Meditation as a Workout for Public Speaking

peter getty meditationFear of public speaking is something we have all experienced.  It takes time to hone the skills it takes to stay focused on the expression of ideas in front of a group of people.  This interview from Forbes points out that meditation, as little as five minutes each day, can be a powerful way to relax your mind and build your ability to direct focus.

Matthieu Ricard, a French monk sometimes referred to as the world’s ‘happiest man,’ doesn’t get stage fright.  He says that he takes time to dispel ‘mental toxins’ with meditation, which calms his mind in a powerful way.  Can meditation do the same for the average person when he has to address a group publicly?  ABC’s Dan Harris believes so.

The co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America Weekend Dan Harris twice experienced panic attacks live on air.  In his book 10% Happier, he discusses the negative thoughts that so many of us experience.  When we are making a presentation, our minds are often not on the material at hand, but on ourselves.  We wonder how we look, if what we’re saying sounds stupid, what people think of us.  These self-referential thoughts get in the way of real connections to an audience.  In light of this negative chatter, it makes sense that public speaking is so widely regarded as downright terrifying.

In order to overcome the inner voices that were getting in his way, Harris turned to meditation.  If his reliable and positive persona on television is any indicator, there may be something to it.

Meditation doesn’t have to be a weird hippie experience that takes hours.  Harris recommends just 5 minutes a day as a reasonable goal that can still see effects.  He refers to meditation as a workout for your mind.  The positive effects can be so significant, he does it no matter how busy he thinks he is.  Harris practices a kind of meditation referred to as Mindfulness.  Here’s how it goes…

Step 1 – Sit down properly supported by your spine

Step 2 – Close your eyes and put your attention on your breathing, feeling your breath

Step 3 – When you start thinking about something else, refocus back to your breathing

And that’s it!  It’s tricky, and your mind will wander – that’s okay.  With his ‘mind workout’ analogy, Harris notes that every time he brings his attention back to his breath, ‘it’s a bicep curl for your brain.’  He has found himself more calm, confident, and joyful when he shares ideas publicly.

from Peter Orszag


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