Read Time: 6 Minutes
Why meditation matters for you as a speaker
Speaking is stressful.
Often times the stress starts days before your presentation and gets more and more intense as you get closer to presenting.
Meditation stops that buildup.
When you are speaking onstage looking comfortable and being socially intelligent are both a result of how relaxed you are.
When your brain gets stressed it literally starts to shut down the areas associated with being emotionally intelligent and social. Instead the brain starts to allocate its limited resources to the more primitive parts of the brain which are associated with fight or flight behaviors.
So if you want to be emotionally intelligent onstage, cracking jokes, and being animated, then you have to be able to manage stress responses.
Meditation fits this bill.
The deep breathing and open posture that the technique which I will teach you in the next section both send messages to the brain that we are safe.
If you have read some of my other posts you know that the reason adopting powerful body language makes you feel more confident and safe is based on evolutionary psychology. We as a species evolved to shrink up during dangerous situations, to be quiet and shrink our posture; both of which were used to hide from predators or hostile humans. These days we still have that evolutionary leftover so by opening our posture we can signal safety to the brain.
A simple 10-minute meditation
The core of my meditation practice is an attitude of gratitude. When I begin my meditation I set my mind on gratitude for simple things: the chair which I am sitting on, having 10 minutes to clear my mind, another day above dirt. Simple things are best for this moment of gratitude because they teach you to savor the little things. I find that putting myself in a grateful mood before my meditation means that I will take a more positive approach toward myself when I inevitably slip up and lose focus.
When meditating you should sit upright, not military straight but relaxed. A good technique which I use for staying aware of my posture is imagining that I have a helium balloon tied to the crown of my head (where a yarmulke sits.) This ensures a good posture without having to muscle it.
Rest your hands palm down on your thighs, with some space between your fingers. Find a comfortable location where your hands aren’t stretched too far out or scrunched too close in.
The place to put your awareness in meditation is the breath. Using your breath in the right way is the shortest route to managing your mood because the breath signals the state of the body’s stress levels to the mind in a big way. The breathing practice which I use is one which I got from The book “Mindfulness in Action.” Essentially as you breathe in, take a moment of no-thinking. Then on the out breath you relax all of your muscles and imagine expanding. Try to keep your attention always on your breath.
I meditate with my eyes half open. I fix them on a spot on the ground 5-10 feet away. Something about fixing your eyes on a set location is soothing.
One of the biggest misconceptions people have around meditation is that it somehow means stopping your thoughts. That the only time you are meditating is when you have no thoughts running through your head.
A better way approach thoughts is to consider them things in passing. When you see a thought, acknowledge it, but don’t engage with it.
This attitude is more effective because when you just watch your thoughts go by you don’t really care about them and as a result of not engaging with them you stop them from multiplying. The issue is that most people actively want to get rid of their thoughts when meditating. This is like trying to smooth a turbulent pond by smacking down the waves.
It just creates more chaos.
So the way to really create a little more free space in your thoughts is to just watch, don’t add to the chaos of thoughts which we all have chattering in our minds. Just watch. And as you meditate more and more this chatter will slow down to a near stop. And you will feel deeply calm.
When to expect results
It seems like most people I know quit meditation because they never saw the results they were expecting. They tried it a few days in a row or, once a week and they never felt the deep relaxation and the peace of mind that they were promised.
It’s like anything in life though, consistency makes a difference. From my own life it seems like it takes at least 10 consecutive days of meditation to really begin to be able to meditate at a deeper level. So if you are going to give this thing a go, make sure to keep at it for a few weeks to make sure that you really see what meditation is like before thinking about quitting.
I challenge to meditate for 10 minutes a day for the next 10 days and afterward come back and let me know in the comments below how it went for you.
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