I started Wills meditation course in September 2015 and the effects were near immediate, obvious and great.
Some of the benefits I have noticed are that a twitch in my eye that I got during my father’s funeral has gone, my skin has cleared up, I am sleeping better and I am somewhat calmer with my kids. I also take a moment before reacting to things, a moment to choose what I do next and how I respond.
Yet even with all these benefits, after about 5 weeks I noticed that I was finding reasons to not do both my morning and evening meditations.
I told myself that the reason is that the initial newness and wow factor diminishes over time and our new better days become the new normal. It’s like seeing normal TV and HD TV side by side. The HD TV is freaking awesome, however 15 minutes of watching the HD TV by itself and that wow factor is diminished, as we no longer get that initial buzz.
My inner gremlin voice was providing me with endless reasons to skip a meditation, it won’t hurt, it’s only one session. Missing a single session every so often isn’t a disaster, but for me skipping one is a slippery slope to stopping altogether.
I wanted to find or create a positive reinforcing technique that was both quick and easy to help me choose to meditate. I have recently started to use such a mechanism to help me meditate twice day every day and I wanted to share this approach in the hope that it also helps others continue to meditate and benefit from doing so.
The “daily questions technique” comes from the awesome book – Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith– where he writes about people being victims of the environments they spend time in. For example, when I go to the cinema, I “have” to have the ice cream, popcorn and sweets, because it’s what I do when I go to the movies. I am playing a victim (lack of choice) to the environment (cinema). It is an easier story for me to believe I had no choice rather than the version where I choose to eat those foods.
Given that our mind is the environment that is with us all the time, meditation has huge potential to connect us to that environment, to make us more conscious of what is going on in our mind environment. It gives us that extra moment to check in on our assumptions, it allows one to “yield, then act”. To yield, then act is truly life changing.
I was offered the life guidance of yield, then act by an awesome leader, Sam House. I intellectually got the concept but I struggled to apply it and found it was the very situations that I needed it most that I forgot about it. This is why I am loving mediation as it has helped me get that moment in time before reacting.
The daily questions technique helps me to choose to meditate twice a day, which gives me that moment to yield, then act, which is so powerful that it encourages me to keep up with the technique. It is a positive reinforcing cycle. It is a simple technique, however that does not mean it’s easy.
The daily questions technique has 3 parts.
- Active questions
- End of day check in
Pick anything you want to focus on, for example how I use meditation. Rather than ask, ‘did I meditate today?’ we ask ‘today, did I do my best to meditate?’
This simple re-framing of the question to an active question firmly shines the spotlight on our commitment and behaviour. Going back to the cinema for a moment, if I ask myself, “did I eat well today?” I would have all sorts of justifying conversations with myself, thinking- “well it was the cinema after all!” However, when I phrase it as, “did I do my best today to eat well?”, it is firmly a no. This shows me that it was my choice.
A suggestion would be to start with at least 3 questions. Here are a few that perhaps you might pick from.
Today, did I do my best to-
- Eat well?
- Meditate in the morning?
- Meditate in the evening?
- Do something physical, like go to the gym, swim, walk or run?
- Connect with my family?
- Be the best husband / wife / partner / boyfriend / girlfriend?
- Be the best brother / sister / father / mother?
At the end of each day, give yourself a score between 1-10 for each question. There is no judgement here, no blame. It’s just a way to become aware of what we are putting our effort into. If you have a question around going to the gym, for example, but for 8 days in a row you give yourself a 1, you can spot the pattern. You can begin to ask yourself whether you really want to go to the gym. Perhaps it is not really that important for you now, so take it off the list and don’t beat yourself up about it.
End of day check in
After scoring, share your results with someone, ideally over the phone. The person listening to your check in is not there to judge, just to witness, and possibly notice patterns for you. I have a call at 9pm every evening, where I have a skype session with my check in buddy. If for some reason we can not check in by voice we email or message each other our scores for the day.
So that’s it, create your questions, score them, check in and change your life.
This post was written by the brilliant Cuan Mulligan, thank you Cuan!
Image by Mitchell Joyce