How Meditation Can Boost Your Solo Business


12 entry points to ‘better’ from going within


I started my first business at 16 and started meditating at 17. There was no connection.

My first business was low stress — math tutoring. I had a skill, there was a need. It provided spending money through high school and college, and a good chunk of survival money for years after that.

Meditation I discovered through need. A desperate search for peace from interior chaos, an antidote for the ever-present anxiety of growing up and an earnestness to be independent, to get out and know the world.

But once I started the book publishing business that would be my major career endeavor — and ever since — business and meditation have gone hand in hand for me. Success and endurance in the first area would simply not have been possible without a practice in the latter one.

Meditation continues to be the invisible superpower I can always rely on, so let me share 12 entry points for bringing yourself and your business to better by going within.

 

General health The healthier you are physically, the more energy, stamina, focus, and creativity you can bring to your business. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation can help lower anxiety, chronic pain, depression, high blood pressure, and your risk of heart disease. Further, it can help you manage mental health symptoms as well as those of asthma, cancer, IBS, sleep problems, and tension headaches.

Emotional regulation, management, and health Being an entrepreneur is a mental game as well as a physical one and the emotions and emotional turmoil that running a business will surface in you are not for the faint of heart. Again, the Mayo Clinic, documents the benefits of meditation for your mental health:

“When you meditate, you may clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress. The emotional benefits of meditation can include: Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations, building skills to manage your stress, increasing self-awareness, focusing on the present, reducing negative emotions, increasing imagination and creativity, increasing patience and tolerance.”

There’s a reason those Buddha statues represent a serene, unruffled figure. And we want — need — some of that as business owners. Over time, meditation also increases our propensity for for playfulness and laughter. There’s a reason for laughing Buddha statues too. Who doesn’t want that also?

Detachment from outcome Meditation provides some psychological remove from the uncertainties and intensities of working for oneself, making it easier to detach from the outcomes you want NOW and focus instead on your habits, systems, and the tasks and people in front of you in a given moment.

Letting go In our businesses, things come at us so fast and so frequently, we just have to learn to let things go — and not just continue to stuff things somewhere for later processing. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits lists some things we can so easily attach to that we shouldn’t in his Joy of Letting Go. They include overworking, putting things off, frustrations with other people, overwhelm, clutter, and social anxiety.

The teachers of the easy-to-learn, use-for-any-purpose Sedona Method claim that once you learn how to use the method it becomes easier and easier over time to move directly to just letting things go (do not stop to face things or work around them). It’s a wonderful thing to practice in the quiet of meditation.

Yes Closely tied to letting things go by accepting reality is one Buddhist technique of saying yes inwardly to things you notice while meditating and smiling about them: Yes, business sucks this week. Yes, it is stressful that I don’t know what to do about it. Yes, I’m scared and confused and sick and tired. You’re saying yes to, allowing, reality. I can smile at reality instead of denying it.

I like extending that practice with the yes, and concept of improv comedy. You think yes to reality and you move on to an and: Yes, the sales meeting didn’t go as planned, and I’m going to send an email that will mitigate some of its shortcomings. Yes, I lost that client, and that company was not an ideal client for me in these ways and I learned something valuable.

Slowing down Time spent meditating, focusing on your breath, clearing your mind, primes your body and mind over time for slower more peaceful everything, including the manner in which you approach and conduct your business. Here I wax on about 17 reasons there is no business like slow business.

The Tao Taosim, a philosophical tradition dating back to ancient China that addresses how humans can best live, accept themselves, and align with the natural forces of the universe, shows us the openings our challenges provide us — and we certainly encounter our share of challenges as business owners. Tao (pronounced dow) is often translated as way or path. Taoism finds that one’s own troubles are often just the place to start any journey and may in fact be the stuff of one’s path. It’s not a problem, it’s an experience!

We don’t just squeeze such awarenesses and their implications in between emailing invoices, client meetings, and a few social media posts. Processing the connections between our challenges and the paths (self-employment, entrepreneurship, life of a creative, etc.) we chose to be on are better left to the silent stillness of meditation. Processing the connections can lead to equanimity as we face challenges, new appreciations for and perspectives on our chosen journey, and renewed energy for the ups and downs of the day-to-day.

Time to think It’s not always possible for even seasoned meditators to clear their mind entirely while meditating. It’s often the case that getting still and shutting out the world opens up an interior world of chaos. Meditation in these cases provides time to notice just that. That which is bubbling up within. If you can’t be still, you still have the opportunity in the silence to become aware of what’s going on with you. To reflect. To mull things over. To think.

Working through everyday trauma Financial planner and Certified Financial Coach Catherine Morgan devoted several of her recent In Her Financial Shoes podcast episodes to “everyday” financial trauma, which she describes not as the big, devastating things we tend to equate with trauma, but the little things that may cut at us daily and accumulate over time, leaving a traumatized groove in our brains.

We may have one or more of such everyday financial traumas as solo practitioners and solopreneurs. Find the repetition, find the trauma, was a theme of one recent episode, and the honesty and stillness of meditation is an excellent place to uncover the repeating money-related issues and hardships of your business that are slowly traumatizing you. Noticing is the first step to working through and moving past them. Is it collections? charging enough? finding enough work? retaining clients? managing debt? filing tax paperwork on time?

Creative visualization Another more active use of sitting in meditative calm is creative visualization. Creative visualization is mobilizing our natural human capacity for imagination to create desired or possible future scenarios in our mind as a starting point to discover, create, and reinforce what we want for ourselves and our business. We aid our visions on their paths by making them as real as possible in our minds first, with as much sensory detail and positive emotional support as possible. As this is best accomplished when it is our only task at hand and with eyes closed, it naturally meshes with a meditation practice.

The 3 to 1 ratio There’s a 3 to 1 reflective tool, a magic ratio, that can be used as often as you like in almost any situation related to your work, and I find meditation is a great time to put it into practice. It’s useful when you’re learning and building a business and it’s useful with maintenance, polish, and ongoing incremental improvements. It’s this: When evaluating your performance, your attitude, your technique, your systems, a relationship, or any other aspect of your enterprise, note three things you did well/work well and one thing that could use more work. That’s it.

This three plus one is so effective because it limits agonizing analysis, and unproductive rumination; it addresses what comes to mind first, and sufficient for progress; it gets the proportion of positive to negative right; and its practice and the insights it generates mesh realistically with running a business day-to-day.

More value with more ‘better’ The longer I practice meditation, the more I value it for its own sake, for the experience itself. But you can’t deny the mushrooming benefits that percolate into all areas of one’s life and business with ongoing meditation. When your health and energy and mood and focus and creativity get better, you get better, your business gets better, and you bring more value to your products, services, clients, and the world.


I have never stepped foot in a meditation center or sat through a meditation class, but I have had teachers…in the form of their books. The first came from musty used bookshops on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. The most recent came six years ago, when a concussion left me feeling unable to mediate in the way I was used to. I found my way back through a book Bliss More: How to Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying by Light Watkins that called to me from a display at my library. And I’d recommend this read to anyone wanting to explore meditation. It was really through the not trying as Watkins presents it that my brain and body got back in synch with what has become a fundamental practice for my well-being and peace of mind. It will open up amazing things for you as well.