Last month, I built up the courage to unplug from the external world and the rigors of my daily life to go on a Buddhist retreat. Whether its phone calls with website designers, countless hours watching football film or writing for eight-hour stretches. To say work was consuming me was an understatement. Sleep-deprived and strung out on caffeine, I realized that If I didn’t remove myself, I would self-destruct.
No, you are not alone! This predicament is quite the norm for most entrepreneurs and corporate employees alike, but it doesn’t have to be. My alternative was intense meditation for 8 hours a day. NO phone, Ipad, emails and we weren’t allowed to speak until noon. Stillness, which is the byproduct of meditation, took me down a path of reflection, understanding, love, compassion and a newfound ability to FOCUS! Mind-ful-ness – The quality or state of being conscious or aware; this is a beautiful thing.
My greatest takeaway was how powerful a clear mind is. I define this state as perceiving life as a blank canvas. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” A quote by the late Apple founder Steve Jobs and a core value that allowed the company to create revolutionary products. Jobs became enamored with Buddhism upon dropping out of college in 1973 and traveled to India in search of enlightenment. The result did not lead to Jobs becoming a full-on Buddhist, but the influence bled into his company and his relentless desire to deliver products that could affect global change. To this day, you can see many Buddhist ideals in Apple’s products such as simplicity, purity and purpose as the sleek, elegant designs of their products.
11-time NBA championship-winning coach Phil Jackson was nicknamed the Zen Master and lived by a mantra, “one breath, one mind.” His objective was building up his player’s mental strength so that they could focus and concert with another. Phil would teach his players how to hold their hands and maintain the right posture. Meditation sessions became a regular event for Jackson’s iconic Lakers and Bulls teams. Coach Jackson would also incorporate unique circumstances, such as having his team practice in silence or in the dark. Jackson felt that shifting the variables would force players to adapt to extraordinary conditions so they would see the difference. Even the offense Jackson created, called the triangle, was rooted in simplicity, fundamentals, spacing and selflessness.
My greatest takeaway from studying these renowned figures and integrating myself into Buddhist practices was that there is a place for mindfulness practices in all of our daily lives. I am not suggesting converting to Buddhism, but taking the time to unplug from the world. Shift your circumstances or instead remove material items in which there may be an attachment. The practice of meditation is the most powerful exercise of all. Removing oneself for 10 minutes a day, close your eyes, sit upright, and focus on your breathing. Perhaps take one day a month where you don’t speak for 4-6 hours and observe in silence, the result is eye-opening as awareness begins to intensify. The same focus demanded when writing, shooting a basketball, or designing a product, is required when focusing on your breathing. Attention is the origin of creativity, and an inability to lock into the desired tasks inhibits the quality of production. As professionals, whether it be in business, art or sports, we are all seeking quality and efficiency, where physical exercise is essential to keep your body at a healthy weight, lower the risk of disease, and regulating bodily functions. Mental practices alleviate stress, enhances self-awareness and lengthens attention span. The brain is a muscle that must not be neglected; committing to these exercises can unlock one’s true potential!