Jessie Jacob started meditating as a way to improve her performance. However, she learned some unexpected lessons as she formed a life-changing habit.
Written by Jessie Jacob
Alright, so I don’t mean meditation saved my life in a scary way, but what I do mean is that it has saved me from a shitty life.
I was first exposed to meditation when I was a pre-teen. I had an opportunity to visit a Buddhist temple and I just kept going. We’d meditate, but really I’d just sit on a meditation pillow and fall asleep. It wasn’t until years later that I really started to get into it.
I initially thought it could help me with performance. In my early twenties right out of college, I was working two jobs and trying extra hard to prove myself to the world. I thought meditation could help me to rest, recover and focus. I thought I could continue burning the candle at both ends and running a million miles per hour. Except I didn’t view my life as burning the candle at both ends though. I was just a victim of “hustle culture” and trying to do what I thought other successful people were doing.
I got into meditation because a lot of people that I deemed incredibly “successful” were doing it. Not to mention there’s tons of science to back up the benefits of meditation. My practice came in waves for some time. I would meditate for a few days or weeks then I would forget about it or even avoid it. It wasn’t sticking with me.
Eventually, my exhausting work/life schedule caught up with me and I started to experience levels of stress like never before. It sucked. I didn’t know how to relieve this, but what I did know is that I wanted those icky feelings of anxiousness to just go away. I tried really hard not to think about those feelings and we all know how well that goes. It’s the classic pink elephant example. Try not to think about a pink elephant. Well, guess what? You likely just imagined a pink elephant. Repressing thoughts just doesn’t work.
The relationship I have with my thoughts, feelings, and ultimately myself has changed quite a bit since starting out and I am incredibly thankful for where I am today. Through implementing a consistent meditation practice, my life has improved dramatically!
I’ve learned a number of lessons from meditating every day for over a year and here are the four major lessons.
I tried being incredibly diligent and meditated every single day. I didn’t see the effects meditation was having on my life initially, but I kept going because I just wanted those icky feelings to go away. Eventually, things clicked. You do find a state of peace and relief that is always within you even if it’s just for a very brief moment. The effects linger on throughout your day and you realize you can access that space of peace at any time.
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there.” – Deepak Chopra
Those brief moments of peace eventually turn into even longer moments. For me, this occurred when I tried a sensory deprivation tank. This is where I hit the jackpot! This sensory tank business is not for everyone, but my first experience was magical. There was so much stillness and space between my thoughts. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. As a side note, I got out of the tank to shower off all the salt and just started bawling tears of relief thinking “that was one of the nicest things I have ever done for myself.”
Through this experience, I understood what others were talking about when they said it can feel so good that you eventually want to just stay there for a while. It can feel like you are unplugging from the matrix and the stress of life, and you’re just watching things float by without getting attached.
Eventually, that essence of peace stays with you when you aren’t in meditation. You have practiced a level of acceptance with your own mind that you just start to accept and be with whatever life circumstances are thrown at you.
Imagine you’re playing Frogger. The cars passing by are thoughts, feelings, sensations, life drama, etc. Instead of getting caught up in the traffic and jumping in between cars, you’re just calmly sitting on the side of the road watching the cars move on by. That’s what “accepting what is” looks like in your mind.
“Feelings are just visitors. Let them come and go.” – Mooji
Comedian Pete Holmes’s video, How to Suffer Like a Total Pro, has really served me. He talks about using the mantra of “yes, thank you” to accept what is. There’s a time and place to resist what is and make active changes, but there are also a lot of other times where we make ourselves miserable by not accepting the things we can’t change. For instance, you are stuck in traffic and you can’t do anything so you just repeat, “yes, thank you.” It’s a practice to relieve yourself of your suffering and be thankful for that present moment of peace.
Another lesson I’ve learned about meditation is giving yourself time to process. In the Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness, Naval describes how as we age and experience the world, we pick up unresolved pain, fear, and mistakes that build up and stick with us. He likes to think about it like your email inbox. Unresolved pain and fear build up like unanswered emails. How do you get your mental email inbox to zero? Meditation.
“What happens in meditation is you’re sitting there and not resisting your mind. These things will start bubbling up. It’s like a giant inbox of unanswered emails, going back to your childhood. They will come out one by one, and you will be forced to deal with them. You will be forced to resolve them. […]
Over time, you will resolve a lot of these deep-seated unresolved things you have in your mind. Once they’re resolved, there will come a day when you sit down to meditate, and you’ll hit a mental ‘inbox zero.’ When you open your mental ‘email’ and there are none, that is a pretty amazing feeling. It’s a state of joy and bliss and peace. Once you have it, you don’t want to give it up.” – Naval Ravikant
When you reach mental inbox zero, you start to pay attention to things you’ve never even thought about before—which comes as a total surprise. I like to think about it like the surprise inside a Cracker Jack box.
The first surprise is you connect with your true self. Remember that Frogger analogy? Well, you’re frogger sitting on the side of the road. You learn you aren’t your mind, your body, or your emotions. You are the observer, or what some like to call the witness or awareness. You aren’t doing—you are being.
When you access this space of “what is,” you start to then have a deeper connection with yourself and the world around you. This is the second surprise.
Your inner voice becomes a lot clearer and other sounds around you start to stand out.
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Baba Ram Dass
I know I am in a calm and present headspace of being rather than doing when I can hear the birds chirping outside or notice how beautiful a tree is. It’s a pretty remarkable experience that I now appreciate.
This is what I mean by meditation has saved my life. My life and perspective on life are so much deeper and richer than it was before I started meditating. My meditation practice has done wonders for me and I hope others can experience these lessons like I have to improve the quality of their lives.
To sum it all up, I think the deep spiritual teacher Ferris Bueller said it best: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”
Next, in this blog series, we’ll learn about the tools Jessie used to build her daily practice.
Jessie Jacob is a culture consultant and innovation coach. She helps uncover blind spots and opportunities for companies to improve their product or service through interviewing their prospects, customers, and employees. She also helps founders and executives to be proactive rather than reactive with their teams and workplace cultures so they can effectively scale. Her work has touched early-stage startups with an innovative idea to established, Fortune 500 companies