Meditation has elevated my life in ways I could have never imagined. From better leadership decisions to stronger personal relationships, dedicating time daily just to breathe and focus on my thoughts has been transformational.
That’s why I was thrilled to connect with Michelle Zarrin, a meditation and mindfulness coach, author, speaker, and founder of the Mindfulness Expo. She’s also had her meditation teachings downloaded over a million times on the Insight Timer, which is the number one free sleep and meditation app.
However, before discovering mindfulness, Michelle was a small business owner with no clue about how her life path would soon unfold. It took tragedy to reshape Michelle’s life as she realized following her passion was the only way forward.
Since diverting from a traditional career path, Michelle has become an endless wealth of mindful knowledge. From insights on discovering your real purpose to advice on beginning a meditation practice of your own, her wisdom can change your mindset both personally and professionally.
Pushing Forward Through Difficulties
Michelle knows life isn’t easy, and she knows this firsthand.
About ten years ago, both her marriage crumbled, and her father suddenly passed away soon after. “It was a tough time in my life, and I was seeking deeper answers, clarity, and peace.”
She had heard of meditation, and it’s supposed benefits, but never seriously considered trying it out herself. But desperate for a change, she gave it a shot and began setting time aside every day to meditate.
Almost instantly, Michelle was hooked! She said the practice helped her understand that the answers were within herself the entire time. “It inspired me to go deeper into myself and see what else I could discover about life,” she continues.
Not long after, she signed up for an intensive, ten-day silent retreat with eleven hours dedicated to meditation every day. “After I left that retreat, all of the answers, questions, and confusions that I had inside settled down.”
She also began to realize that her current business—which then involved importing clothing from China—wasn’t right for her. Her passion and purpose were not just about exploring the depths of mindfulness for herself, but also to spread the benefits to others.
“Life’s not always easy. So, if you don’t love what you’re doing, it’s going to be easy to give up.” says Michelle. “But, if you do find your passion—that one thing that brings fulfillment into your life—don’t give it up.”
Is Meditation Hard? It Should Be!
Here’s an astounding fact. On average, a human has somewhere between 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day! “The mind is designed to think,” says Michelle. No wonder it’s so challenging to turn the mind off and meditate without distraction.
However, don’t some of life’s best rewards emerge through challenges? Also, as a leader, what could be a better reward than clarity, smarter decision-making, and the other significant benefits Michelle, myself, and countless other leaders have gained through mindful meditation?
If you’re ready to get started, here’s Michelle advice on how to meditate for the first time:
- Set a timer for 5–10 minutes, sit in a comfortable position, and close your eyes
- Until the timer goes off, try to focus on your breath
- Let any thoughts flow in and out without ever judging them
- Once the timer rings, slowly open your eyes and continue your day!
Pretty simple, right? Letting your thoughts flow minus any distraction may not be, but that’s perfectly fine. Even if you only achieve one second without an idea buzzing through your brain, that’s a successful meditation practice.
“The key is to continue the discipline,” says Michelle. “The next day, you may attain three seconds without thought. The next day it might be five seconds. Or it could even go back down to one.” Again, that’s successful—because it’s practice.
“You’re never doing it wrong,” she emphasizes. “There is no wrong. Meditation is just sitting down, doing your best to focus on the breath, and settling down the mind and body to the best of your ability.
As long as you’re doing that, you’re doing it right!”
The Benefits of Retreats
Daily meditation practices are fantastic! Honestly, even if you pause a few sporadic moments here and there to meditate, feel proud that you’re prioritizing your mind.
Still, while these practices can take you far, the distractions of everyday life make it difficult—if not impossible—to experience everything meditation has to offer fully. You can only go so deep when you have 8 am meetings, major deadlines, and family dinners.
That’s why Michelle is an advocate for mindfulness and meditation retreats, like the one she first attended years ago. However, many retreats are far from the intense programs she prefers—so don’t let that scare you off.
Instead, retreats can and do significantly differ. However, most will involve in-depth mindful teachings, substantial time to practice, and, most importantly, zero distractions.
“When we’re immersed in our schedule from the moment we wake up until the second we go to bed, it’s all about doing,” Michelle says. In contrast, retreats allow us to let go of obligations and provide space to focus on one important, yet often neglected, thing—ourselves.
Within this space, participants will soon find that they’re doing more than honing their meditation skills. They’re also gaining clarity and insights that—with the noise of the outside world—they’ve rarely had the opportunity to fully grasp.
“Something happens to us at a retreat,” Michelle says. “We dig deeper within. It also allows us to pause and connect with ourselves because, for once, we’re disconnected from everything else.”
Despite being unplugged at the retreat itself, people often return to the “real world” brimming with new ideas, a deepened sense of clarity, and an excitement to bring everything they’ve learned home with them.
“It’s a huge recharge,” Michelle says. It’s also a way to realign ourselves with everything from our purpose to our leadership methods to our priorities in a way no other “break” will.
After all, even most vacations or holidays end up just as packed as any other day. Don’t you deserve self-care, recalibration, and rejuvenation where—for once— you’re finally the focus?
Lastly, just like Michelle discovered herself, these opportunities to reflect and connect could unexpectedly open up a new purpose and path forward.
Michelle says, “A stronger connection to ourselves—and knowing what’s true within us—can give us the courage to go out and finally live that life.”
You’ll learn more about how she started her meditation journey, why she left her first career behind, what advice she has for getting through difficult times, and so much more.
Also, I’d love to connect with you on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as have you keep up with my company imageOne. Learn about my mission to show business leaders how mindfulness can transform you and your business in my book donothing. Visit www.donothingbook.com for more information.