“So you think meditation is a big pile of donkey ass, huh? I did too.” ~ Heath Armstrong
Heath Armstrong is the creator and host of The Artrepreneur Now, a podcast with artists and design-focused entrepreneurs who share tips and stories about how they’re reaching their dreams. Heath credits meditation for helping him reach his own career and life goals, including starting his own business. He told us about his meditation practice and how it’s affected even the little things in life, such as his morning run.
Why did you start meditating? What was your goal?
I was living every second in the quicksand, barely keeping my head above the oxygen level. Something needed to change. Life just wasn’t what I envisioned as a child anymore. I came across an interview with Kim Nicol, a mindful and meditation teacher who left her straight-laced career as an attorney after a few really tragic experiences and interactions with death. On her website I found these words:
You are alive, and this will not always be true. This is not a reason to feel sad, but it does make you wonder: How do you want to spend the time you have? How alive are you willing to be? –Kim Nicol
Those first few lines on Kim’s website set off an explosion of fireworks in my head. I questioned everything.
I immediately sent Kim an email, interested in her story and practice. She responded in a very confident fashion, sending me a quick 5 minute starter meditation, guided by her, and asking me to write down my experiences for 5 days in a row with a few words. She wasn’t pushy, fake, or trying to sell me anything. I could feel her energy just through reading the email.
I decided to do it. And guess what? After five days I finally felt alive. So so so alive. Believe me, I was surprised more than you are reading this.
When I use to wake up in the morning, I had a very unorganized, flustered morning practice. Because of the extreme amounts of “things” or “tasks” I felt like I had to do, my stress level was inappropriately high. I started with a groggy slide out of my bed after 10 snoozes and the biggest, blackest coffee you can imagine. I basically started my day feeling like I was already behind. This is never good. I implemented my first few meditations after arriving home from work and the experience far superseded the idea in my head. It was a punch of stability, a certain touch of insecurity, and a skittles worthy burst of colors packed with clarity. Taking something like the mind–so mystical, so powerful, and so pattern oriented–and turning off all of the switches to the mayhem…BOOM. Silence. Immediate refuge. It’s like a million of your own peace soldiers silencing the fundamental principles of drama in your head.
Can you tell me a story about how meditation improved your performance?
I have never been a completely dedicated runner, but I did run occasionally to clear the mind. However, I absolutely couldn’t even contemplate running without my mp3 player. When the music’s over, turn out the lights. After my first experience where I really understood how to focus on my breath and nothing else, I felt so alive that I decided to run without headphones. I put my shoes on and ran out the door. It was almost like a continued meditation for the entire run. While I ran, I listened to my breaths, controlling the pace and holding the moment after exhale close to my heart. Before I knew it, I’d run 4 miles and never felt challenged at all. To this day, I haven’t used headphones during a run. The complete 180 blew my mind. It was the first time I ever really understood how powerful mediation can be.
Do you think meditation gives you a competitive edge? Why?
I think meditation give me the ability to stay calm and think clearly through situations that could otherwise be stress pits full of hostility and worrywarts. Where I used to get anxious, now I’m calm. Where I used to get upset, now I’m accepting.
What is your meditation routine?
My routine quickly transformed practice almost immediately after rising in the morning. I started waking up earlier, immediately punishing a giant cup of hot tea with chia seeds, and then catapulting my brain into quick guided meditations (focused mainly on my breath, my affirmations, my visions, and usually lasting 5-20 minutes). Now, my routine includes a meditation twice a day: once in the morning and once about 5:00 pm.