One of the first emcee jobs of my career was to launch a brand new edition of one of the world’s most sought after luxury cars. I remember walking out of that briefing room more than 15 years ago looking ‘completely together’ with a cool, professional smile still plastered on my face but my heart was racing, my stomach was doing some crazy somersaults and my palms were probably clammy. I was completely terrified!
The worst part was, unlike a sports player or athlete who could immediately hit the field and start training for it, you can’t really practice at the location or imagine what it was going to be like standing in front of all those people, until you were really there.
I was literally thrown in over the deep end because prior to this high-profile emcee job, I was acting in a sitcom series and hosting a late night talk show on national television. One might argue I was not new to cameras rolling on a controlled set, but being on a gigantic stage in front of 1000 strangers and members of the media, while your opening lines are streamed via live feed on screens mounted around a stadium was enough to make me feel faint.
There would be no such thing as a director calling “Cut”, or “You got your lines wrong. Let’s do it again.” There was simply no turning back or deleting bad takes when you’re going “LIVE”.
As that dreadful day of the launch loomed closer, I had to face my fears head-on. There was no hiding from this brand or impending event in any case. They were even advertising the car on national billboards, which used to send a shiver down my spine, whenever I drove past it.
I knew I needed to get myself together and start training for this job in another way. I was going to have to train my mind, like an athlete, to get “into the zone”. To almost imagine myself walking out on that stage, with the same tunnel focus golfers have when they’ve screened out all distractions and are so totally focused on getting the shot right.
I gravitated back to the one thing that has time and again, helped me get back into positive gear. I reverted to my training in meditation remembering what the Zen masters used to say about human emotions. As the story goes, a man standing by a road, shouted the question when he saw a rider galloping so quickly on his horse, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
So, if your emotions are like wild horses, you can either let them drive you or you can take charge and drive them, but you need to first regain control of the reigns.
When I face any of my fears within a meditative space, a strange thing starts to happen. I am able to draw upon what feels like a limitless potential within me, which is within all of us, if we simply practiced how to tune in to it. The fears do not seem as large as they once were or as threatening. They feel manageable. It was what saved me from shaking like a leaf before walking out on that stage years ago.
I was already deploying a breathing technique backstage that slows down your pulse rate, and expands one’s oxygen levels which enabled me to get my act together to calm my nerves. I’m pleased and relieved to say that it worked! In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, the physiological reason is that breaths taken with mindfulness tend to be slow and deep, which stimulates the vagus nerve, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is turn reduces stress, high blood pressure and your heart rate, helping you to immediately calm down.
I don’t always achieve this peaceful state but when I access this incredible mental space, it’s truly empowering to be in the ‘drivers seat’ rather than at the mercy of your own anxiety or stresses that we get too easily sucked into, in our every day lives.
Meditation helps you to focus and function more effectively at work and it also makes you a happier and more positive person. As New York Times bestselling author of “Search Inside Yourself” Chade Meng Tan says, who pioneered the most sought after training program at Google, “Imagine whenever you meet anybody, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, I wish for this person to be happy. Having such habits changes everything at work, because sincere goodwill is picked up unconsciously by others.”
Apart from being more positive and focused at work, I’ve experienced firsthand the power of trying to regain control of my own ‘wild horses’. Breathing techniques can really help soothe a worried, panicked disposition. It also helps you to confront your fears because meditation is so effective in training the mind to remain calm in the face of adversity.