The Alpha-Beta of Meditation: Accessing the ‘Third Force’
This is a story of transformation—from chaos to peace, from perceived strength to true strength. It is how a simple shift in my behavior made me more creative and improved my productivity. It is about moving from an “alpha” state of being (high intensity awareness, focus, execution, contraction) to a “beta” one of calm, cool, relaxed, and expanded. And if it sounds like this is a sales pitch, it is, in a way, except you don’t need any money or equipment or even a dogmatic belief system. You just need to open yourself to a new possibility of being.
BEFORE, IN THE ALPHA
I’ve always known of meditation, of course, but hadn’t ever given it much thought. I understood it to be some kind of belief system for other more “holistic” people.
BEFORE, IN THE ALPHA
As an alpha-male achiever, I thought meditation basically involved sitting cross-legged and humming. I didn’t get the value of that, and instead, focused on organizing my work and slaying the immediate tasks in front of me.
BEFORE, IN THE ALPHA
It was far more natural for me to push myself to work harder and go faster than it was for me to slow down and contemplate. Somehow, being busy had become a badge of honor for me as a “man of action.” Acceleration was the answer to every problem. Sensory overload only existed for weaker minds. But simply working harder became a clutter of confusion when my art and other creative output did not go exactly as I had planned. My emotions have always been a powerful source of inspiration, but they could also become a prison of anxiety when they were not controlled, causing me to lose perspective. That, in turn, affected my work, my relationships and my own state of well-being.
My own false narratives resulted in anxiety and unattainable idealism. All my personal frustrations were manufactured from the one-dimensional projection of my own cognitive biases.
I was addicted to order but my life felt chaotic. Something had to change.
I have been married to my wife, Tasha, for 20 years. Several years ago, she began to explore her own practice of meditation and contemplation. I admired her, but didn’t have time or space for meditation myself. I operated in a dualistic mindset of being awake and working or being asleep and not working.
But as a results-oriented achiever, I noticed that Tasha experiencing something entirely new. She was lapping me when it came to her creative flow, her ease of being, her peace of mind. I wanted some of that.
I asked her to lead me on my own journey that would enable me to access the beta state of meditation. It was difficult at first because I was used to conquering what I wanted. That is not what meditation is. Meditation is the art of letting go. I would fidget, get bored, worry if I was doing it right. But over time, I released my self-imposed constraints and began to slowly expand my mind. By methodically building my own disciplined practice of meditation I became aware of a dynamic “third force.”
This third force was neither awake nor asleep; i was a transcendent state of both. Eventually, I realized this state allowed me to reframe a problem without a dualistic “black or white” solution. It expanded my consciousness and opened my mind to new ways of thinking.
NOW, IN THE BETA
Meditation is the foundation I use to deconstruct my creative process, increase possibilities and explore unexpected solutions. It is a connection of my mind, body and spirit that fuels my creativity. This disciplined practice has become not only my oasis within, but also the single greatest catalyst to amplify my creative output.
NOW, IN THE BETA
Before I go on stage, I sit motionless, alone, without distraction. I relax into a space of expanded consciousness. I access my deeper desire to be authentic, raw, vulnerable and transparent. I surrender my ego. I use deep mindful breathing to find the heartbeat of the audience, the energy, the rhythm of the ambience of the molecules in the room.
As a result of my meditation discipline in the last two years, my performances have dramatically improved. I didn’t change the discipline of my research, rehearsal or content. I simply changed my state of being before I take the stage.
Now I am far more relaxed and connected to my audience in a meaningful way. I let go of the need for my presentation to be an impressive lecture filled with knowledge and actionable content, and latched on to making it a real authentic audience experience. I am tuned in to the crowd and their responses in a way I never was before. My show has become a dynamic process of exploration and adaptation that we share.
NOW, IN THE BETA
My thoughts feel more like a beautiful new language that is less rational and more metaphorical.
My mind is able to access an alchemistic mental state, in which I can absorb ideas and deflect distractions at the same time. It feels much more like I have unlocked a key to becoming more self aware or emotionally intelligent.
I am much more calm under pressure and more resilient to stress. I am able to both expand and contract. Dream, then execute. Imagine, then focus. I am able to see a bigger picture in mind while reducing clutter.
Now in my meditation, I am moving forward, yet not toward a finish line. There’s no “winning” or status to attain. It is the disciplined practice of boundless curiosity that opens me up to being willing to fall again and again without ever giving up. And that, ironically, feels like winning.
The starting point for success is desire. Desire is much stronger than just “want to” it is the inner drive/strength that make your dreams come alive. Set a goal that is exciting to you. That serves as your alarm clock and makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. Allow this goal to be your compass.
A compass is designed to help you find your way again
All goals are achieved twice. First, conceptually in your mind(visualization) & then physically in reality (execution).
Begin with the end in mind. Visualize a painted picture for what you would like to improve about yourself or to accomplish. Imagine something you would be personally proud to have mastered within the next 365 days and vividly envision what that feels like?….what does it look like? With whom are you most excited to share this accomplishment. The more detail you add the more real the goal becomes.
Research shows our resolutions often times fail because we did not anchor our goals into a painted picture that we believe in. Goals are simply a burden of check lists if the bigger picture is not in sight. If a coach simply requires her squad to run 50 sets of stairs, she may face resistance or opposition. But if the coach first paints an inspired picture for what it feels like to win the championship at the end of the season, the team embraces the hard work and enthusiastically bounds up the stairs.
Allow your goals to become your compass, not a map. Your “true north” pointing you to a destination. Life is dynamic. You may drift. You may stumble. You may lose your course. If you use a compass instead of a map you can get bumped off your trail but still auto-correct to find your groove.
Success in life comes when you simply refuse to give up, with goals so strong that obstacles, failure and setbacks only serve as motivation.
Our world is filled with horrific violence, senseless injustice, suffering, anger, selfishness and pain. And at the very same time our world is also filled with majestic beauty, humble servants, courage, loyalty, celebration, unity, peace and joy.
But we have a choice.
Pain and suffering is very real. But unless we find a way to transform our pain we are doomed to transmit it. Life is difficult and sometimes tragedy feels like it far outweighs simple joy. And we have a right to be outraged in the presence of injustice. But the recycling of anger and pain only creates more of the same.
Choosing joy is extraordinarily difficult amidst suffering. But choosing joy is not a whimsical bumper sticker…It is a battle cry for the humanity of our soul.
Snapchat may feel silly to us. but it is very real to our kids. and it is ultra sticky.
Millennials don’t care about our “glamorous” commercials, our “airbrushed” magazine ads, our “botoxed” billboards or our “optimized” pop up windows. Email? Ha. That’s what our kids use when they need to send a thank you note to their grandparents for their birthday gift.
Traditional advertising has become invisible to millennials, who, as a generation, don’t trust institutions. Political, Religious, and Corporate Institutions have let them down. Their trust is low and their BS radar is on high, all the time. They don’t trust media, they trust their network of peers. What they’re looking for is an unfiltered authentic connection.
Stop trying to be perfect. Start being Authentic.
Here’s what I do know. My generation values hard work and perfection. We value a system of meritocracy and how all of it contributes to a well-earned path of achievement and a sustainable trajectory of formulaic success.
I also know my kids, who are in their teens, do not value formulas or perfection. They value transparency and authenticity.
While we became fluent in perfection. They became fluent in authenticity.
This is the first generation that’s grown up online. They are, technologically, “ivy” leagues ahead of everyone else. That’s why, in order to better understand how to navigate the future of their consumer behavior in social, mobile, and cloud technology we must learn to learn to play by their rules. We need to let go of our need to be picture perfect and embrace the art and science of authentic, fascinating and even silly engagement.
Take, for example, Snapchat. It has over 100 million active daily users. The app is the fastest growing social channel because it most closely mimics the way our children actually interact. It’s genuine, raw and whimsical. In Snapchat, nobody cares about perfect grammar or double chins. Photo altering is for amusement and amplification, not to achieve a kind of unattainable perfection.
Snapchat is a sneak peek into the future of consumer behavior
Most recently, Pokemon Go’s virtually started a revolution. It’s a game with more daily users than twitter and has fascinated the world so much that people (some of whom have been chronically depressed) are getting up off their couches to engage. They are walking their neighborhoods and interacting with strangers on a similar quest. They’re filling parks, libraries, and swarming around public art spaces.
That, by definition, is art. A creation so powerful it’s moved people to change their behavior, and explore new things. Snapchat and Pokemon Go has fascinated the world and changed the way we interact.
Something soon will come along and replace Snapchat and Pokemon Go. But what will remain is the blueprint for how millennials communicate and value genuine authenticity.
Consumer behavior is the gateway to understand the future of business. If we want our messaging to remain relevant, we must reverse engineer our social constructs and become fluent in their foreign language.
I have a confession: I don’t really understand how to Snapchat or Pokemon Go. It’s humbling for me to say that I’m not fluent in either of these languages. But I do understand marketing and I absolutely understand the radical shift. I’m happy to report that yesterday I started an account on Snapchat to try and learn. I’m willing to stumble and make mistakes in an effort to connect. To grow. To move.
I’ll be the beta. If ya wanna watch me bumble thru snapchat follow me @erikwahl