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For nearly a decade I tried every meditation course I could. I held a belief, that meditation was the answer to my over thinking brain. I drooled over the zen pictures in the magazines trying to imagine what that kind of peace could feel like. 

Every meditation workshop I attended troubled me with the same challenge, ‘empty your mind of all thoughts’.  I tried so hard. Imagined myself in a furniture less room with blank walls and immediately started decorating it in my mind. Put myself on a beach, focus on the sea lapping my toes…. no wait, I’m thinking again….  it, just, didn’t, work. Typically I left infuriated and even more stressed as well disappointed in myself that I was failing.

In 2008 I experienced burnout. I was in a senior consultancy role at Vodafone at the time. It was the best and worst position Id held whilst working there. Long hours, challenging relationship dynamics, but exciting projects. My burnout was a wake up call of sorts. I wasn’t managing the stress load well at all.

I thought I was an invincible strong human.

I turned inward and looked to clear up my nutrition and alcohol as well as give up the drinking smoking. I started looking for a new role and I got some acupuncture (which was amazing). Meditation? It still alluded me… in fact I’d given up. Surely it must be some spiritual conspiracy. It seemed impossible to be human and not have thoughts. All that money I’d invested in apps, courses, workshops, none of it had helped. I decided it was not for me, and vowed not to spend another penny on it. 

Several years later, having left left employment and set up my own business, a good friend told me of a course she was going to and said “I immediately thought of you”. It was called, ‘Effortless Meditation’. Ha! I balked out loud, there’s no such thing.  But I got curious. Something about the way this programme was positioned seemed different.  There was no mention of tipping your brain out at the door, no expectations about what good looks like. 

I pushed aside my judgement and signed up. Best case maybe I’ll crack it after all, worst case, I’ll be able to confirm there is indeed no such thing as meditation for mortals.

I was greeted by Jo, the teacher. Immediately we both felt we’d met before and couldn’t quite pin it down. She was normal. Warm, inviting, non-judgy energy.  We got settled and stuck in. Out came the flip chart and she started to explain how it all worked (including the science bit). This was new. 

Then the instruction. An invitation to slow down, become present, notice your body, focus on your breath, introduce the mantra. A gentle process of letting go. 

Then the BOMB SHELL.

There’s no need to empty your mind of your thoughts. WHAT? There’s no need to empty your mind of thoughts. You will have thoughts, just notice them, accept them, let them roll on by, come back to your breath and the mantra. WTAF?  I can have thoughts in this practice. What a revelation. My brain quickly lurching to all the thinking and problem solving I was going to get done. How wonderful to find it’s a tool for multi-tasking. 

We settled in ready to try and practice. I found the mantra vibrational and it was helpful to have something to focus on. Eventually with the stillness I felt myself drop like I was in a steady elevator going down. After a few moments I felt like my eyes (or the elevator door) opened and it seemed like I was inside my mind. What a revelation to find it was so spacious. I noticed the thoughts, the overthinking coming to tease me and I quickly returned to the mantra. I now felt in a hurry to stay here, this was kinda cool. After a while, I felt another layer strip back (from where I have no idea) and I can only describe what happened next as a feeling of taking flight. It was delicious.  My to do list was no where to be found.

Then the timer went and we called back into the room.  My gob wide open I stared at Jo wondering what kind of science witch she was. I suddenly understood. Meditation was about finding the flow and going with it whilst simultaneously letting go energetically. 

The next mediation we did requires a blog all of it’s own, but let’s just say if was life changing. (And I’m not one to make grand claims).  In part I’m convinced it was largely due to Jo’s presence, the space she holds, the clear loving energy she shares so generously with everyone. Her pragmatic and practical approach. 

My favourite saying, ‘there is no right way to do it, and you can’t get it wrong. Do it for five minutes, 50 minutes, it doesn’t matter. If you set your intention to meditation and do it for two minutes, its enough. You have a busy meditation one day and a calm one the next? Great. They’re both welcome and they’re both right. You’re meditating.”

It was so easy.

In the weeks that followed I meditated nearly every day. It became a nanna nap ritual. Ten minutes or 20 minutes were my chosen nap times. 

The benefits have been many. I’m more grounded and more present. This means I’m less tempted to be pulled off course by others or external events. My thinking is clearer and more focussed. I feel less overwhelmed when there’s alot going on. I’m more connected to my body, a sense of harmony between body and mind. I’m less likely to get agitated by other people, finding the flow more readily.  I have a tool I can steady my heart rate wherever and whatever I’m doing. I’m more accepting, more calm, more able to share my love. Way less interested in drama, mine and others.

As a leader, I noticed a switch to focussing on what truly matters, a greater capacity to notice the bullshit and the courage to call it out respectfully. More powerful relationships with others, less judgy, more kind. I seemed to (make) more time to just be, which in turn empowered others. I got better at letting go. I started to let more love in. 

I’m not suggesting meditation is for everyone. It certainly wasn’t for me for many many years. I will however remain an advocate for the way Jo teach’s her programme. After nearly ten years of deep friendship, we’re still trying to locate where we know each other from (a past life probably). I’m absolutely thrilled that she’s become part of the Frankly team as our in-house meditation teacher and that we’re offering a regular group experience for leaders and managers. 

Future fit leaders need to be able to find their presence in these increasingly VUCA times and we’re on a mission to help as many leaders as we can. Meditation, I believe is a crucial skill for the toolkit! 

For more information on our open programmes and our next meditation workshop, click here