An extract from an upcoming book on mindfulness / meditation
Finding purpose section Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. - Steve Jobs
What is my purpose? As much as we can try and complicate it, purpose really is simple. It’s our ability to listen to the inner voice that guides us (our intuition/instinct) and having the courage to believe in it and act on it. That’s it. Next chapter. Ok not quite Where it gets complicated is, is that most of us have never been taught how to tune into our intuition, let alone follow it and we’ve created a life based on what we thought we were supposed to do, which for the most part was founded from the opinions and judgments of others (including our teachers and parents). Therefore we find ourselves in a life situation far from what will give us long lasting fulfillment. We become trapped by our life circumstances. Mortgages, debts, families, responsibilities. We become stuck, the pain builds, despondency can set in and at times we find ourselves suffering. I’ve been there and so have many others. If what I am saying resonates with you, you’re not alone! Having the courage to even ask the question. “What is my purpose?” can be one of the hardest things that you will ever do (maybe that’s why so many of us retract when we hear the word purpose), but the most rewarding. It’s about knowing who you really are and creating a life from that space. What could be more important than that? As much as this chapter is about understanding purpose it is also about developing your intuition or “gut” instinct. I want to show you how to connect with it and outline some practices for you to do daily. Let’s get started with a little bit of science around purpose.
A little science It’s true we can explain where to find your purpose scientifically… We’ll it’s a little loose, as with all matters of the neuroscience it’s still very much in its infancy but let’s walk through it. Beyond purpose this stuff is really good for understanding meditation and mindfulness, managing your states throughout the day, being resourceful, creative and is amazing for problem solving. So read this next section a few times until you really get it. It’s likely that in a movie or television show you have seen a person hooked up to an EEG (Electroencephalograph) machine (little white circles attached to their head with cables running from them). EEG machines measure brain frequency or states. There are 5 key brain wave states that we move in and out of throughout the course of a normal day. These states are measured in hertz. Gamma 23 – 100 Hz Beta 13 – 22 Hz Alpha 8 – 12 Hz Theta 4 – 7 Hz Delta 0-3 Hz We move between these states from our peak activity cycle through to the sleep cycle. Let me explain. Gamma 23 – 100 Hz Gamma is a peak state, not as common, they tend to happen in spurts. Emerging research by John Kounios of Drexel University and Mark Beeman of Northwestern University highlight that gamma waves are evident in epiphany moments, moments of “Aha” and when lucid dreaming. Gamma waves are usually preceded by alpha brain waves (alpha is explained below). Which means that when we are in a relaxed state ie: taking a bath, walking along a beach, meditating we’re more likely to realise the solution to problems and have great ideas. The legend of Archimedes “Eureka! – I found it!” moment is a great example of this. Archimedes’ tale takes place some 2,200 years ago when King Hieron II of Syracuse in Sicily gave a goldsmith a bar of gold and ordered him to make it into a crown. The king, however, suspected that the goldsmith had substituted some of the gold for silver, while keeping the leftover gold. The king had no way of proving his suspicions, so he asked Archimedes – a Greek mathematician, engineer, inventor, and astronomer – to find a definitive answer. Archimedes spent a long time trying to figure out the answer, which came to him when he was taking a bath. He noticed how water would splash out of his bath tub the moment he stepped into it, and the more he stepped into the tub, even more water got displaced. At the time, Archimedes had known that gold was denser than silver, so if a certain weight of silver had been substituted for the same weight of gold, the crown would occupy a larger space than an identical one of pure gold. So to find the crown’s volume, all Archimedes had to do was essentially immerse the crown and exact measurement of pure gold in a tub filled with water to the brim, measure the spillage, and compare the volume of spillages – if the goldsmith had indeed made a crown of pure gold the volume should be the same. Archimedes was said to be so thrilled with this discovery that he immediately hopped out of the bath and ran onto the streets naked shouting 'Eureka!' 'Eureka!' It was when Archimedes got into the bath, he relaxed enough for him to realise the solution to his problem was right in front of him. Beta 13 – 22 Hz Beta is an active state. An awake state. A state we are in when we are multitasking or our attention is split across many tasks. For example when we are working on the computer, we have Facebook open, Twitter open, our email program open, our mobile phone next to us and potentially a host of colleagues around us… Beta is the state that allows us to function (well as best as we can) in this environment without going mad. Modern living is forcing more and more to be in Beta, so often we find ourselves in Beta for extended periods of time throughout the day. I call it “overwhelm”, because we tend to end up with our mind skipping all over the place and not getting any quality work done. The reality is that we are often not effective, nor productive, if we spend prolonged periods in Beta. We tend to accumulate stress and anxiety, over think circumstances and end up making poor decisions. Beta is also the state we find ourselves in late at night with our mind racing unable to get to sleep or getting to sleep only to wake in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep. Managing stress and anxiety is a challenge for busy people like us. We will talk about solutions to this a little later. Alpha 8 – 12 Hz Alpha by contrast is a flow like state, likened to being in the zone. We have a singular focus and can get through vast amounts of work at very high standards. We feel good because Serotonin is released. Have you ever got into the office early (before the distractions of the day start) and accomplished almost a days’ worth of work in a few hours. This is alpha. A very powerful state for creativity, insights, intuition, problem solving, and delivering work at a very high quality. Richard Branson suggests that he gets his best ideas whilst on Necker Island. Why do you think that is? Alpha Sam my business coach friend says that he does his best thinking in the shower. Why do you think that is? Alpha. Alpha precedes Gamma Meditation / mindfulness is a practice of consciously bringing yourself out of Beta and into Alpha and Theta. Theta 4 – 7 Hz Theta is where purpose is at… It is where deep healing is done (Google “Theta Healing” and 1,380,000+ results come up)… It’s the same for purpose! You can’t think your way to your purpose, you need to let it come to you through inspired thought. From a deeper part of you. One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you. - Jeff Bezos (Founder of Amazon) In Theta we step outside the conditioning of the mind and we connect to a deeper part of us that reveals new insights, ideas, and revelations. And you feel amazing! Einstein said “We can’t solve the problems of today with the same level of thinking that created them!” I believe learning how to spend time in Theta is where we are going to get massive leaps forward in entrepreneurial thinking and problem solving and move beyond the present challenges on this planet. Delta 0-3 Hz Delta is a deep dreamless sleep. It’s the bottom end of the sleep cycle. We lose all body consciousness and human growth hormone is released. You might have experienced Delta if your alarm has gone off in the morning and when you wake, you don’t know where you are for a moment. That’s Delta
Accessing Alpha and Theta States What has this got to do with purpose? Most of us spend our time in beta, stressed and anxious, with minds that are making so much noise, we can’t possibly hope to feel or see what’s going on inside us. It’s by learning to quiet the mind that we can begin to listen to what’s going on inside. What does this have to do with meditation and mindfulness, because the reality is that the techniques we share in this book are simply techniques that allow you to access key brainwaves. Alpha is a relaxed state. Relaxation can take on many forms from walking on the beach, gardening, taking a shower, breath control and even just observing what you do throughout the day. All of which are very powerful techniques for accessing alpha. When I was first learning about the different brainwave states, I had a thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a place you could go to connect with the Alpha state!” It turns out there is… the frequency of the earth is around 7.83 Hz which appears between the alpha and theta range. This is why spending time in nature is such a popular pastime for relaxation. However to really move beyond Alpha and tap into the Theta state meditation and mindfulness is the most powerful tool I have found. It is in focusing our attention that we can slow the brain waves. Taking our attention away from the noise the mind is making (thoughts, feelings) and bringing it to a central focal point. Meditation is a simple practice of focusing our attention, which in doing so consciously brings you into alpha and theta. At this point I don’t want this to be a rant about how cool meditation is and why more people should adopt it. But here it is anyway, a rant about how cool meditation is and why people should adopt it. We understand that in general to mention meditation or mindfulness in a business setting often has most people rolling their eyes. It seems to be its association to hippies and monks. We need to get over the point of view that meditation is for hippies and monks, it’s blocking us from something life changing. It’s blocking us from mastering our minds, our purpose… Meditation is about taking back our attention from the mind and choosing where to focus it. It’s about self-mastery.
We are not our mind The following might be a little out there for some of you, but I want you to go with me. Even if you don’t understand or agree I’d like you to be open to just reading the words and letting them sit for a bit. One of the greatest challenges that we have is that our attention is constantly consumed by the mind and the thoughts that it generates. Our senses trigger learned responses so we react to situations in our environment which can cause us to produce results that are unfavorable to our objectives. We are not our minds. The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. - Robin Sharma Our mind is a tool. Figure x.x helps to see the association that the mind has over our attention. Have you ever set out to get a task done, but found yourself procrastinating or unable to focus? Our attention is being consumed by the noise (thoughts and emotions) of the mind. To operate at a whole new level, the practice is to take our attention back from the mind and in doing so we drop down into the alpha and theta brain wave states. It’s spending time in these states that we can listen to what our intuition is telling us, ask questions and get answers, developing a deeper sense of knowing. Figure x.x Our attention vs the mind
* I believe that the greatest resource we have is our attention. Do you have control over where you put it in everyday situations? Meditation is a powerful tool to help us focus our attention. In focusing our attention we access powerful states that open up our intuition, creativity, resourcefulness and problem solving abilities.
Meditation / Mindfulness I have personally been meditating consistently (every day) since early 2000 and have learned a variety of techniques from masters around the world and believe that learning how to do it is the single best gift that we can give ourselves. The process of meditation is a constant focusing of your attention. When you close your eyes and begin focusing your attention on a single point ie: your breath or a mantra (a word or phrase that you repeat over and over again), you quickly become aware, just how little control you have over your attention. Thoughts come in and quickly distract you from the task at hand, it can be a matter of seconds before you find yourself thinking about your relationship, dinner or your problems and a matter of many minutes before you realise that you were lost in thought. There are a variety of techniques to assist you to be successful in meditation, however, gently bringing your attention back to your focal point each time you catch yourself in thought is the essence of meditation. Eventually the mind (thoughts) will cease to have a grip on your attention and you will find yourself effectively able to focus. On a surface level, think about the implications that this could have on productivity in organisations around the world. Productivity, creativity, resourcefulness will go through the roof. However this is the kicker... most people think that meditation is boring as you are sitting with your eyes closed trying to think nothing. That couldn’t be any more wrong. The process of constantly focusing your attention brings us out of the beta state and into alpha and theta, where you connect to a feeling that can only be described as “bliss” (it feels so good), you access your intuition and you’re on the path to a greater sense of purpose.
Growing popularity Today we see massively successful entrepreneurs such as Oprah whose entire organisation stops twice a day to meditate. The late Steve Jobs a Zen Buddhist often associated with meditation. Bill Ford (great grandson of Henry Ford and executive chairman of Ford Motor Company) also meditates, Ray Dalio (the founder of the world’s largest hedge fund) a meditator. Google, EBay and Facebook have set up separate rooms so staff are able to pursue it. Why the growing appreciation for meditation? Possibly because people are realising the profound benefits that mediation has on one’s life. Possibly because when you do it properly it feels like bliss. Maybe because most people (whether you are currently an employee or a business owner) live in a constant state of overwhelm (or the Beta State) and are looking for a way out of the stress and anxiety? Or potentially because more and more people are seeking something greater from this life than they already have. I think it is a combination of all of those things. We get caught up in “the noise” that accumulates in our head with our mind skipping all over the place, often bringing with it feelings of fear and anxiety (which in the modern world is considered normal!) However trying to understand who you are (finding your purpose/passion) from that place is hopeless, building a practice to develop techniques to assist you to go from Beta - stress, anxiety, overwhelm. To Alpha - flow, wellbeing, resourcefulness, intuition and below into Theta realising that deeper connection to our purpose is essential for modern day business people.
Developing intuition The only real valuable thing is intuition. Albert Einstein It can be hard to describe what intuition is… some people call it your inner voice, instinct, following your heart. I like to refer to it as knowing. Once you take the time to quiet your inner dialogue you find yourself with an array of inspired thoughts, creative new ideas, clarity, an ability to have a dialogue with your intuition and did I mention if feels good?! When I say, “developing intuition”, that’s not entirely correct. What can be known is all around us and is always there, we are just learning to tap into it. Like a flow of information we can access it through a 3 part process: Quiet the mind – check Ask questions & feel the answer Following your intuition (acting on it) Asking questions & feeling the answer Once you’ve reached a point where you are in Alpha / Theta and the noise of the mind is subdued, you are then able to have a dialogue with your intuition. Ask questions and listen for the response. Note: The response doesn’t come from your head it comes from your heart. It’s like a sense of knowing, that you feel over your entire body. If you ask a Yes or No question, generally the response will come in an instant. For me, I hear it as well as feel it. YES. NO. If you ask a question that is more complex, it may take a little longer (over the next day or two) and will come in the form of awareness. An “aha” moment! Suddenly you will have a definitive answer to the challenge or problem you were working on. Generally when you are in Alpha. Warning: Once you become aware of something you are changed forever you can’t go back. Your heart will pull you in that direction in a number of different ways (pain, joy, dissatisfaction). It’s like on The Matrix when Morpheus offers Neo the red pill or the blue pill... “All I am offering you is the truth, nothing more”
Following your intuition It is worth noting that as the mind kicks back in, it will rationalise your new awareness’s and the crazier it seems, the more it will provide reasons why the whole concept is stupid. Stepping off into unknown territory is madness to the rational mind. But it is that which keeps us stuck. I know myself I had many occasions where I’ve had awareness and the thought of taking action was scary to outright ludicrous, so I didn’t act. The same challenge presented itself again and again. In the same way and in different forms, however the intensity of the pain associated around the awareness had increased and kept increasing until I took action. This is where it gets challenging. Because it’s at this point that we see that we are far from where we need to be and our life circumstances may require us to make some radical changes if we are to move in the direction that our gut is telling us is the right thing to do. It takes great courage to trust it and act on it, because it’s not just your mind that will tell you your nuts. The people around you are likely to as well. When I sold my first business, some of my closest friends and colleagues told me I was crazy, it had great cash flow, I could put a manager in place, etc, etc... But I knew I had to follow my heart and in doing so it has bought me to this point now where I’m doing what I was born to do. Helping people live their purpose and commercialize their ideas. Being in allowance when people judge your actions is freedom to choose for you. True courage is about following your heart, not your head. Trusting you and not listening to others is the path to your purpose.
Purpose We hope that you’re more aware of the importance of developing techniques to assist you to consciously move yourself from the busy Beta state and into Alpha and Theta. Building a daily practice of meditation/mindfulness and relaxation exercises will connect you to a greater sense of purpose, passion, resourcefulness, intuition, creativity, confidence and general well being. “You can’t think your way to your purpose; the mind gets in the way. You have to let it come to you through inspired thought”
Troy Haines theSPACE - Turning Ideas Into Reality