. The Buddhist nun told me so. 10 minutes. 5 minutes. Hell, even 60 seconds is a good start.
- Meditation is like exercise for the mind. You don’t go from couch potato to marathon runner overnight. You have to train steadily over time. Concentration is like a muscle. It takes time to develop, and every little bit counts. I now consider a 5 minute meditation like a walk around the block. It’s a great start, and it’s building my focus.
- You can use meditation to change how you feel right now. Even if you are a total beginner! A few minutes of quiet breathing can totally change your mood, prepare you for an important activity, or just make you feel better. Do you need to understand the science behind why it works? Not really. Just try it.
- It increases your productivity. In the middle of a long intense day, I’d love to be able to take a quick power nap and recharge. Sadly, I am not yet a napper. But I’ve discovered that calming my mind and my body for a few minutes can create a similar effect. Who knew?
- Guided meditation isn’t cheating. I thought that “real” meditation required a special pillow, total silence, discipline, and maybe a little altar. But you can get just as many benefits using a guided meditation - likely even more if you are a beginner. I have found tons of guided meditations that I like on Spotify, iTunes, and free apps.
So what’s the lesson here? You do NOT have to go on a weekend retreat to start getting the many benefits of meditation. You can start in just a minute or two a day and will start seeing a difference in your focus and concentration. Try playing a short guided meditation first thing in the morning and let us know how it works for you!
p.s. There are lots of ways to improve your focus besides meditation. Sign up for our course Getting Focused for Entrepreneurs to learn how to increase your focus in just four sessions.