"Let it rip... Do it to me. Teach me this meditation stuff!"
These were the first words my new client spoke to me on a Monday-morning. After a brief phone interview a month before, this CEO of one of the country's largest retailers, was accustomed to staying in the doing mode for 15 hour work days and was highly rewarded for his constant doing. He sandwiched me in between two other meetings, perspiration glistening from his brow as he rushed in to my office to "get this done," poised like a sprinter for the following meeting to whisk him away to his next round of doing more. Taking a deep breath, I embraced the challenge.
I looked at the man sitting before me: brilliant, driven, major health problems, too wildly busy to be sick, so overcommitted that running in ten different directions simultaneously is the norm. Sound familiar at all?
As a mindfulness consultant with a background as a behavioral health psychotherapist, the majority of my clients come to me when they are fed up with what hasn't been working for them. I am grateful that they usually don't need any convincing explanation and are not there for me to feed them or digest their pain for them. They roll up their sleeves, I roll up mine, and we begin to knead through their stuff together.
Honestly, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into this Monday morning, but I knew I needed to produce a dazzling result for this gentleman in overdrive. So I jumped in.
"You're an over scheduler, a hardcore go-getter. You don't let yourself rest. Maybe it doesn't even occur to you to rest. Doing is good, but doing and doing from a reactive fear-is-chasing-me place is not sustainable. You know it and I know it. Seriously, let's look at what works..."
A smile crept over his face as he recognized his traits being reflected back at himself. Then we let the meditation rip. I wanted him to remember how to slow down and really listen. We began with a mindfulness meditation technique to listen to his heart and blood flow--the simple and amazing undulation of fluid moving through his body, an internal ocean. We moved into paying attention to his breath throughout his body and by the end of our time together he was able to describe in detail where his breath was constricted and where it flowed freely; he tapped into his body's spectacular ability to listen and care for itself with grace and love.
When the CEO opened his eyes 10 minutes later, he looked like a different person. His hungry eyes gave way to a calm yet joyful countenance that was clearly energized from within.
The CEO reflected, "I've been successful in my business and am highly respected, but I can barely breathe. I woke up in the hospital one day after falling out at work with coronary artery disease. I had to get multiple stints put in my arteries. Imagine that, stints to open the blood flow, that same blood flow you were asking me to hear! Well, I couldn't hear it before I fell out. But today... well, today I can hear it. I can hear my blood coursing through my veins. I can hear my heart pump and give voice to the symphony of blood coursing everywhere. I can hear my breath and... guess what... I can hear my wife, my children, and my co-workers like I have never heard them before!! Most importantly, I hear myself right now for the first time in a long time--with my inner GPS guiding me to what truly needs to be done next."
Magic happens when you let go into the moment and slow down. Contemplative neuroscientists have been publishing studies to explain what is happening in the brain as we tune in to awareness. There is a growing evidence base, yet there is also something utterly magical that happens when the brain shifts into mindful awareness.
Like this passionate CEO, many of my clients are super achievers. Most think that productivity comes from being multi-tasking masters. But one more thing checked off your list or one more cup of coffee or one more email or one more phone call--it's not going to do it like just a breath of mindfulness can.
What mindfulness meditation teaches is how to be both calm and productive, to BE more and DO less, even on your most ripping days.