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How to Use Meditation to Improve Your Public Speaking

World-class public speakers generally have a few traits in common. They’re relaxed on stage. They’re spontaneous and often interact with the audience during their speech. They’re expressive and bright; the audience often feels uplifted, inspired or moved after the speech. They know how to “flow” on stage. While much of this comes with practice, meditation can help you cultivate all of these qualities much more quickly.

Use mindfulness to improve your public speaking

Use mindfulness to improve your public speaking

Most people have trouble with public peaking because they approach the subject from a place of fear. Their mind creates mental images of disaster scenarios, and those mental images further intensify their fear. In response, they try harder to memorize and recite the speech word for word – taking their attention away from the moment, and from the audience with whom they’re trying to create a connection.

Instead of trying to overcome fear by memorizing a speech word for word, meditation allows you to dissipate the fear in a natural way. It won’t completely get rid of nervousness, but it will allow you to have a positive relationship with the natural nervousness that comes with speaking. It’ll also allow you to be in the present moment – and allow you to be spontaneous, relaxed, and expressive.

So how can you use meditation to improve your public speaking?

Meditate at Least 5 Minutes a Day the Week Before Your Speech

A big part of the nervousness that comes from speaking in public comes from a “buildup” of stressful self-talk. The week leading up to a talk, thoughts like these often pop up:

  • What will the audience think of me?
  • What questions might the audience ask? What if I don’t have an answer?
  • What if the projector breaks?
  • What will this mean for my career if I mess up this speech?

Over the week, this can create a buildup of stress that only gets worse. Meditation can not only help break you out of this cycle, but turn the cycle into a cycle of positive self-talk.

The first step to putting an end to this kind of mental imagery and self-talk is to become aware of it. With regular meditation, you’ll start to very quickly notice when your mind is creating unhelpful self-talk. You’ll also be able to practice stopping that kind of self-talk. Not through force, but through gently guiding your mind back to awareness – or to more positive and self-reinforcing thoughts.

Meditating every day leading up to a speech can work wonders for your nerves when you’re actually on stage. It’ll dispel the “buildup” of stressful thoughts leading up to the speech, which will have you much more relaxed when you’re actually on stage.

Being Relaxed and Spontaneous During Your Speech

Meditation can also be a powerful tool when you’re actually up on stage.

The first step starts as any other meditation starts: accepting the moment exactly as it is. If you’re feeling nervous, start by breathing and allowing that experience to exist, as it is. Stay in the present moment and accept whatever the moment brings.

In improv, one of the core tenants is the “yes, and” philosophy. Like meditation, improv actors are taught to accept the moment as it is, and to add on top of it. This philosophy can be very powerful when used on stage. Instead of stopping the flow of the moment, improv actors are able to take whatever is happening in the moment and turn it into an opportunity to connect with the audience. This concept applies not just with improv, but with all public speaking.

A great example of this is Google’s Gopi Kallayil’s mindfulness speech. During his speech, the projector broke down. Instead of letting anxiety about the situation detract from his speech, he used the situation spontaneously to create a mindfulness exercise. He shared with the group exactly what was going on in his mind, and how he was using his breath to calm himself down. He turned the situation into an educational moment and involved the audience. Instead of freezing up or apologizing, it became a valuable part of his speech.

The “right response” to these kinds of situations is different from speech to speech. But the key to being able to come up with a good response on the spot is to simply accept the moment as it is – to say “yes and” – and to add to it.

Meditation and mindfulness can help you make big improvements to your public speaking. Best of all? It only takes a few minutes of practice a day for it to make an impact. Why not give it a shot the next time you have a big speech?

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself Team

Finding the Right Meditation Style for You

There are over a dozen different styles of meditation to choose from. Some are better at improving concentration, while others are better at relieving stress. Some are better at developing self-awareness, while others are better for developing communication skills. With so many options to choose from, how can you choose the right meditation style for you?

Why Not Try Each Style Once?

Before selecting the meditation style that you’ll use on an ongoing basis, it’s a good idea to give each meditation style a try first. For example, for one week, try doing a different kind of meditation every day.

A good place to start is the Search Inside Yourself book. In Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan discusses over two dozen different kinds of meditations that you can try for yourself. These meditations are specifically designed to combine mental and emotional development with professional development.

Try experimenting with different meditation styles

Why not try each meditation style once?

5 Common Styles of Meditation

Here are some of the most common styles of meditation:

  • Visualization-Based. These meditations center around using visualizations to guide the meditation experience. For example, the “Tonglen” meditation in Search Inside Yourself uses the visualization of light to ease pain and develop compassion.
  • Auditory-Based. These meditations often center around a mantra or a question. It might be a question you’re reflecting on, or something you continually tell yourself throughout the meditation. For example, in Search Inside Yourself Meng talks about mentally saying “I want you to be happy” to others as a way of developing empathy.
  • Awareness-Based. These meditations focus solely on developing attention. These meditations are great for developing concentration and focus. For example, the breathing meditation taught in the beginning of Search Inside Yourself.
  • Physical Sensation Based. These meditations use the physical body as a gateway to understanding the mind. Most emotions are actually felt in the body as physical sensations. A good example of this is the “Body Scan” meditation, also found in the Search Inside Yourself book.
  • Guided Meditation. Some people find that they have better results with meditation when they’re being guided through the experience. Search Inside Yourself also provides free guided meditation mp3s, available at the top of the page.

Of course, there are dozens of other kinds of meditation as well. But these 5 styles of meditation are a great place to get started.

Test First, Then Build Consistency

Once you’ve had the chance to try out a variety of different meditation styles, ask yourself – which style made the biggest impact for you? In addition to paying attention to how you feel during the meditation, make sure you also pay attention to how you feel throughout the entire day after the meditation.

Once you’ve found a style that works for you, scale it down. Instead of meditating for 30 minutes a day, start with 5 or 10 minutes. Make it a consistent practice on a small scale, then slowly add more time once you build it into a habit.

What style of meditation works best for you? Share in the comments below!

“The Tribe Bringing Mindfulness to the World” – A Personal Account of SIYLI’s Teacher Certification Program, Expand

Laurie Cameron

By Laurie Cameron

I am half-way through the year-long mastery program to become a certified Search Inside Yourself Teacher.  I have been teaching executives and practicing mindfulness for two decades, so a number people in my life were surprised when I applied to join the first cohort of SIYLI teachers.   But I had a strong pull coming from that place of inner wisdom we all have – and I knew that the SIYLI experience was going to integrate well in my ongoing work.

Three Elements of the Journey

  1. The Tribe

When I walked into the serene yet buzzing room at Hotel Kabuki on the first day of session one, I could immediately tell I was home.  There was a gentleness in the smiles that greeted me near the breakfast buffet. A combination of anticipation, curiosity, depth, confidence and humility emanated from the faces of my cohort members who traveled from Singapore, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Portugal, Mexico, Maine and even Mill Valley, CA.  I am humbled and honored to be a part of this group. Our connections have deepened as we continue to experience masterful practices that cultivate  presence and connection with one another.  We have become a tribe.

  1. Our Shared Mission

I exhale with relief knowing that I am part of a global “we” in carrying out my own calling.  In our deep discussions, and sometimes debates, on the latest findings in neuroscience, mindfulness and emotional intelligence, what emerges is the realization that we are all arm-in-arm. We are unique but so alike in our passion and purpose. We share a commitment to develop ourselves and depend on each other as we forge new ground in mindful leadership in each of our geographies and business domains. Through global Google hangouts, Skype calls and emails- we send each other materials, ideas and encouragement as we do this work together.

  1. My Developmental Journey

As a confessed life-long learner, the SIYLI experience has been phenomenal. I carry with me a metaphorical string of learning moments from the masterful teachers we have had so far.

  • I have a bead for a session with Shauna Shapiro, as she gracefully walked into our circle, sat down in the middle of the room and embodied a compassionate presence that taught us more than anything on slides.
  • I have another bead for the morning when Chade Meng Tan personally challenged us to cultivate three qualities to become master teachers.
  • There is a bead for the breathtaking way Marc Lesser led an exercise took us into examining our own Ways of Being as teachers – the polarities of competencies that we need to master and integrate as go forward.
  • I have a bead for the moments that Meg Levy tuned in with wisdom and taught precisely what was needed in the moment.
  • I have one for Dan Siegel who spoke to us as a wise mentor, evoking in me a deeply charged, purposeful focus in how I go forward with the science and lessons that can help my clients become stronger, wiser leaders.
  • And I carry one for Elizabeth Lindsey’s wordless teaching.  She generously demonstrated that we are wise, loving and connected beings, and she did so in a way that affected most of us in the room at our core.

I look forward to our next two in-person retreats, and all of the connections in between. We will complete our SIYLI program with our shared mission as a tribe of Wayfinders building wise and compassionate leaders.

How to Manage Your Body and Your Physical Space During Meditation

While the meditation is primarily about the mind and the spirit, the body also plays a key part. Because emotions are coded in physical sensations, the body is an essential gateway for gaining insight into those emotions. That’s why being physically comfortable and having a conducive physical space is an important part of a good meditation practice.

If you manage your body and your space well, you’ll be able to let the physical aspects go so you can fully immerse yourself into the meditative experience. Otherwise, aches, legs falling asleep and other physical ailments can distract you from your meditation.

Your body is an important part of the meditation experience

Your body is an important part of the meditation experience

So, how can you create a conducive physical space for meditation? Just follow these four tips:

Stretch Before Starting Your Meditation

If you plan on meditating for more than ten minutes, spend a few seconds stretching out your muscles first. This helps get more blood flow to your extremities, which reduces the chances of your legs falling asleep.

Have a Regular Meditation Space

Pick a space in your home or office to use for meditation. It shouldn’t be your bed and it shouldn’t be your desk. It could be a specific chair, a mat in the corner, a dedicated meditation room or even your favorite place to stand next to the window. Using the same space regularly will create a mental anchor to that space. Your mind will naturally start to drop into a mindful state of mind whenever you move into that space, simply through repeated conditioning.

Try Different Meditation Positions

Try meditating sitting down. Try meditating standing up. Try meditation lying down. Try meditation while walking. Try it while cross legged, try it in a chair, try it in half-lotus position and try it with your legs stretched out in front of you.

Different positions work best for different people. Try out different ones to see which one(s) work best for you.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

Once you’ve found a posture that works for you, try out some small adjustments. For instance, crossing your legs just a little bit looser can prevent your legs from falling asleep. Sitting so your backbone lines up from top to bottom can prevent backache. Seemingly small and minute adjustments can make a big difference, especially in longer meditation sits.

Getting Physically Comfortable

By paying just a little bit of attention to how you manage your physical body, you’ll be able to free up a lot more attention for your meditation. Best of all, you don’t have to think about this all that often. Once you find something that works for you, it’ll pay off for weeks and months to come.

What posture works best for you? How do you manage your physical space during meditation? Share in the comments!

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself

The Flow State: What It Is & How to Achieve It

You’ve probably felt it before. That state where time seems to stand still, where you just seem to know exactly what to do. You’re fully immersed in the experience, taking one action after another, without thinking or distracting yourself. That’s the flow state.

In many ways, the flow state is very much like a state of meditation. The chatter in the mind fades away, as does the ego. Instead, you’re left with just the present moment – just you and the task at hand.

Find flow at work, at home or at play!

Find flow at work, at home or at play!

This flow state was first examined and written about in detail by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist. Since then, many studies have been done on the subject. Flow state has been observed in many different kinds of circumstances – from programming to surgery to all kinds of sports.

Why Cultivate a State of Flow?

There are a few key reasons to consciously cultivate this state:

  1. It’s a state of immense concentration. You’ll often get a lot done – and produce higher quality results – while in the flow state.
  2. It creates a powerful sense of clarity. You know exactly what needs to be done, without needing to think about it.
  3. Being in flow removes normal mental obstacles. Stress, worry, lack of concentration, self-doubt, all of that disappears during a flow state.
  4. The flow state is intrinsically ecstatic. Just being in the moment, facing a worthwhile challenge is highly pleasurable.

How to Create a State of Flow

A flow state cannot be forced. Instead, flow comes naturally when certain conditions are met. The primary conditions are:

  1. A challenge or task that is not too easy. Otherwise, apathy or boredom will prevent the flow state.
  2. A challenge or task that is not too difficult. Otherwise, anxiety, worry or stress will prevent the flow state.
  3. A clear goal. Flow is achieved when working towards something you care about.
  4. A focus on the process, not the goal. This may seem contrary to #3, yet is an essential part of flow. An athlete might have a goal of winning the gold medal. But the flow state is only achieved when the athlete focuses on playing the game, right now, in the moment – rather than thinking about winning the medal. Yet without the goal and the desire behind the goal, flow will not be achieved. Both the goal and the focus on the process are necessary.
  5. A lack of interruptions. The flow state is easily broken. For flow to be achieved and sustained, you need to be able to focus on the task at hand without interruption.

When these conditions are aligned, flow is a natural consequence.

Of course, meditation will also increase your natural ability to achieve flow. Meditation lets you deliberately practice going into states of concentration, as well as filtering out distractions. A consistent meditation practice, as well as the deliberate cultivation of these five flow factors, will help you achieve flow much more consistently.

What are your experiences with flow states? Are there any memorable experiences that you can share?

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself

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