By Four for Growth – Suzy, Dorothy, Doreen & Doris
Just imagine it. Imagine all four of us as we closed the door behind us, each of us holding a glass of red wine. The bed in the hotel room looked very well laid. One you want to sleep on in a still position and wake up with no mess. Often we wonder, where we went wrong. A realization that usually hits us a bit too late in the day. Suddenly, Afia held her hands as she turned to look directly at us… ‘Girls, do you remember when we were much younger, with no cares in the world; when jumping on a bed and pillow fighting was so much fun?’ Our eyes lit up, we all took off our sandals and jumped in unison onto the middle of the bed, bounced towards the ceiling, landed in the middle of the bed then we fell off the bed spontaneously when Afia threw a pillow at us, with no particular target in mind.
In our childish excitement, we took the other pillows, and soon we were at each other, jumping on the bed and laughing loudly, just like we used to do when we were much younger – way younger. ‘Girlfriends, what happened to us?’ ‘What happened to happiness?’ ‘What happened to our plans?’ We were going to have it all, business, career, and family. Everything seems to have gone according to plan but there’s this emptiness that we sometimes feel, that we cannot seem to place a finger on, but it seems to be eating us up. Is this what success feels like?
Our first nugget for success – Begin the day with meditation
It was 5:00 a.m., the next day on our retreat, and we are ready for meditation. For this morning, we adopted a devotional message shared by one of us through ‘Timelessword’. If the devotional text does not do justice in drawing us closer to our creator, then the fruity voice of our friend on the podcast does the magic. For our listening pleasure this day October 16th, 2020, the podcast was titled – Ask, Seek, Knock as referenced from Mathew 7:7-8. We closed our eyes and reflected on the many things we remained grateful for, including waking up that morning in good health as measured by our minds and spirit. We all whispered in unison a prayer to God in gratitude as we listened to a piece of inspirational music to end our first hour of the morning through meditation.
The place of meditation in the wheel of life
In our aspiration to be successful, we must ensure good health and a solid mental state. We must also ensure a well-balanced emotional state by remaining focused in life. Meditation cannot be understated, as it serves as a support mechanism to help clear our minds before we begin our working days in earnest. Meditation as described is ‘a practice where an individual uses a technique such as mindfulness or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity to gain attention, awareness and achieve a mentally clear, emotionally calm, and stable state.’ Healthline.com lists mindfulness, spiritual meditation, focused meditation, movement meditation, mantra meditation, and transcendental meditations as six popular types of meditation practices.
Spiritual meditation for instance is akin to prayer, in that you reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your God or universe. Meditation broadly covers focused mental training which develops the grey matter in our brain, just like physical bodybuilding exercises build bigger muscles. By focusing on what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good stance, virtuous and praiseworthy, we create a vision for the common good and also improve on our problem-solving skills. This mental stimulation does not only improve our focus in life but also has great wellness benefits for our health.
The approach to, and the importance of meditation
Mediation requires that we retreat into a solitary place to pray or to just remain quiet and focus. This guideline suggests that we need an environment that is free from distractions and accident safe. We also need to choose a time when the day’s activities have not already spiked stress hormones in us. So the recommendation is that, it is the first action in the morning, right out of bed. Like Kim Walker-Smith (an American worship leader) says in her song titled ‘Just Be’ – it is important that we start our day by retreating. Nevertheless, as we are encouraged to pray without ceasing, so it is important not to limit meditation nor journaling as occasional activities during the day. The best result comes with consistency through diligence. We must note that failing to exercise our mental muscles regularly leads to atrophy.
Inspired by the Positive Intelligence work, of Professor Shirzad Shamine of Stanford University, we know that even taking out the spirituality, the strengthening of self-command muscles; focused breathing to saturate our blood and brain with oxygen; strengthening the positive side of our brain be it virtues or sage; deliberate actions to weaken the mental critic and negative tendencies leads to better brain performance, trust, and fulfilling relationships. By utilizing the untrained and underused side of our brains, the same area where creativity sits, is crucial for success.
Meditation and work output
Meditation has enormous well-being benefits. These benefits are believed to contribute to success. They include stress management techniques that induce calmness and clarity of thought, boost our performance by limiting errors in our judgments and actions. Meditation also helps us to deal with and overcome the inertia to act (procrastination). It further helps in unleashing creativity in every sphere of our lives. Besides, the practice helps us to build deeper trust-based relationships for better teamwork, effective leadership, and achieve team goals. These attributes of emotional and social intelligence are crucial for success in life and at the workplace.
Our second nugget for success – Wellness
Wellness empirical research studies, including one by Emmons and McCullough, suggest there is indeed an association between gratitude and wellness. Simple therapeutic exercises in psychotherapy practice including journaling, have been proven to help enjoy many wellness benefits, one of which is good sleep. Wellness activities including meditation, enhance marital harmony and bliss, as well as building stronger parental bonds and trust. Meditation as a wellness activity helps to overcome negative tendencies and create a sense of purposeful living. All these benefits point to a more resilient version of ourselves, immunity not only to many ailments but also immunity to external stressors, shifting us from survival mode to thriving mode. This is the wellness trump card to success and it helps to identify the opportunities in all circumstances as well as enable us to creatively harness the opportunities for the good of all.
We encourage you to look out for the second part of this article in the subsequent publications as we round off our thoughts on this wonderful experience of the wheel of life.