Five Step Question Meditation

I learned this at a business seminar in Shanghai a few years ago, and no longer remember the source, but it’s proved extremely effective for me.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist workaholic, and have been advised repeatedly to balance my life, get in touch with my emotions, and so on and so forth. I even took a meditation class once, but found the experience unbearably painful.

This five step meditation, however, isn’t painful for me, and not only does it calm my mind, but it also serves a second purpose of giving me answers to questions. So I don’t feel that my time is being wasted. Efficient!

I’ve done this standing up, sitting down, and lying down. Standing up works fine, if you’ve got room to take five steps forward, and there isn’t anyone around to make fun of you. I do it lying down, floating in the pool, in the middle of my regular laps. If you’re sitting down or lying down, just imagine yourself stepping forward instead of actually doing it.

THE QUESTION

First, formulate the question. For example, “How do I deal with this client?” Or, “What is a good idea for this project?” Or, “Should I look for another job?” Or, “What is the most important thing I should be working on today?” Or, “What is the most important question I can ask?”

Some people ask moral or religious or spiritual questions, too. And they get answers. I did once, and got an answer, and am still creeped out.

Close your eyes. Shake your shoulders. Take a deep breath. Relax.

STEP ONE

Step forward into your physical environment. This could be your office, your house, even your body… anything you can touch or see or smell. Look around. This is everything that pertains to the question. The locations. The people. The clutter on your desk. The pain in your back.

If the question is, “How should I arrange my desk?” then the environment would be as small as the desk itself. If it’s about getting in shape, it could include the ten extra pounds around your waist and the snack food aisle in the supermarket. If it’s about your career, it could include everything from the places you’ve had interships, to the people who admire most, to your current workplace.

Look around. This is all the stuff that’s creating your problems, all the places you’ve looked for solutions, all the people who are not being helpful at all. Because if they were helpful, you would have had your answer already.

STEP TWO

Now take another step forward.

You’ve left the physical world. It’s down below. You’re now in the world of actions.

What have you been doing about your question? Have you been making phone calls, doing research, jogging, sitting around worrying? Have you just been going about your normal business and not doing anything about the question?

STEP THREE

Take another step, leaving all this activity behind. Now you’re in the space of emotions.

How do you feel about the question? Are you nervous? Excited? Anxious? Scared? Happy? Ambivalent? Cold? Desperate? Uncaring?

Feel those emotions.

STEP FOUR

Take another step. You’ve left all those emotions behind. The worries, and anxieties, the ambivalence, all that stuff is down below. You feel a bit lighter.

Now you’re in the real of belief.

What do you believe about the question? Do you believe that you’re doomed to failure because the client hates you? That you’re never going to get the career you want because your family obligations are in the way? That you’re not good enough at whatever it is you’re trying to do?

Think of all the stuff you believe about yourself, about your question, about whatever problem it is that you’re facing.

STEP FIVE

Now take another step forward, and leave your beliefs behind. There is nothing left. Just empty space.

I like to imagine myself standing on top of a mountain, at night, with nothing visible except a sky full of stars all around me and everything else far, far below — so far that you can’t really see it anymore.

It’s just you and the universe.

And then you wait and listen.

Done listening? You’ll know when you’re done. You’ll have heard your answer, or you’ll have gotten bored standing there.

Now take a step back, back into your beliefs.

Look at them again. Whether you’ve heard your answer or not, they’ll look different now.

You believe your client hates you — but you don’t really know. You’re not a mind-reader. Even if you knew for certain that they hated you yesterday, people are flaky, and they change their mind. Or they just forget — you’re not the most important thing in their life. They’ve already moved onto hating someone else. Or they’re just trying to get a better offer out of you. Or want to hear an apology.

You won’t necessarily have all new beliefs to replace the old ones. But you’ll be looking at those beliefs with fresh eyes. And they might not hold up well.

Now take another step back, into your emotions.

Look at them now, and see how they’ve changed.

And another step back, to your actions.

If you got your answer, you’ll see what your new actions will have to be. If not, you’ll be looking at your actions with a new eye.

Step back again, to the physical environment.

See how that has changed.

Finally, take one last step back into yourself. Open your eyes.

To remember, think safe bet — Stuff, Actions, FEelings, BEliefs, Time to hear the answer.

(I always forget at least one of those steps, so need the mnemonic.)