Mindfulness for the Contemplative Entrepreneur
It’s a necessary evil — every entrepreneur spends a lot of time thinking… It’s how they became entrepreneurs in the first place… They contemplated the world, they contemplated its problems, they contemplated how they could solve those problems, and then they contemplated how those solutions could reach millions of consumers.
The mind of an entrepreneur is an overly-taxed one — constantly thinking, brainstorming, problem-solving. But the mind of an entrepreneur is also a dynamic and evolving one. From it emerge many ideas…some great, some not-so-great, some repetitive, and some disruptive.
Hence the mind of an entrepreneur needs to be taken care of. And very often the mind of the entrepreneur needs to be emptied, as it gets too full of thoughts and ideas. The mind needs to move away from conflicting, doubting, self-defeating and negative thoughts, and move more toward constructive and positive ones instead.
For this, an entrepreneur needs to make conscious attempts to calm the mind, and make it more restful, so that it can eventually gain greater clarity and become more effective. This is possible through mindfulness.
I read a book authored by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh titled The Miracle of Mindfulness. According to Hanh, only meditation provides complete rest. Even when you sleep or lie down, you are not completely at rest; it’s meditation that stills the mind. Hanh says — ‘Mindfulness is the miracle with which we master and restore ourselves.’
Through the book Hanh provides several tools to help you meditate, become more watchful of your thoughts, and concentrate on your breath. My favourite is the half-smile method. Hanh says whenever you meditate and sit in a cross-legged position, give a half smile — this erases any creases on your forehead; it also puts you into a more blissful state of mind.
The half smile can be used at any time, not only when you are meditating… You could put it on while exercising in a gym, working at your desk, or walking on the streets.
Hanh also suggests that when you conduct any activity, you must get completely immersed in it, and focus only on that — be it ‘washing clothes or dishes, making tea, or eating tangerine’. This will help you get more centered, and will stop your mind from running all over the place.
In the case of an entrepreneur, this destroys the myth of multi-tasking completely. No one can achieve much with scattered attention; you need to focus on one problem at a time. And, don’t hurry up with the task, watching the clock continuously. Immerse yourself in the task instead, like it’s the only thing in the world for you to do at that point in time… The task will no longer seem difficult, and the time taken to solve it will reduce too.
Hanh, in the book, also talks about labeling your breath…so if you’ve inhaled a short breath, call it that, and if you’ve exhaled with a long breath, mentally say that to yourself. This will help you observe the patterns of your breathing better.
Likewise, if you are feeling any emotion — sadness or pain, joy or fear — identify that emotion, and try to ponder upon the reason for its ‘origination’ and the factors that can lead to its ‘dissolution’.
Observing the mind and its mental objects is the primary purpose of meditation. Hanh quotes the Pali text Satipatthana Sutta written by Nyanasatta that states this well:
Thus he (the monk) lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects externally, or he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects internally and externally.
As an entrepreneur, start thinking about your thinking, start thinking about why you’re thinking those thoughts, and if they are negative and too consuming, what you can do to rid yourself of those thoughts. Getting obsessed with any issue is draining for the mind and body. Thus, distance yourself from the situation, by observing the thought - the ‘mental object’ that is disturbing you, internally or externally.
Finally the benefits of the practice of mindfulness will be felt not just by you, but by those around you as well… ‘In a family, if there is one person who practices mindfulness, the entire family will be more mindful,’ writes Hanh.
For the entrepreneur this essentially means that if you become more mindful and calm, a similar environment will be created in your workplace too, among your co-workers and co-founders, investors and service providers…even your consumers.
Each one involved in the enterprise will think more about their thoughts and responses while dealing with a situation. As they think more about their thinking, the end product or service they create will be a better reflection of themselves and their vision. It will reflect cohesiveness, and eventually connect more deeply with the world.
To quote Hanh — ‘People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one’s perception of reality.’
Entrepreneurs — Think about your thought; think about how you think of that thought … Become more mindful, more joyful, more peaceful, and be sure to create something truly revolutionary!
Heartfelt Gratitude: I would like to thank Thich Nhat Hanh for The Miracle of Mindfulness, a book that makes you calmer just by reading it… And a big thank you to Pratik Patel for gifting it to me, and insisting I read it and write about it… Though I still have to apply all of its practices into my daily life, I can already feel myself becoming more mindful.
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