Key Point: Most of my readers understand (or have at least heard) about the scientifically proven benefits of meditation. And in previous blogs, I’ve written about the value of mindfulness and various aspects relative to improving life at work. However, I found the following story a bit of a meditation “WOW” and worth sharing with you.
I still have a hard time sitting still for 10 minutes let alone 10 days. Chris Reining is a personal finance expert whose advice has been featured in The New York Times, TODAY, CNN, CBS, and Lifehacker. He meditated for 10 days along with a former Hollywood actor and stuntman, a software developer for hedge funds, a CEO of a publicly traded company, and a few other interesting folks. According to Reining, the daily schedule included the following: “Under a vow of silence and no eye contact, you wake up at 4:00 a.m. and sit for two hours, eat breakfast, sit for three hours, eat lunch, sit for four hours, eat dinner, sit for one hour, watch some video instruction, and sit for one more hour before sleep.” At day five, the cohort had to sit without moving anything, including embracing any related pain. The Groundhog Day experience, as one might expect, took Reining and others through an emotional roller coaster ride. It was “like being a prisoner; only more difficult.” The conclusion for Reining after the journey: “It reset my life.” And the following is a summary of what Chris deeply learned:
“1. You don’t need much money to be happy. Everyone thinks more stuff will make you more happy. But after you get what you want and realize it didn’t make you as happy as you thought, you start over.
For 10 days I ate oatmeal for breakfast, maybe chili and a salad for lunch, an apple or banana for dinner. I slept on a cot in a dorm divided by sheets. And I loved it. It was a reminder I don’t need much.
Studies show a family of four needs $75,000 to be happy. So, after food, shelter, clothes, and healthcare, you can decide if you want to waste your life chasing something money can’t buy.
2. Change is the one constant in life. This year my cat died, I quit my job, and I went through a break up. To be honest, it’s been a struggle.
But if there’s one thing the instructor S.N. Goenka drilled in my head, it’s that everything is continuously changing. And I’ve been learning that this idea of impermanence is central to Buddhism.
When you start framing things that happen to you as change, instead of loss, you turn something negative into a positive.
3. Know who you are to get what you want. I thought I knew myself, because how would you not? I mean, it’s you.
But spend 12 hours a day for 10 days with yourself, because you will figure out who you are. And when you know who you are it makes you more successful in life. Why? Because you need to understand who you are, and how people see you, so you can change the things that need to change to become the person who can get what they want to get.”
Most of us will likely never make the choice to meditate and spend 240 hours in “solitary confinement” with ourselves. However, there is much for each of us to absorb from Chris’ experience.
- Relax a little more about your career. After you get to where you want, trust me, it doesn’t make you as happy as you might think. Enjoy the journey and contribution rather than wringing your hands over whether you are where you or others think you should be.
- The idea of change and impermanence is truer than ever in today’s work place (and life). As Reining emphasizes, framing up change as a way of life rather than a loss, moves the experience much more towards the positive rather than negative.
- We can never know ourselves too much. Self-awareness is vital to understand what we really want from the work we do. Maybe try meditating for 10 minutes. One never knows. It may take us to 10 days? Only if we want a reset in life.
Reframing in the Triangle,
One Millennial View: I haven’t meditated for 240 hours, but I think I know myself well enough where I’d rather choose 10 days in Gitmo than be quiet and alone for that long. This Millennial thinks that the “silent retreat” is a little bit of snake oil, however, his findings are thought provoking and seemingly valid. I guess my point is, I appreciate Reining’s experiment, but on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m even more thankful that we can all get the CliffsNotes without having to actually test it.