At Far West Capital, we firmly believe healthy minds and bodies make the most successful entrepreneurs. I talk a lot about the benefits of yoga and meditation – here’s my routine, how I incorporate journaling, and how it personally helps me kick ass. And I’m always encouraging others to get in the game. Kara Knight, our marketing assistant, was dubious, but she took me up on my challenge, and embarked on a 5-day meditation boot camp as a personal and professional experiment.
Here’s Kara’s story, straight from her.
My bedside clock blazed a red 3:07 a.m.
I woke with a start. My eyes were wide open, but it was pitch black. And a feeling of dread washed over me. You know, that feeling.. the one where someone is there. In my empty room. I tried to scream, move, call out, but nothing. I was paralyzed with fear.
I struggled to move and reach for my phone. And then as soon as my arm broke free, I woke up. Another nightmare. This was the third one this week.
“I’ve got to stop binge-watching Game of Thrones before bed,” I told myself.
To be honest, I didn’t think I needed meditation. I was open to the experiment more as a quest for knowledge. Not a quest for inner peace.
Of course, they do say moving and starting a new job are high on the list of most stressful life events — and I’d just done both. But mostly, life has just been exciting. I completely changed gears in the last three months. New job, new industry, new city, new apartment. I just thought I was overblowing the stress, and it all wasn’t a big deal. But you know, looking back, those nightmares probably weren’t just the product of late night television drama.
Cole didn’t know about the personal transitions I was going through when he suggested I take on Paige Davis’ Soul Sparks Meditation Boot Camp as an experiment. He didn’t know how much I wanted to get a better understanding of meditation as a practice. I loved the 15-minute meditation we completed as an office. It was peaceful and relaxing, despite being surrounded by 10 of my coworkers with my eyes shut. I knew meditation wasn’t all hippie granola folks, sitting cross-legged making “okay signs” with their fingers surrounded by crystals. If my uber-Texan, turkey-shootin’ boss thought it did him good, there might be something in it for me.
Before the first day of bootcamp, I made sure I had all my materials organized and ready to go. Paige’s program makes it easy. Each day has an intention, a tip, and a meditation focus. I even printed out the do-not-disturb sign she sent me.
“Shh, I’m meditating.”
Day 1 – 9:45 PM, 15 minutes before bedtime
Paige’s tip: “It’s okay to have thoughts.”
Meditation: Breath awareness
Time recommended: 5 minutes
To do: Dim the lights. Gather my pillows. Put music on.
I was too afraid to lie down because I knew I’d fall asleep. Hearing Paige’s voice and directions and the soft music in the background really helped me focus on the lesson (breath awareness). Together we worked on inhaling, exhaling, inhaling, exhaling, in 3 seconds, out 3 seconds, in 3 seconds, out 3 seconds. Paige was right there, speaking to me from my phone.
Despite Paige’s helpful tip, I surprised myself — no outside thoughts popped up to distract me from my meditation. For a moment, it almost seemed as if my body was inflating and deflating with the breaths. As Paige’s instrumental music filled the room, I fell deeper and deeper into the lull of meditation. Somehow, I remembered to pull myself out of my reverie, tapping my phone to put Paige’s disembodied voice to sleep, right before I joined her.
That night, I slept like a rock — and I didn’t dream.
Day 2 – 6:45 AM, post-workout and shower
Paige’s tip: “Don’t try too hard.”
Meditation: Body Awareness
Time: 6-7 minutes
This time, I sat in my living room, on the rug, my back propped against the couch. A stray outside thought or two snuck in, tiptoed past my post-workout zen, nagging me the tiniest bit to focus on the future. “I wonder what my next meditation will be like….”
Back to focus, I told myself. Breathe. In. Out. In for 3 seconds. Out for 3 seconds.
Paige’s voice from my phone gave me instructions and began the meditation. Then, the quiet began — and this time, I was supposed to let it last another seven minutes or so.
That was when I got scared. Seven minutes had never seemed so long before. I was supposed to keep my eyes closed for 7 minutes?! And Paige, what the hell was I supposed to focus on for all that time?
But then I returned to her instructions. I’d done this before, at the end of a yoga class when they tell you to lie flat in savasana, or corpse pose, but somehow it felt new, this body awareness I was supposed to be doing. But I had Paige’s instructions, and slowly I relaxed my face, my legs, my arms, my shoulders, my eyelids, my ears, and my fingers, one by one. Pinky. Ring finger. Middle finger. Index finger. Thumb.
As it turns out, I’m a terrible corpse. My brain’s already beyond relaxed. Bad timing, I tell my rebellious body. I’ve got my morning routine down pat, anyway. I don’t want to mess that up.
At work, though, I’m calmer. I’m focused. Something comes up, a Big Problem. I had forgotten something HUGE, something that could seriously affect one of my coworkers during a big event. I normally would have completely flipped out, but you know what? I found a simple, outside-the-box solution, and fixed the issue within a matter of minutes. Everything worked out perfectly. I was in the flow, y’all.
Day 3 – 7:30 AM, post-shower and 2 Game of Thrones episodes
Paige’s tip: “Be kind to yourself.”
Meditation: Heart centered awareness
Time: 10 minutes
Again, here I am, sitting on my living room rug, with my palms facing up for a more energizing meditation. The energy radiating from my palms is in stark contrast to my backdrop: lights off, blinds open, and the muted daylight from the gray gloom outside was feebly attempting to light the room.
My brain was a ping pong ball today, bouncing around without focus. Paige had previously warned me that Days 3 and 4 were typically the most challenging. It could also be the two intense episodes of Game of Thrones I watched today since 5 AM, or because I only have 10 minutes before I have to leave for work. Poor timing, self.
Paige’s voice tumbles from my phone in a relaxing cadence, teaching heart-centered awareness:
“The heart sends signals to the brain that change the entire nervous system, reducing stress hormones, enhancing your immune system, and increasing anti-aging hormones. As we tap into our heart center, we experience more lightheartedness and present-moment awareness in our day-to-day.”
I internally repeat her mantra “Harmony. Peace. Laughter. Love.” and incorporate her breathing techniques. Somehow I really felt the permission to let go of my body. (Did I just say that?!)
I’m really starting to get into this meditation thing.
Day 4 – 10:00 AM, Saturday, pre-breakfast
Paige’s Tip: “Let go of expectations.”
Time: 20 minutes
It’s all Saturday meditation vibes over here. My apartment is dark except for the orange glow of my salt lamp and the flashes of lightening that cut through the house as a thunderstorm bears down outside. The coffee is hot and smells wonderful. And I have nowhere I had to be. Perfect.
I sit on my soft microfiber sofa, cross-legged. Today Paige and I practice making a silent “hum-sah” on the inhale and exhale of our breathing. By now, I feel like she’s my personal teacher. The sound of my stomach growling broke my focus and thoughts of bacon and eggs taunted me. Meditating on an empty stomach might be a bad idea.
My black lab mix Colby smacked as he chewed on his blanket at the foot of the couch, a habit that began when he was abandoned as a puppy. The annoyance was starting to get to me. Maybe I’m just not cut out for 20 minutes of meditation. Is thinking thoughts about not having thoughts, actually thoughts? Then I remembered Paige saying that it’s actually impossible to not have thoughts. That I’m totally normal.
When this happens, I’m supposed to ground myself again. Refocus. Return to the inhale… exhale… inhale… exhale.
Once I had let go of what I thought the meditation “should be” it became exactly what I needed. It’s not all zen and out-of-body experiences, y’all. It’s having the patience to keep… coming… back.
I sound like a real-life meditator now!
Day 5 – Sunday, 8:45 PM, post-weekend, pre-bedtime
Paige’s Tip: “Stick With It!”
Time: 20 minutes
I love full circle moments. You know, like when anything happens to Oprah, or after trying on 40 outfits you always settle on the first one?
This meditation, I’m back on my bed, and in the evening, just like I did on Day 1. You know, the bed where I had those recurring nightmares.
It has become my favorite time and spot. My morning workouts are a meditation in their own right, and the right pace for my frenetic energy in the morning. Always busy. Always thinking through the day. Always rushing to get out the door. By the evenings, I’m calmer. Ready to wind down. Focusing and reflecting. And I think that it’s helping me sleep.
Today’s intention is connection. Paige says through this new daily commitment, I’m deepening my connection to myself, others, and my practice. I chose the 20-minute meditation. My legs were crossed with my palms down for a more grounding meditation and my back was propped against my fluffy pillows.
Today was different. The training wheels came off. Paige began the meditation by saying hello, but the remainder of the meditation was soothing music. It was a time to reflect on everything I had learned.
Instead of wishing for Paige’s guiding voice, I recapped the previous day’s lessons (multiple times) and tried my best to push out any outside thoughts. Easier said than done, but as they say, practice makes practice. I actually got to a place where I could see myself in third person today, a moment of reflection. I would never have made the time to see or feel that before.
I was able to really release the day and found the ability to let go. Sweet dreams.
I get it. I’m in.
It’s been a few weeks since my boot camp, and now I meditate about every other day for around 10-15 minutes. Even better, I truly look forward to it. The silence is a rare gem these days.
Once I released the idea that meditation should have a certain result or look a certain way, that’s when it got real — and much more useful. Admittedly, I needed to slow down. I stretch myself too thin… overpromising, making too many plans, never slowing down to take a breath. I surprised myself by taking the time to do it right — and once I did, it got easier every time.
Most importantly, meditations are messy. Paige said it best:
Meditation is not the practice of having NO thoughts. Meditation is the practice of becoming aware when our mind has drifted and coming back to a point of focus (breath, body, mantra, etc.), gently, repeatedly, and without judging ourselves. Each time we do that, it’s like a pushup for our brain and strengthens the areas that help to reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance communication.
If you’re like me and you think you don’t really need meditation at the onset, it’ll probably benefit you the most. I’m most happy to report that I haven’t had another one of those recurring nightmares. Sleeping well truly makes you a better version of yourself.
I’m so humbled that Far West Capital cares so much to encourage this practice in its employees. It’s a company that cares, and as cheesy as that sounds, it’s true, and and hard to find these days. Happy employees always mean happier customers. And I’m smiling.
If you’re interested in supporting your team through a meditation boot camp, Paige at Soul Sparks offers group discounts.
Want more? Try on one of Paige’s meditations for size. Om shanti shanti shanti.
Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here, and we’ll give them a call.