Last week I began Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth to better learn how to work on being present with my life. I have written about mindfulness and entrepreneurship in the Weekly Letter (here and here) before and yet it is so dang hard to remain present.
Why is mindfulness particularly important for entrepreneurs? Because starting a business is scary and risky and can cause us to continuously worry about a whole host of concerns: Will my business succeed? Will it support me? How about other employees? What if it doesn’t work? Is this idea crazy? And your body can’t distinguish between the stress from these thoughts versus the stress of being pursued by a dangerous predator or running out of food. So if you are an entrepreneur and you are not mindful, the stress can burn you out.
And yet I have found much of the advice on how to be mindful woefully inadequate. Come back to your breath, come back to your body. When the torrent of thoughts is running, this is like using stick to dam up a river.
Last week, with Tolle’s help, I decided to renew my commitment to noticing my ego (the endless chatter of my thinking brain) and work with it throughout the day. (He argues that this is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the planet.)
On Sunday I learned something that I would like to share with you in case you are working on this mindfulness business as well. For those of us who succumb to worry, Sunday is a particularly tough day. It should be a day off for most of us, though we start to think about the coming week, worry about it and get into crazy doer mode: grocery shopping, chores, errands, you name it. So I made a commitment Sunday morning to not spend the day thinking about what needed to be done that day or the next week. I did my usual Sunday yoga and came home. When I got home, the thoughts were starting up: what time am I going to go to the grocery store, am I going to wash the floor today?
And then I stopped and saw the thoughts. I pictured the thoughts on a wheel. The more thoughts I have, the faster the wheel goes, the harder it is to slow down. But if I can catch the wheel when only a few thoughts are starting up, I can much more easily slow it down, come back to my feet on the floor, my breath, where I am.
For this reason, starting your day with a mind calming activity like yoga or meditation is super important to start your day from presence. Then you can use the wheel analogy it if is helpful to catch your thinking before it turns into a gnarl of thoughts that holds your work and your life hostage.
When you become lost in your thoughts, and the wheel gets going too fast, that is the time where there is little more important than a 15 minute meditation, going for a run or some other activity that gets you out of your head. That voice that says to you that you don’t have time – play back the tedious hours spent when you are not present and what your work and life quality looks like. I am finding these days that it is never worth it to waste time like this.
Now go out there, be present, and transform your little corner of the world.
Go, fight, win