Recently I finished reading 'The Surrender Experiment' by Michael Singer. Michael is an author (he also wrote Untethered Soul), speaker, former software developer, and yogi that has been featured on Oprah. When he was studying at the University of Florida back in 70's, he became obsessed after discovering the 'voice in his head' and started a journey in trying to quiet that voice. He went as far as quitting his PhD at the time, buying 10 acres of land outside of Gainesville, and living in a van spending his days meditating. By practicing meditation, quieting his mind, and living in the moment, it led him on a path of what he called 'The Surrender Experiment' - an experiment based on finding solace in the moment and allowing the flow of life to take charge of his thoughts. He understood that in order to become less stressed he had to learn how to live with the opportunities and challenges that life was putting in his path. After deciding to 'ride the wave of life instead of swimming against it,' it started an incredible journey so far from everything he had ever expected. He went from builder to professor to software developer to President of a billion dollar company - all while still living on this 10 acres (which has expanded to over 600 acres today as a meditation retreat). Here are some takeaways from this incredible story: Quieting the 'voice in your head' is one of the main goals of meditation When you are being mindful, rules, routines, and goals guide you and don’t govern you. The reason is because full presence and immersion in what you are doing at that exact moment means you are also aware of why you are doing it. It also helps quiet that voice so that your ultimate goal and mission in life comes back into focus.
Being mindful allows you to see things that you wouldn’t normally notice, and it opens you up to an entire array of opportunities. Mindfulness and meditation is not about thinking about 'nothing', but rather of choosing and focusing on what to think about. When you learn to observe the moment (to stand and exist mentally in the space you are physically in) you also learn to step outside of the partial-attention lifestyle and catch opportunities when they present themselves. Surrendering to the flow of life calms the mind and helps create clarity
Mistakes often arise from a lack of clarity. When you are dealing with several different objectives at a time, your thoughts can cloud your ability to see things in a simpler manner. The practice of being mindful aids specific parts of your brain that are crucial in our ability to develop and continue projects. What's incredible about Singer's book is how the right people showed up at the right time; however, at the moment they showed up, it seemed like an inconvenience at that time. But by having clarity and surrendering to the moment, they ended up being exactly what he needed at that exact moment in time. By practicing on living in the present moment, you can avoid paralyzing sensations like anxiety for the future and regrets about the past. We often find ourselves worrying about the uncertainty of what lies ahead as well as over-analyzing the past and what we could've, should've, or would've done. I recently read a good analogy that practicing mindfulness is like driving: to get to where you are going you have to be fully aware of the road that you are in at that moment. If you are looking too far ahead, then you can miss the cars passing by or the pedestrians crossing the street. Your rearview mirror is only useful if you want to look back to make sure you can change lanes or make a turn. Similarly, in the path to moving from concept to creation, looking back on the past is only necessary if you are figuring out how to make a change in order to get to your destination more efficiently. Continuing to look through that rearview mirror at whatever you have already left behind takes the focus off the road ahead. Create a time and place to be intentional about mindfulness We don't need to go and buy 10 acres of secluded land in order to create a space for us to be mindful. However, it is important that we have a place we can go to reconnect with ourselves. There are certain things that our bodies do that we don’t have to think about for them to happen. By bringing your attention to these things that “just happen”, like breathing, you are letting go of what disconnects you. When we ground our thoughts to our body through breathing, it helps keep us connected to the physical world and prevents our mind and thoughts from the endless wandering.
Following the changes in your body as you draw breaths in and out is a way of practicing attentiveness. When you concentrate on the process that actually takes place when you breathe, it takes effort to maintain your thoughts in sync with the way your body moves. The more you practice concentration the more likely you are to reach different levels of insight.
When you examine the way your body responds, you begin to identify where tension might exist and what thoughts might drag your mind out of the state of meditation. This stillness allows you to examine the effect of your work on yourself and the environment around you, and if you understand your problems, then you are more likely to be able to solve them. You can apply the practice of mind-body connection to walking. Instead of walking in a constant state of indifference, when we are mindful, we are unlocking our creative selves and aiding our performance with every conscious step. In closing, Singer teaches us how to open our minds and souls towards new opportunities instead of stressing over what we should do with our lives. By surrendering to life, by listening to the people around us, and by learning how to say yes, we can achieve incredible things and find incredible people to work with and people who need our unique talents and services. Pictured below: Temple of the Universe meditation center outside of Gainesville, Florida. Where it all started for Singer