Patrick Ewers is a leading Executive Coach and start-up Advisor. We have asked Patrick to share his wisdom with the about.me community in a series of posts designed to help professionals develop a sense of sustained fulfillment in their work. This is part II of Patrick Ewers’ Story, read Part I here.
The real moment of clarity for me came during our in Thailand. My wife and I decided to join a Buddhist monastery for a 10-day silent meditation retreat.
Many people have an interest in meditation but are a little nervous about some of the connotations that surround it. My experience in Thailand gave me a realization on just how powerful meditation can be.
Describing meditation from a Western viewpoint, the practice is nothing more than the physical workout of your mental faculties, training you mind as you would your body. When you train your physical body, it performs better. You become stronger, more limber, and your endurance increases. When you meditate, the same thing happens with your mind. It becomes capable of thinking clearer and more able to recognize patterns before they turn into problems. Your mind becomes stronger, more able to resist the unskillful reactions produced by being in the “fight or flight” mode. And, perhaps most exciting, your mind is better able to help you naturally fall into states of sustained happiness.
During that experience, I learned how training your mind to concentrate at levels much deeper than you’ve ever experienced in your life, can lead to life-altering clarity.
When you start meditating, you have what’s called a ‘monkey mind.’ You notice your thoughts jump randomly from thinking about the weather, to the itch on your left thigh, to wondering what you need to add to the shopping list. That is your mind trying to escape the practice of focusing on just one meditative object (very often your breath.) But the more you practice, the more your mind becomes intrigued by it and attaches itself to the practice. Soon, you become good at it and you’re able to concentrate at levels you might never have thought possible.
After awhile, the only thoughts that can disrupt the deep state of concentration you’ve achieved are very profound thoughts. Thoughts that are life-moving or life-impacting; the relationship you had with your mother, or overcoming the dramatic experiences of your past. In my case, my profound thoughts dealt with my future career path.
Basically, as I was in a deep state of concentration, my mind switched to thoughts of what I was going to do with my life when I got back to San Francisco. What was so amazing about the experience was, because my mind was in that high state of concentration, it served up the answers with a speed and clarity I had never experienced before. It felt true, simple and logical, perfectly describing who I am and what I needed to pursue.
Four specific themes manifested in my mind that aligned perfectly with who I was, and had always been. I was able to fortify these themes with direct evidence from many past experiences, the way an articulate lawyer presented indisputable facts in front of the Supreme Court.
It was easy to subscribe to them because there was little doubt they could be wrong. This effortless process resulted in a very simple statement: “All you have to do is find a profession in which all, or most, of these four themes were represented.”
As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I woke up out of meditation and was completely blown away from the experience. Obviously, ever since then, I’m a firm believer that the practice of meditation can help you learn the skills to lead a mindful and fulfilling life, both personally and professionally.
I ended up calling those themes my life themes.