A sharper mind

In his book “the 7 habits of highly effective people“, Stephen Covey talks about habit number 7: “sharpen the saw”: principles of balanced self-renewal. You can’t cut a tree with a blunt saw. Equally, living life with a blunt mind does not work very well.

One of the best ways to sharpen the mind is through meditation. Meditation is nothing new to mankind: man has been meditating for millenia, with astonishing results. It always amazes me why more people do not meditate, and why meditation is not part of school and university curriculums.

Miyomoto Musashi, known in Japan as “Kinsei”, that is, “Sword Saint”, is hailed as one of Japan’s greatest swordsmen ever. He like many of his 16th century contemporaries and indeed most great martial artists past and present, understood the importance of attaining “the right state of mind”. They understood that a mere nano-second of “wandering mind” could cost them their head! Meditation was pretty much not an option but a necessity. Increased awareness, total presence of mind, no inteference from past emotional residues, no distraction from desire; pure focus on the task at hand, total mindfulness!

Musashi’s famous book called “Gorin no sho” (The Book of Five Rings) describes this state of mind along with swordsmanship skills and stategy. Out of 60 duels to the death, he lost none! He was clearly a great warrior but also a great man. Like Leonardo Da Vinci, his skills were diverse. He learned to tap into more of his “whole-mind”. He was an excellent calligrapher, a versed poet, an accomplished painter and a renowned teacher. To this day, the cave in which he meditated and wrote his famous book can be visited. (that’s for my next trip to Japan!)

Miyamoto Musashi’s example of meditation’s phenomenal benefits and powers is an extreme one. There are many “extreme” examples. For instance the Buddhist monks who meditate overnight outside in sub-zero degree conditions and wake up in the morning from their practice with the snow around them all melted. It sounds far-out doesn’t it? Scientists have obviously been very keen to investigate these phenomena.

In 1992 I met a Tibetan Lama who had accomplished this. His seniors had invited him to carry out this practice one very cold snowy night up in the Himalayas in the presence of Western scientists who were very sceptical and had come equipped with all sorts of equipment and measuring devices. He told me that once they had all reached the spot where the monks would sit out the night and the scientists would observe and measure , the monks, naked except for their loin cloths took their sitting positions and began their deep meditation practice.


After only 30 minutes, the scientists, clad in thick anoraks, oxygen masks, boots, gloves and other Arctic gear, struggled to remain still in one place (their observation point), facing the bitter cold and could no longer bear it and so returned to their warm camp for some hot coffee! They came back the next morning to find the monks in the sub zero cold Himalayas mountain, fresh with snow from the nights flurries, all still clad in nothing but loin cloths, in deep meditation in the same sitting positions, with the snow around them all melted away!

Meditation is not just for the “super-heroes”. It is for us mere mortals too. The benefits to our life and all its activities are practically limitless. In my experience, it’s one of the best ways to clear up all the residue from the past and reduce the constant distracting cravings for a “better than now” future. It helps put an end to the “someday some time promise of a better life” that our society seems plagued with. Correct practise of meditation is one of the best ways to deal with all the mental fuzz, emotional negativity, low self-esteem and distorted self-belief, lack of clarity, the negative effects of our surrounding environment, various life traumas and dramas that we encounter and suffer, the counter-productive impacts of our conditioning and the knee-jerk learned reactions that all sabotage our best efforts to lead a powerful and fulfilling life and to produce good results in our relationships, careers, projects and activities.

When we meditate regularly, we gradually transcend the grips of our past and all it’s residue that holds us back; we dissipate our anger, our fear and our worry. A good meditation method will help us eliminate impure energy and gradually dispel ignorance. It will help us concentrate our pure energy and increase our wisdom. We become present. Present to the greatness of life right here, right now. Present to what is going on now without the continual interference of all those thoughts, anxieties and distractions that seem to invade our mind, that what the zen masters call “the chattering monkeys”.

We become lighter and brighter. A clear fresh perspective opens up. We begin to see past our blind-spots. Our awareness increases, our mind sharpens. Our understanding of ourselves and our life evolves. Our understanding of others  grows too. We also improve our mental health and our mental age. And at the very least, regular meditation helps us cope better with daily stress.

Would our performance not therefor improve? Be it in business, sports, the arts or everyday interactions with loved ones?

With daily meditation, a life or “certainty and uncertainty” gradually develops into a life of “certitude”. (More on this soon)

Johan teaches many of his clients to meditate.

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