As any person whose work requires intelligence and creativity knows that quick and unconventional thinking is the key to success. But it’s hard to stay ahead of the game, no matter how gifted you may be. Even if you’ve got Einstein’s brain, you’re bound to feel incompetent occasionally!
Even Mr. Creative Thinking himself, Steve Jobs, often felt the need to kick-start his mind. Today, we let you in on some of his mental gymnastics techniques!
This is how Jobs described the effects of his meditations to his biographer, Walter Isaacson:
’If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is.
If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things — that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more.
Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.’
This special technique called awareness meditation originates from Zen Buddhism and Daoism. Not long before he died, Jobs told Isaacson about it and revealed that he’d been practicing this mental optimization method for many years. One of the people who know a lot about Steve’s spiritual odyssey is well-known writer/journalist, Geoffrey James. He remembers talking with him on this subject in the early 1990s, discussing similarities between Zen and computer programming.
’In those days, such a thing was very uncommon and exotic,’ amits James. ’You see, even in this respect, Jobs was ahead of his times!’
Things sure have changed since then. Nowadays, beneficial effects of meditation are recognized by leading neuroscientists. Corporate giants such as Google, General Mills, Target, and Ford are training their employees to practice the very same meditations that Jobs had discovered for himself decades ago.
Having studied the quotes cited in Isaacson’s books, James came to the conclusion that Jobs’s meditation techniques were very similar to the ones that he himself had once learned from an extraordinary martial arts master, Yang Jwing-Ming. Here’s the essence of his teachings, in the form of a six-step lesson.
Sit down cross-legged in a quiet, secluded place. You should use a flat pillow to reduce the tension in your spine. Begin taking deep breaths.
Close your eyes and try to concentrate on the mental monolog inside yourself, on the thoughts that keep jumping about in your head. Stuff about work, home, the things you’ve seen on tv, all of this is the everyday chit-chat of your fidgety ’ape mind.’ Don’t try to put a stop to it, at least not yet. Simply observe your brain leaping from one topic to another. Repeat this exercise for five minutes a day, for one week.
While still not attempting to calm down the whirlwind of your thoughts, try to shift your attention to your ’ox mind’ – the part of your consciousness responsible for calm and unhurried thinking. The ’ox mind’ simply contemplates the world around it. It doesn’t make judgements, it doesn’t seek meanings — it just sees, hears, and senses. Most people aren’t even aware of its existence, although it can reveal itself in the rare moments of great shock, when ’ape mind’ falls silent. But, even while we remain under the total influence of our ’ape mind,’ being constantly bombarded by its commands, our ’ox mind’ continues it’s quiet, steady work.
As you gradually begin to get in touch with your ’ox mind,’ try asking it to slow down the activity of your ’ape mind.’ Geoffrey James, for instance, uses the following method to help him achieve this: ’Try imagining your inner ox walking unhurriedly down a country road. This mental picture should help you pacify your inner ape. Don’t expect it to fall asleep at once. Apes are naturally restless! Nevertheless, you’ll soon notice your inner ape become more placid, and less prone to hustle and bustle.’
Having pacified your ’ape mind,’ keep concentrating your attention on your ’ox mind.’ If you do everything right, you’ll feel your breathing slow down. Suddenly, you’ll become aware of the surrounding air as it brushes your skin. Quite possibly, you’ll even sense the blood running through your veins. And when you open your eyes, the world will appear indescribably changed, renewed, and even somewhat strange. For example, you might perceive a window simply as a rectangle filled with light. Something that doesn’t require opening or closing, cleaning, or repairing. Something that simply exists — here and now. What’s more, you’ll perceive yourself in a new way as well — as existing here and now!
It’s going to take some time to attain this condition. But, when you’ll finally get it right, you’ll find that you no longer notice the minutes that elapse from the moment when you start the timer to the moment when you hit the ’stop’ button. Gradually, day by day, increase the duration of meditations. Incredibly, no matter how long they will eventually last — once you’ve attained higher awareness levels, you won’t feel the passage of time at all!
Regular practice of awareness meditation gives you three important advantages:
- You will get rid of stress. Life’s difficulties will no longer have the power to unbalance you.
- Insomnia will become a thing of the past. As Geoffrey James testifies, thanks to regular meditation practice, he now only needs two or three seconds to fall asleep.
- You’ll gain the ability to think more clearly, and see the real value of your life’s developments.
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