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How to Build Grit with Meditation: 3 Simple Techniques

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How to Build Grit with Meditation: 3 Simple Techniques
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Listening to Angela Lee Duckworth’s wonderful TED talk on “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance”, I was reminded of my own workshops on enhancing creativity and determination.

Ms. Duckworth talks about how the best predictor of success in any situation is “grit”, a trait that is increasingly advocated as “growth mindset” in top tech companies.

I have discovered that the best way to cultivate and sustain a growth mindset over the longer term lies in daily acts of creativity and resilience.

Creativity enhances our love for learning new things, while resilience boosts personal power and the will to carry on through challenges.

Awakening the Creativity Center

The Creativity Center is found three inches below our diaphragm. We hold our passions here, our dreams, fantasies, and latent ambitions.

It governs our sense of self-worth, as well as our ability to be open and friendly toward others and try new things.

When the Creativity Center is in balance, we exhibit tolerance, positive outlook, and refined behavior.

We use creative energy when we cook, bake, or paint. We awaken creative energy when we visit an art museum or read an inspiring biography.

We use creative energy every time we try something new – even when we take a different route on our way back home.

We are all born as creative beings. As children, we all color, paint, or make wonderful shapes.

We used to break into song or dance at will.

But somehow along the way, some of us transform into less creative beings due to societal or economic pressures. We become rigid that we find it hard to learn or invent something new.

The good news is that we can train our mind with simple techniques to become more open and receptive to change.

Meditative Technique 1: Alternate Nostril Breathing 

“Just as the activities of the mind influence the breath, so does the breath influence our state of mind.” ~T.K.V. Desikachar

Nadi Shodhana” refers to an alternate nostril breathing technique. Whenever I find myself losing focus, worrying about a new project, or learning a new area, I practice this technique to broaden my state of mind.

To practice this technique, I follow these three steps:

  1. I close my right nostril with the first two fingers of my right hand.
  2. I inhale and exhale through the left nostril, for 8 to 10 breaths.
  3. Then, closing my left nostril with the first two fingers in the left hand, I inhale and exhale.

Usually, I repeat this 2-4 times with symmetry on both sides.

Practiced weekly or daily, “Nadi Shodhana” often starts a flywheel of creativity and opens the mind to new possibilities.

Meditative Technique 2: The Moon-Energy Meditation  

The moon is a powerful symbol that reminds us of constant change. I find this symbolism especially powerful when I need to let go of past failure and embrace transition.

This meditation is most effective when practiced every night from the start of a lunar cycle.

  1. I find a comfortable seat near a window, with a view of the moon. I sit tall with a straight spine and gaze at the moon.
  2. Closing my eyes, I imagine myself at a crossroads. I visualize the crossroads as a coming together of hopes and dreams, trusting that I will choose the right path.
  3. Gently closing the eyes and deepening the breath, I go inwards. I imagine the subconscious combine creative energy with a sense of purpose and personal power. I often visualize this as a spinning, orange-colored circle of light traveling from the base of the spine, to the area behind the navel, to the diaphragm.
  4. Continuing to breathe deeply for a few more minutes, I meditate on the following words before transitioning back to my surroundings.

“I trust myself to follow my dreams. I can adapt with grace to any situation. I release ideas that are no longer useful.”

This is a great meditation that reminds me of the constant flow of time through the universe. I even mix things up by playing soothing background music, lying down vs. sitting, or sitting near a water fountain.

I also weave in yoga poses like Triangle, Dancer, or Gate when I need to strengthen the effects.

It’s important to keep in mind that adaptability is not always the solution.

Sometimes, I find that I need to tap into my personal power to channel my energies away from an existing situation to a new environment that fulfills my true potential. For that I use the Breath of Fire meditation below.

Finding Your Personal Power

The energy center for personal power is located near the solar plexus. It governs self-esteem and determination, and enables transformation.

When the Power Center is in balance, we feel self-confident, have a strong sense of purpose, and are self-motivated.

When imbalanced, we suffer from low self-esteem, have difficulty making decisions, and may have anger or control issues. These behavioral traits can keep us from focusing on the long-term or achieving our full potential.

Boat and Warrior poses are great for boosting personal power. I also use the Breath of Fire meditation at the end of a tough workday to recharge and transition to family time, or at the start of a busy day to refocus.

Meditative Technique 3: The Breath of Fire 

Before getting started with this meditation, I usually need to strengthen my core.

When returning to this meditation after a while, it often takes me a few weeks to build up to the full practice (4-5 min meditation with several forceful breaths per second).

I start by lighting a candle of my choice. Basking in the warmth of the candle, I sit up tall, lengthening the space between my tailbone and my heart:

  1. Breathing in through the nose, I expand my lung cavity and imagine the abdominal cavity filling with air.
  2. On exhale, I forcefully draw the abdominal muscles toward my spine and push the air out through my lungs and nose. The exhales are loud and quick, and sound like waves in a stormy sea.
  3. Starting with an interval of 30 seconds between each breath, I slowly pick up the pace to repeat about 10 times. I try to equalize the duration of inhale and exhale.

After the meditation, I often pause and remain seated and think of a current experience that is not going well. Thinking of my intentions for the situation and visions of the future, I meditate on the following phrases:

“I claim my power and accept responsibility for every part of my life. My enthusiasm empowers me to achieve my goals. My personal power equips me to overcome all challenges and excel.”

Alternatively, I simply repeat the sound “ram” which activates the Power Center.

The Breath Of Fire is an ancient Vedic technique with immense benefits. It is frequently used in modern day yoga as a cleansing ritual, to kick start a feeling of empowerment and transformation.

Conclusion

When I find myself in a new role or a project that stretches out of my comfort zone, I weave in these techniques in the morning or at night.

More importantly, I make it a habit to indulge myself in daily acts of fun and creativity.

In immersing myself in what I love, I rediscover my passions over and over again, and focus my personal power on what matters most in the long-term.

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Ria Sankar

Sr. Manager of Analytics and Program Management at Microsoft

Ria is a Sr. Manager on the Data Science & Analytics team driving AI for Good initiatives. The team is ... [Read full bio]

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