Recently, I caught up with a 30-year-old, corporate, high-flying friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a year.
I was surprised to hear what had happened in this short time.
She explained how, despite never showing her spiritual side to anyone in her advertising office, she’d had a panic attack, took months off work, went to meditation retreats in India, and settled on just traveling. She just needed to be herself for a while.
It surprised me how much her incident mimicked my internal battle with my own 14-year full-time corporate career. Now, I am fully on my spiritual track and balance it with my consulting practice. But back when I started, spending 16 hours a day working in a place where you cannot be who you truly are is like being in a cage the whole time.
Today, there are many companies offering fast-paced lucrative careers while also offering opportunities for employees to practice mindfulness, meditation, and power yoga in the office. Former Google employee Chade-Meng Tan offers his popular mindfulness courses—developed within Google—under his Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.
But this is about cracking a deeper layer than just stress-management with mindfulness, meditation, and yoga asanas.
This is about growing your intuition and communicating with your soul.
It took yogis hundreds of years of believing in the benefits of meditation to finally see it scientifically proven on the front page of Harvard Business Review in January 2015. The yogis did not stop meditating whilst it remained scientifically unproven. It just goes to show how your own spiritual beliefs about what is right for you can be powerful despite what the world around us thinks. Our soul requires as much nurturing as our drive for material success. If it does not get its fair share of energy, it will eventually force us to pay attention to its needs.
Here’s what you can start doing right now to stop ignoring your soul’s needs and make mindfulness a part of your lifestyle.
1. Listen to your body and your feelings.
Your soul is constantly communicating with you, either by feeling or by physical manifestations in your body. It’s giving you new information and asking you to listen. One way to begin picking this up is by setting a daily intention to learn something about yourself every day that you did not know before, however small.
In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes a study by scientists at the University of Iowa done a few years ago using four decks of cards. Two decks are red and two are blue. Each card in those decks either wins you a sum or costs you. Your job is to turn over cards from any of the decks, one at a time, and in a way that maximizes your winnings.
What you do not know at the start is that the red decks are a minefield. You can win only by taking cards from the blue decks.
The question is: How long will it take you to figure this out? Each gambler was also linked to a polygraph—a lie detector machine that measured the activity of the sweat glands in the palms of the gamblers’ hands.
Eventually, the gamblers had a hunch about the blue deck—after 50 cards or so—but did not know why. What the Iowa scientists discovered with the polygraph is that the gamblers started generating stress responses to the red decks by the 10th card, 40 cards before they were able to say that they had a hunch about the red decks. And their behavior changed around this time too, to begin favoring the good decks. But they were not realizing any of this consciously until about 50 cards into the game.
When you are doing your daily meditations or just reflecting, go back to stressful times in the day and replay them in your mind. Are you able to sense the triggers before the stress builds? What can you learn from this and implement in your future behavior?
2. Find balance within your working hours.
The challenge of balancing long working hours is endless. I recall my own challenges when I first learnt Primordial Sound Meditation with Dr. Deepak Chopra. I was thrilled that all I had to do was meditate twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon, to gain the benefits.
But, when I returned to my London job, I found it impossible to meditate 10 minutes in the morning having had a poor sleep the previous night, or slotting in 10 minutes in the middle of the day because I would look like a total freak in front of my colleagues or clients. And so I yo-yoed between days where I could and couldn’t meditate. One day, I just decided to a book meeting room for 15 minutes daily in the office, which really worked for me. Bring some essential oils to help you create your office spa, but avoid candles and incense as it may attract the fire squad. Only 15 minutes a day at 3:00 p.m., and I found myself enjoying my work so much more.
3. Allow your soul to just be.
We all have a certain amount of awareness of the present at any moment. But quite often, even when we are preoccupied with work, we end up getting absorbed in thoughts such as “I should have done this sooner,” or “damn, another excel spreadsheet.” Thoughts such as these are actually bringing up past crap because you are correlating your current moment to past feelings.
Being completely present refers to being 100 percent focused on only what is in front of you. Your soul is happiest when you are in this place.
Do something weekly that nurtures your soul in this way. Is there something you do that you can lose yourself in? Maybe it’s an non-competitive sport, playing an instrument, singing, exploratory hiking, painting, or dancing. I started coloring in children’s coloring books—outside the lines—and it was so much fun laughing on my own in my local café. It highlighted to me how lines create a perception of something you have to follow, when instead, you always have a choice.
Find something you enjoy that lacks in structure and allows you to explore new possibilities about yourself. The idea is to just be in the moment and feel your soul.
Get creative about how to communicate often with your soul.
Author: Varin Gill
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton