Having just returned from Nepal, where I spent seven days meditating in the foothills of Everest, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on my experience and also share my learnings for those that are interested.
My intended purpose was to gain a deeper understanding of how to harness the mind and remove the noise. I find that when my mind is quiet, I become incredibly clear-headed and massive results follow. This experience allowed me to reflect on life and put everything I valued into perspective.
I’m very grateful for this experience and to the Tibetan monks, who were kind enough to donate their time and share their way of life. This experience completely removed me from my daily life of working up to 18 hours a day within Melbourne's leading performance marketing agency. Having previously only meditated for a maximum of 20 minutes before this adventure, transitioning to an environment of complete silence and meditating for up 6 hours a day, with no access to technology or the outside world, was a monumental shift.
Reflection. Something in my ‘busy’ life I never found enough time for. Taking time to step back and think about who we are and what it means to be alive on this spinning dirt ball we call Earth. I went on this trip with little access to the outside world, no girlfriend and no technology, just my own thoughts and company.
Whilst in complete silence for 7 days, I found the richness in ‘thinking time’. During these sessions, I had perspective, much more than I’ve had in many years and this allowed my mind to become quiet and to truly reflect on what’s important. By filtering out the noise, it becomes easier to gain clarity on what we value in business, relationships and life.
I’ve since scheduled ‘thinking time’ into my weekly diary, in which there is nothing else to do apart from think about a single idea that I deem to be the most important, that presented itself during that week. By creating a scheduled time to think through a specific idea with a clear mind, we become certain about what we believe and the direction we need to take.
PAIN CAN BE GOOD
During my time abroad, we were fortunate enough to spend time with Himalayan monks. Several of these monks spoke English and were able to share beliefs and views of life which were heavily influenced by Tibetan Buddhism.
In my first meditation session, we sat on small cushions with our legs crossed, backs straight and hands clasped in our laps. After just 15 minutes, my knees started to ache and my lower back was screaming out in pain. All I could think about was how uncomfortable I was and how much I wanted to straighten my knees to relieve the pain. My mind got cluttered and I started thinking about how it would be possible to stay calm, while my body was screaming out to change positions. Then, as if one of the monks telepathically heard my thoughts, he suggested that if our knees are hurting, this is a good thing. 'We can feel this area of our body. There are many people in this world who do not have legs and will never feel this pain as a result. Be thankful that you can feel and that we have knees.'
He continued, 'This morning, you are here. There are many people who are the same age as you or younger that did not wake up this morning. Be grateful for today and this experience, as others have not been so lucky.' This completely shifted my way of thinking about the discomfort that I was feeling.
It is amazing how quickly we can shift our thoughts from suffering, by simply looking at the same situation from a different angle. These monks believe that the reason the majority of humans on this planet are unhappy is that as a species we choose to suffer. Just like I had a choice to either suffer with the pain in my knees or to feel thankful for the ability to feel my legs. We face this choice dozens of times every day. We can either choose to live in a state of suffering or to look for the gift in any situation that is presented to us.
PRESSURE CREATES DIAMONDS
Whilst in the monastery, I witnessed something that can only be described as monks debating. This was completely foreign to anything I’ve ever seen before, as my impression of monks is that they are quiet and calm, not highly animated and energetic.
How the monks debate is unique. One monk would sit on the ground with his legs crossed. He would then be surrounded by 4-5 monks standing over him, who ask questions of the seated monk, to which he is required to respond. As each of the standing monks finished asking their question, they clapped loudly in the face of the seated monk, to signal the need for a response. This is to test each monk's understanding whilst also using their own worldly experience to back up their reliefs.
This was undoubtedly a high pressure situation for the seated monk, for as soon as he had responded to one question, another monk was hurling another question and clapping in his face. The reason for this behaviour is to test themselves and their beliefs which will allow them to grow. This questioning could go on for an hour or more.
What was evident from this was that to have a supporting group of people around you, that constantly challenge your understanding, can push you to new heights. Pressure creates diamonds. Don’t get comfortable - have people in your life that challenge you in a supporting way, as this will bring out the best in you.
The more I learn about psychology, marketing agencies and sales, the more I realise how similar every human’s behaviour truly is. We are just pain and pleasure-seeking animals. Not knowing a great deal about Buddhism, it was amazing to see it practiced by individuals who have dedicated decades to the practice.
I had previously thought that Buddhism may have been a way of life, rather than a religion. Although there is much in the way of life to be taken from Buddhism, it is very much a religion. Having been raised in an Anglo Christian environment, I find unearthing the similarities and differences between cultures and religions incredibly interesting. However, what became abundantly clear is that psychology of influence and what motivates us to action does not change, no matter what religion or region we are from. Humans and animals want to move away from pain and into pleasure. We don’t want suffering, either in this life or our next.
LEARNING NEVER STOPS
As we continue to gather life experiences, they represent opportunities for growth every day. I look back at what I thought I knew in my late 20s and chuckle quietly to myself. I can only imagine what I’ll think as I read this article in ten years time. Learning for me is a passion, as I actively seek to become a better version of myself each and every day. I’ve invested tens of thousands into areas of life that I strive to master and to this date it is easily the best investment I’ve ever made. The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know.
Travelling and seeking knowledge from individuals who are masters in their respective fields is the fastest way to understanding an area of your life where you are looking for improvement. Seek out masters in any field you want to improve, as they will guide you to grow faster than any other method on this planet.
BE CAREFUL OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS
The people you surround yourself with are everything. The monks immerse themselves with both masters and others on the same path looking for spiritual growth.
If you are looking to become a master of any skill, ensure that you have mentors that can guide you to greatness. Surround yourself with people with similar beliefs that will support you on your journey. Whether it’s in business, personal relationships or health, actively seek out a master that can help expedite your growth and surround yourself with positive people who will support you on your journey.
Want to learn more about it? I'd be happy to organise an early morning meditation session over Skype.
Image Credit: www.monkeyingaroundtheworld.com