The Content Marketer’s Guide to Starting a Meditation Practice Today

"You build an invisible muscle called focused attention. Repetition is the key to strengthening that muscle." – Morgan Dix

You and I are storytellers. We’re content creators and copywriters. Our livelihoods depend on spinning creative yarns that compel our readers to action.

For the execution of our craft, we depend on some key inner resources every day. Creativity and focus are two biggies. And I’m sure you’ve noticed that — like gold and platinum — those are precious and limited resources.

That’s why meditation is a powerful tool for content marketers.

You see, research shows that meditation can increase your focus and enhance your creativity. And that’s just the beginning.

Yogis, sages, and mystics have made similar claims for millennia. But now those assertions are backed by hard science. That’s why meditation is becoming a go-to practice for Fortune 500 companies like Google, Goldman Sachs, and Medtronic.

If you don’t already meditate, I bet you’ve considered it.

For many, the hardest part is starting. So I’m going to give you some simple tips for launching your own meditation practice.

But first, let’s take a moment to explore how meditation can support your creative work.

You don’t have to meditate like a zen monk

I’ve been meditating for 22 years. Before I started writing landing pages, blog posts, and case studies, I lived and worked in a meditation and yoga ashram for 14 years. (Never heard of an ashram? It’s like a monastery.)

We were like the Tough Mudders of meditation. We trained hard, meditating for two hours each morning. On weekends, we’d meditate from midnight to 6:00 a.m. to push the limits of our practice.

Every year we hosted a meditation marathon, where we sat for 24 hours straight to raise money for our educational charity. Once I meditated for 48 hours (my aching knees!). And at least once a year, we’d participate in a 10-day silent meditation retreat.

After I left the ashram, I cofounded the website About Meditation.

I’m telling you this to give you a sense of my experience. I’m a lifelong advocate for the benefits of meditation. Mostly, I’ve pursued meditation for spiritual growth.

But when it comes to working in a creative business context, meditation offers some unique benefits. And you don’t need to meditate like a monk to enjoy the boons of the practice.

According to the science, sitting quietly at your desk for as little as 12 minutes a day may be all you need.

Let me explain.

Discover novel solutions

When you’re stuck, meditation can help.

Have you ever written a draft of an article and you just couldn’t find an elegant through line? Maybe you had writer’s block and couldn’t see how all the pieces of your idea fit together?

I’ve found that thinking harder or pounding another cup of coffee isn’t always the approach that leads to breakthroughs in these moments. Sometimes it’s better to be still, relax, and let go.

What? I’m serious.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been meditating quietly when, out of nowhere, a novel solution has burst into my awareness.

In fact, entire strategic plans have spontaneously emerged in my mind during meditation. I’m talking about elegant solutions that I couldn’t dream up if I tried by grinding them out with bullet points on a page.

Boost creativity in 10 to 12 minutes a day

In terms of creativity, the science points in a similar direction.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, many executives report that meditation can “enhance creativity, opening doors where once there seemed to be only a wall.”

In their research, the authors found that 12 minutes of meditation could boost creativity:

“One hundred twenty-nine participants (all of them students) were divided into three groups and assigned a creative task: Generate as many business ideas as possible for using drones … the meditators demonstrated a 22 percent wider range of ideas than the two non-meditating groups.”

Another study on this topic showed that mindfulness meditation stimulates divergent thinking. That’s a mode of cognition also known as lateral thinking, and it’s an essential driver of creativity.

Reduce stress, increase focus, improve your decision-making

I’m not saying that meditation is a magic pill that’s going to turn you into the Frida Kahlo of copywriting overnight. But who doesn’t need an extra dose of creativity?

The research points to additional benefits too.

For example, one landmark study demonstrated that daily meditation training improves your ability to focus on a single task and resist distractions. Another study showed that even short-term meditation training improves your attention and self-regulation.

Thanks to advances in brain imaging technology, neuroscience is serving up tons of new data on meditation and brain health.

In 2015, scientists from the University of British Columbia and the Chemnitz University of Technology collected data from more than 20 studies to assess the areas of the brain consistently affected by meditation.

Harvard Business Review highlighted this work in an article called “Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain.”

After reviewing the findings, the authors concluded that:

“Mindfulness should no longer be considered a ‘nice-to-have’ for executives. It’s a ‘must-have’: a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.”

So, it’s clear that meditation can help you …

But what is meditation anyway?

Meditation is the practice of releasing your attention from the confines of your mind. There are thousands of techniques to help you do that. They fall into two basic categories.

The first is called focused awareness meditation. The second is free or open awareness meditation.

In the focused awareness school, you train your attention to focus on an object like a meaningful word or phrase (sometimes called a mantra), your breath, bodily sensations, etc.

In free awareness training, you focus on nothing specific. The goal is to relax, be still, and let everything be.

If you’re new to meditation, I recommend starting with a focused awareness practice.

How to build your focused awareness

Have you heard of Transcendental Meditation (TM)? It’s a popular version of the focused awareness technique.

In TM, your goal is to be still, alert, and relaxed as you silently repeat your mantra.

It’s normal for your mind to wander away from your object of focus. Just stay calm and bring your attention back to your mantra.

Soon, you discover that your mind is like an unruly toddler. It has its own agenda — to chase after every new train of thought that appears in your awareness.

As a professional content marketer and copywriter, you already know about fighting distractions.

When you meditate, your attention may lapse 50 times in the space of a few minutes. I’m not exaggerating. But that’s natural. And it’s why daily discipline is essential.

Learning to meditate is a lot like learning a new instrument. You have to repeat your scales again and again before you can make music. It’s the same idea with meditation. You have to bring your wandering mind back to your mantra hundreds of times.

In the process, you’re building an invisible muscle called focused attention. Repetition is the key to strengthening that muscle.

Reap the rewards of your practice

At this point, you might be wondering: “Why would I want to do this? It sounds like a mild form of torture!”

In the beginning, it can feel like that. But here’s the thing:

Consistent practice leads to greater focus. The stronger your focus, the less distracted you are by your thoughts. With steady practice, you may start to experience a calm detachment from the frenzied movement of your mind.

That freedom from the relentless noise in your noggin can feel downright blissful. In time, this hard-won equanimity, creativity, and focus will start to blend into your active life.

And if the science is right, all this may happen sooner than you think.

Get started with meditation today

If the idea of initiating a daily practice sounds overwhelming, then you can start with some guided meditations.

There are tons of free resources online. About Meditation offers a free 3-part seminar plus 2 guided meditations. Apps like Headspace, Calm, and buddhify are also solid starting points.

If you’re serious about starting a regular practice, then you need to build a meditation habit. Creating a habit of meditation is your best shot at long-term success.

Here’s an in-depth guide on how to develop your meditation habit.

Remember, you don’t need to log hours of meditation each day to reap the benefits. It’s better to start simple.

Try this simple technique right now

Ready to (let) go?

Set your smartphone timer for 10 minutes. Sit up, close your eyes, relax, and silently count to 100. Let go of your task list. Allow everything but your counting to fall away.

When your mind wanders, come back to your counting.

Ignore every self-criticism or doubt about whether or not you’re doing it right. Instead, be very still, relax, and slowly count to 100. Repeat this for 10 minutes.

There you go. You just practiced meditation.

One final tip … try not to judge your meditation experiences as good or bad. Let each session unfold and keep practicing your scales. The music will follow.

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