Meditation has enhanced my life in ways that I could never have imagined. From making better leadership decisions to building stronger personal relationships, investing time every day to breathe and focus on my thoughts has been transformative.
That’s why I was thrilled to get in touch with Michelle Zarrin, a meditation and mindfulness trainer, author, speaker and founder of the Mindfulness Expo. She also downloaded her meditation teachings over a million times on the Insight Timer, the number one free sleep and meditation app.
Before Michelle discovered mindfulness, however, she was a small business owner who had no idea how her life path was about to turn out. It took a tragedy to reshape Michelle’s life when she realized that the only way forward was to follow her passion.
Ever since Michelle deviated from a traditional career path, she has become an endless wealth of mindful knowledge. From insights to discovering your true purpose to advice on starting your own meditation practice, their wisdom can transform the way you think, both personally and professionally.
Pushing forward through difficulties
Michelle knows life isn’t easy and she knows it firsthand.
Their marriage broke down about ten years ago, and their father died soon after. “It was a difficult time in my life and I was looking for deeper answers, clarity and peace.”
She had heard of meditation, and it had supposed benefits, but never seriously thought about trying it for yourself. But desperate for a change, she tried, taking time to meditate every day.
Michelle got hooked almost immediately! She said the practice helped her understand that the answers were in themselves all along. “It inspired me to go deeper into myself and see what else I can discover about life,” she continues.
Not long after that, she took part in an intense ten-day silent retreat that included eleven hours of meditation each day. “After I left this retreat, all of the answers, questions, and confusions that I had within me calmed down.”
She also began to realize that her current business – which at the time involved importing clothing from China – was not for her. Her passion and goal were not only to explore the depths of mindfulness for herself, but also to transfer the benefits to others.
“Life is not always easy. So if you don’t love what you do, it will be easy to give up.” says Michelle. “But when you find your passion – that one thing that brings fulfillment to your life – don’t give it up.”
Is Meditation Difficult? It should be!
Here is an amazing fact. On average, a person has between 50,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day! “The mind is designed to think,” says Michelle. No wonder it is so difficult to turn the mind off and meditate without the distraction.
However, aren’t some of life’s best rewards come from challenges? As a leader, what better reward than clarity, smarter decision-making, and the other significant benefits Michelle, I, and countless other leaders have gained through mindful meditation?
When you’re ready to get started, here is Michelle’s advice on how to meditate for the first time:
- Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes, sit in a comfortable position, and close your eyes
- Try to focus on your breath until the timer runs out
- Let all thoughts flow in and out without ever judging them
- Once the timer goes off, slowly open your eyes and get on with your day!
Pretty easy, right? It may not be like letting your thoughts flow without being distracted, but that’s perfectly fine. Even if you reach just a second with no idea going through your brain, this is a successful meditation practice.
“The key is to continue the discipline,” says Michelle. “The next day you can do three seconds without thinking. The next day it can be five seconds. Or it could even be one again.” That too is successful – because it is practice.
“You never do it wrong,” she insists. “There is nothing wrong with meditation. Meditation simply sits down, does your best to focus on your breath, and soothes the mind and body to the best of its ability.
As long as you do this, you are doing it right! “
The benefits of retreats
Daily meditation practices are fantastic! In all fairness, even if you pause for a few sporadic moments here and there to meditate, you take pride in making your mind a priority.
While these practices can get you far, the distractions of everyday life make it difficult – if not impossible – to experience all that meditation has to offer. You can only go that deep when you have 8 a.m. meetings, important deadlines, and family meals.
This is why Michelle is an advocate of mindfulness and meditation retreats such as those she first attended years ago. However, many retreats are a long way from the intensive programs they prefer – so don’t let that put you off.
Instead, retreats can and can vary significantly. Most, however, involve thorough mindful teaching, plenty of time to practice, and most importantly, no distractions.
“When we dive into our schedule from waking to bed, it’s all about,” says Michelle. In contrast, retreats allow us to let go of commitments and create space to focus on one important, but often neglected, thing – ourselves.
In this area, participants will soon find that they are doing more than improving their meditation skills. They also gain clarity and insights that – with the noise of the outside world – they could rarely fully grasp.
“Something happens to us on a retreat,” says Michelle. “We dig deeper into ourselves. It also enables us to pause and connect with ourselves because, for once, we are separated from everything else.”
Although people are not affiliated at the retreat itself, they often return to the “real world,” which is full of new ideas, an in-depth sense of clarity, and the excitement of taking home everything they have learned.
“It’s a tremendous charge,” says Michelle. It is also a way of realigning ourselves with everything from our purpose, to our leadership methods, to our priorities, in a way that no other “break” wills.
After all, most vacations or public holidays are just as full as any other day. Don’t you deserve self-care, recalibration, and rejuvenation where, for once, you are finally the focus?
Just like Michelle discovered herself, these opportunities to think and connect could unexpectedly open up a new purpose and path forward.
Michelle says, “A stronger connection with ourselves – and knowing what is true within us – can give us the courage to go out and finally live this life.”
Listen to my entire conversation with Michelle ZarrinNothing Podcast.
You will learn more about how she started her meditation journey, why she left her first career behind, what advice she has to get through difficult times, and much more.
I would also like to be in touch with you on Twitter and LinkedIn and keep you up to date with my corporate imageOne. Learn more about my mission to show executives how mindfulness can change you and your company in my book donothing. Visit www.donothingbook.com for more information.