April 11, 2015

How Meditation Saved My Business.


One year ago, I was in the midst of an emotional meltdown.

Most things in my life were great: a loving boyfriend, supportive family, good friends and physical health.

But there was one major problem: my growing business (an eco-fashion brand) was beginning to ruin my life.

Six months after launching, the anxiety began. I had frequent negative thoughts about money, mistakes and future decisions.

“Did I order the right thing?”

“Did I spend too much on that?”

“Was this fabric a mistake?”

A healthy amount of worry is warranted with a new business, but this was excessive. And, it wasn’t always warranted. From an outsider’s perspective, the business was doing great. I was making a little bit of money, scraping by on rent (a rare feat for a new company) and customers were really enjoying my products.

All things considered, the business was doing pretty well.

But emotionally, I was a wreck.

I went to a therapist, and her first suggestion was meditation.

Desperate to calm my anxiety, I committed to a meditation practice—I meditated most mornings before work for 10 minutes. My practice fluxed throughout the year, some months more consistent than others, but over the course of 365 days, I meditated over 150 times.

Meditation practice changed the way I think about my business, my creativity and my fears.

The biggest challenge for most entrepreneurs is mental and emotional—it’s not about the idea or the execution, but about how tuned in we are to ourselves.

From personal experience and a scientific perspective, meditation helps.

Here are a few of the benefits I’ve felt directly. Many of them mix and mingle together, interconnected in the mind (and difficult to express with just words).

Perspective. The mind of an entrepreneur is singly focused.

Get the idea out into the world, and make it work. But when we’re living in tunnel vision, perspective can be fleeting. Mistakes can feel colossal. The end of the world can feel like a real thing.

Meditation offers a few minutes in the day to peek out of the tunnel, feel the bigness of life, and put “disaster” problems into perspective.

Decision-making clarity. Entrepreneurship is a series of decisions, all with crazy-uncertain outcomes.

With a million voices in our heads—representing doubt, worry, fear, excitement, confidence—decision making can be paralyzing.

Meditation helps identify helpful thoughts.

Developing intuition and trust. Learning to observe thoughts, sensations and emotions is the pillar of mindfulness meditation.

So, it makes sense that, as these observational skills are cultivated, it becomes easier to feel initial “gut” reactions—and trust them.

Better flow of ideas. I meditate in the mornings, ideally before looking at e-mail and social media.

If I’m upset or anxious about something, it comes up in my morning practice, usually in the form of repetitive thoughts. Most frequently, it’s about money—how much I have, if it’s enough or where I could have saved.

Sometimes it’s personal, like a disagreement or an awkward conversation. Left untouched, these worries will block my creative flow for the rest of the day. I usually journal about my worries (free writing, at least one notebook page) before or after meditating, to clear space for creativity throughout the day.

Separation of thoughts. Mindfulness meditation the practice of observing thoughts, emotions and sensations in the present moment.

During meditation, it feels as if “we” are observing “ourselves” which is a weird and wonderful thing. With time, I’ve been able to parse out types of thoughts (positive, negative, helpful, unhelpful) and, sometimes, ignore thoughts that aren’t serving me.

Better sleep. Before I began meditating, I didn’t need an alarm clock because my anxiety would literally wake me up.

With eyes still closed, my heart would be racing and my mind would be charging full-speed towards the possibility of a negative outcome. With meditation, it happens much less frequently (and when it does, it’s easier to observe the thought and let it go).

Empathy. I design and manufacture clothing, so the success of my business isn’t just about me.

It’s also a function of the people I work with: fabric suppliers, pattern makers, seamstresses and a shipping warehouse. There are a lot of places where things can break down, and breakdowns happen all the time. It’s just part of business and life.

Meditation has brought a greater sense of empathy into my life, and while I still get angry and frustrated when things don’t go as planned, it’s much easier to see the problem from another perspective and work on solutions together.

Learning to be at peace with what is. The personality trait I see most often in fellow entrepreneurs is type one on the Enneagram—the Reformer, a constantly striving perfectionist.

As the Enneagram Institute says, “perfectionism is a burden that human nature cannot bear.” Indeed, perfect is impossible, so entrepreneurs must learn to be at peace with what is. Goals will always grow, the work will never be done, and it will never be as good as it could be.

Meditation offers space, if only for a few minutes a day, to embody what is.

For me, the hardest thing about meditation was getting started and sticking with it. I use an app (Pranamaya, free in the app store) that plays a breathing sound that flows with inhales and exhales—and there are many more available to suit different preferences.

It’s much easier to form habits, when they become part of a routine (like tooth brushing), so I try to get in 10 minutes in the morning, before I leave for our design studio. It’s still a challenge to sit down and take that time for myself. But I try to remember two things when I’m waffling over whether to meditate:

You clean and care for your body before you leave the house every morning. Why wouldn’t you do the same for your mind?

If you think you don’t have time to meditate, you need it even more. Those times when we’re “too busy” for self-care are the times when we need it the most.

It’s been a little over one year since my meditation journey began and the most important thing I’ve learned is to be gentle with myself.

Missed a day? Commit to tomorrow.

Spent the entire 10 minutes thinking about something ridiculous? That’s okay.

The most basic premise, in both business and meditation, is to show up.

Be there. Try to be present. Allow yourself to fail. Stay committed.

It can truly change everything.

Relephant Read: 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Clothes.


Author: Kristin Glenn

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of Seamly

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