Written by Caroline Ehret
2020 has been quite a year – a year of reckoning, a year of novelty, and a year of unrelenting change. But above all, it has been a year of uncertainty – particularly for those operating in the business world, this year has seemed like one continuous fire drill of constant pivots and rapid innovations that have become necessary for mere survival. While we are all dealing with the collective uneasiness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also in the midst of confronting a much more subtle, but perhaps more pervasive epidemic among us – stress.
In today’s productivity-obsessed, fast-paced business environment, work and stress seem to come as a package deal. With the constant threat of new competition, overflowing inboxes and to-do lists, and an ever-changing social and cultural world demanding our attention and action, we constantly feel pulled in million different directions. Our minds have become over-stimulated and scattered, causing us to lose our ability to focus, think clearly, or make thoughtful decisions.
It feels so fast-paced, in fact, that taking time to slow down and reset can even feel counterproductive. If we aren’t producing and efforting at all times, we are wasting it. However, by placing such a high value on always doing, we have chronically neglected the needs of our inner world – who we are, what we believe, and how we feel. The immediacy of our surroundings and responsibilities often supersedes our ability to honor and fulfill our individual needs. We are so connected to what needs to get done around us that we have become disconnected from what we need to do for ourselves.
The reality is, we live in a world that is utterly unconducive to anything that requires deep focus. Taking time to write, create, or even just to think clearly can be an almost impossible task when there is simply too much around us demanding our attention. We live in a society of constant interruption – we are so inundated with emails, notifications, breaking news alerts, we forget to take the time to distinguish our own thoughts from the voices around us.
While the enormity and urgency of our struggle is markedly contemporary, its origin is rooted in a timeless conundrum: at no point in the history of humanity has quieting the mind proven to be an easy task. In a modern world with endless sources of distraction, how can we train our minds to distill peace and clarity from the chaos around us? How can we both improve our performance and live a happy, healthy life?
The short answer: stillness. Stillness is the necessary ingredient to become the master of one’s own life. It is what inspires our creativity, sharpens and broadens our perspectives, and allows us to unlock the inner wisdoms and insights that arise only from our openness and receptivity. Stillness tells us that doing less – or in some cases doing nothing – is the answer to finding more success, more productivity, and more joy in your life.
But finding stillness in a distracted world is easier said than done. All of this overstimulation and overexertion has its costs – beyond clouding our ability to think clearly, stress has physiological impacts as well. When we get stressed, an inevitable nervous system response occurs that has direct effects on the body such as raised blood pressure and tense muscles. To combat these effects and truly experience the power of stillness, many of us need to enlist tools to get us there. Enter: the transformational power of meditation.
Meditation is becoming more and more mainstream for a reason – research suggests that practicing some form of meditation can be responsible for lowering blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and even insomnia. Additionally, meditation is incredibly accessible – all you need is yourself and a quiet place. This is why the idea of stillness through meditation is not something reserved just for Himilayan monks or spiritual gurus – it is prudent and necessary for all of us, whether we are partners at a law firm, hedge fund managers, or with our families raising children. If we all make efforts to become more mindful and conscious of our levels of stress, we become stronger and more supportive as a collective.
Meditation is how we cultivate presence and calm – how we shift from passivity into awareness. It is how we disconnect from the outside world long enough to tap into who and what we really are. When we are present, we allow ourselves to see the truth. In stillness, we can hear the voice inside of us – our intuition, our authentic self. We have to provide a place in our minds where there is nothing for us to receive anything. We have to be willing to push through the initial discomfort in order to discover our true identity and sense of inner peace.
Incorporating meditation into your life – especially if you are guilty of the all-too-common work-grind mentality – can be entirely transformational. Through meditation, you can literally train your nervous system to respond differently to stressful situations. In this way, you have the ability to create your own state of homeostasis, your own version of what internal calm looks like. True psychological and physiological balance.
Contrary to popular belief, to receive the benefits of meditation, you don’t have to sit with your legs folded sitting up straight for long stretches of time. There is no set formula for a successful meditation experience – you get to decide how long you do it for and in what position, whether that be supine, standing up, or sitting down. Contemporary meditation doesn’t require any fancy props or tools: only your intention, focus, and breath.
There is no right or wrong, only the opportunity to shift and create. Create the inner world we want to share with the outside world. The only thing that matters is consistency – you don’t have to spend long periods of time doing it in order to receive its transformative benefits, just try to do it regularly. Even a meditation as short as a minute can calm the mind and the nervous system significantly, making it something that is possible for everyone to incorporate into their daily routines – especially the ones who think they are too busy!
Caroline is a writer, yogi, and business consultant residing in the Denver-metro area of Colorado. Prior to moving out west for graduate school in 2017, Caroline began her professional career in Washington, D.C. where she worked on Capitol Hill as a policy and communications advisor to various members of Congress. In an effort to escape the chaotic political environment following the 2016 election, Caroline left Capitol Hill to pursue her MBA from the University of Colorado Boulder where she focused in marketing and entrepreneurship and served as the school’s Organics and Naturals Club President. In addition to her master’s in business administration, Caroline also has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Wake Forest University.
In her final year of business school, Caroline gave birth to her first child – three weeks before final exams. After experiencing the overwhelming anxiety of new motherhood combined with the frenzy of finishing graduate school, she was faced with no choice other than to slow down, reevaluate, and reflect. What she quickly realized was that the fast-paced, stress-inducing school and career choices she had made up until that point had led her to experience serious burn out. On a mission to find health and healing, Caroline uncovered her current passion and life’s work – discovering natural and holistic ways of caring for and restoring the body and mind and sharing that knowledge with others through her writing.
Caroline is currently a full-time mom as well as a brand ambassador, content writer, and yoga teacher in training for Ohana Yoga + Barre. She lives with her husband, daughter, and dog in their Wheat Ridge home and enjoys reading, meditation, and spending time in nature in her spare time.