In the last few posts, I shared how many of us accidentally train ourselves to expect failure, why trying to use “positive thinking” to overcome your fears rarely works, and how to start dismantling your fear-based, limiting beliefs.
Today we’ll look at a simple daily meditation practice you can use to let go of deeply ingrained fears and start instilling healthier mental habits.
Listen to the podcast episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon.
Why Meditation Matters
Unraveling your fearful, limiting beliefs requires the ability to clearly see where they’re coming from. Unfortunately for most of us, our typical mental chatter is so noisy that it’s nearly impossible to sustain that level of clarity for any significant length of time.
We’re so used to living in our minds, mistaking our stories for truth, and reacting moment to moment to whatever those stories happen to be telling us at the time.
That was exactly my own experience before starting to practice meditation in late 2014. My thoughts and emotions were the only things that ever felt real. I was either lost in thought—or waiting to be lost in thought—about whatever happened to be triggering me most in each moment.
I was completely oblivious to the space in between those thoughts and emotions. In hindsight, I realize that on some level, I experienced that space in rare moments of inner stillness. But its importance was completely lost to me at the time. I didn’t recognize that those quiet, peaceful moments could open up access to a much deeper level of insight and guidance.
Meditation is by far the most important skill I’ve ever learned. It’s given me the ability to get out of my “monkey mind” at any moment, no matter what happens to be going on around me. Challenges and setbacks that used to crush me in the past are now much easier to consciously put into proper perspective.
That doesn’t mean I never get scared. I certainly do. But the difference between then and now is that those moments of anxiety and fear are much less intense, and last for seconds instead of days. Rather than living in fear as my default state, I now occasionally experience brief moments of fear—quickly replaced by a much more centered and calm default state of open awareness.
How to Meditate
There’s no one single right way to meditate. But rather than overwhelm you with too many options, I’ll share what’s worked well for me.
In the last post, I described a simple meditation practice for cultivating inner stillness and tuning into your awareness. If you’re not already an experienced meditator, you may have found it hard to quiet your mind or clearly observe your thoughts and beliefs. But like any skill, cultivating inner stillness gets easier the more you practice it.
Meditation isn’t about stopping your thoughts or getting blissed out. The goal is simply to cultivate your natural but hidden state of everyday awareness. Just “being aware of being aware.”
Have you ever “woken up” after being lost in thought? Maybe you were driving somewhere familiar, and you simply zoned out and started daydreaming. Then suddenly, you realized you were lost in a daydream while driving on the freeway at 70 miles per hour.
In that one instant of insight, you became aware of being aware. You were no longer lost in the contents of your mind, but instead were aware that you were lost in the contents of your mind.
Meditation is simply the practice of repeatedly and habitually bringing yourself back to that moment of awareness. Of realizing you were lost in thought, and then experiencing not being lost in thought.
It’s in those moments of pure awareness that you can experience true stillness and see your limiting beliefs from a new perspective—the point of view of the observer rather than the “small self” that we assume we are, with all of its seemingly hard-wired fears and limitations.
Through meditation, you can practice your ability to bring yourself back to the seat of awareness under controlled conditions. Think of it like practicing difficult shots in basketball from different parts of the court. If you want to be able to hit hard shots under pressure during a game, it helps to drill those shots over and over again during practice. The right physical movements get burned into your muscle memory, and you no longer have to consciously think about how to make difficult shots. It becomes a habit.
Similarly, the more you practice awareness during meditation sessions, the easier it is to maintain that awareness during the chaos of daily life. When the world hits your soft spots, you’ll be able to maintain perspective and see things as they really are, rather than immediately buy into limiting beliefs and unconsciously react to your triggers.
From that point of clarity, you’ll be able to start breaking the conditioned habits that have kept you avoiding failure and rejection, and be able to make better decisions that align with your strengths and purpose.
Here’s a simple meditation practice to get you started:
- Once per day, find a comfortable and quiet place to sit and set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Close your eyes and simply pay attention to whatever thoughts, sounds, and physical sensations happen to arise in your awareness. Don’t exert effort or try to concentrate on any one thing in particular. Just pay attention to whatever experience you happen to be having.
- Whenever you realize that you’ve gotten lost in thought, just notice that you’ve noticed and go back to paying attention to whatever happens to be arising in your awareness.
- Every week or so, add another 5 minutes to your practice until you’re eventually doing at least 2 sessions a day for 15 minutes each.