Consider this quote by Teilhard de Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” On its face, it may seem to have little connection with trading; and on some levels I would agree. However, consider that trading is a journey of self-discovery. If you have been trading for any length of time you are well aware of this fact. Every time you enter a trade you express yourself. You express your strengths, weaknesses, deep desires, darkest fears, inner most values, strongest beliefs and bizarre biases…to name a few. You can’t help it, expressing yourself is part and parcel of the trading process. Now also consider that this expression is directly related to your performance. In other words, when you trade, every blemish, character flaw and shortcoming will be challenged, called out and severely tested. Not by the markets of course, but by your irrational, limiting and negative beliefs about such things as your abilities, intelligence or “luck.” Your corresponding internal state becomes frazzled, frustrated and fragmented thereby brutally distorting your judgment and distracting you from maintaining a focus on the essentials of the charts and the trade. And, if you were aware or not of those disastrous beliefs you would still continue to make the same mistakes, violate the same rules and do the same things all the while expecting a different result! It is amazing.
But, what if you maintained a mind-set built upon your highest and best notions of who you are? What if you kept a connection to your inner power, strength and perfection? Yes, I said perfection. At your core you are a perfect being. Marianne Williams wrote, “Our greatest fear is not that we’re inadequate; our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” You have within you a wondrous system, and it makes you quite a physical specimen. You heal yourself through the wisdom of a body that knows exactly how and when to replicate new cells, blood, organs, tissue, muscle and bone. It knows exactly how to release massive amounts of brain chemicals in just the right proportion to ensure that trillions of reactions take place throughout your brain and body every second to safeguard homeostasis, equilibrium and health. What make us flawed is not our nature, but our thoughts, beliefs and choices. Your consciousness becomes riddled with doubt, conflict, worry and fear resulting in a miserly outlook that is unaware of and in fact denies its magnificence. You “become” flawed despite the fact that you are perfect at your core. Ah, but when you expand your consciousness and embrace this notion that you are an infinite being inhabiting a body you are better able to support your highest and best self at the trading platform in a much more effective position.
How do you embrace the power within and create an indelible connection with your highest and best self? How do you move through trials, tribulations and challenges with an inner calm, keeping events in perspective by responding from a foundation that is centered, balanced and fully present? How do you remember that it is not what happened that is of “most” importance, it is how you respond and the choices you make; in other words what will you do “now.” Well, there are a number of ways to cultivate an expanded awareness; but I’d like to share one way that has been a mainstay of “consciousness raising” for eons. That is meditation. Through the practice of “mindful meditation” there are myriad ways that you can support your peak performance by harnessing the power of a fierce focus on what matters most. Over the years, the usefulness of meditation has been scientifically documented with regard to physiological, mental, emotional and behavioral benefits. Some of those benefits include:
- Sharpening attention
- Lowering heart rate
- Lowering stress levels
- Easing anxiety
- Increasing patience
- Inducing calm
- Reducing susceptibility to fear and greed.
With consistency, this powerful exercise supports the entire system of mind/body and spirit. Meditation has covered the entire planet throughout history in one form or another with differing configurations; however there is a common theme of calming, centering, aligning and grounding the mind/body. Meditation is a journey with no destination, a journey that enters into the depths of heart and soul to open the self to a deeper conversation with the higher centers of being.
Being fully present and in the moment is one of the major aims of meditation. Being fully present means the mind/body system is living and vibrating in this moment, without internal or external distractions. Being fully present means the focus is on the task at hand while remaining on purpose, and on target. So often while trading you are thinking about what happened in the last trade, the last hour, yesterday or what is coming up in the next few moments or tomorrow. In other words, you’re everywhere but where you should be, focused on what is taking place right now. Distractions can come in the form of negative emotions which can distort perception and make illusions seem real. Consistent meditation hones an appreciation for just “being.” Trying harder yields diminishing returns while surrender and letting things be are prescriptions for success (success being defined as sitting in quiet serenity and allowing the march of things either in your head or in the “hood” to go on while you are in it, but not of it).
Mindful meditation is a very simple and elegant practice, the gist of which is below. Sit down in a chair, or on a pillow on the floor and get comfortable. Keep your back straight and remain alert. Now, take your attention and focus on your breath while letting the mind be free. Allow thoughts to come and go with an intention of un-attachment to any thought. The breath is especially helpful with letting go by simply allowing the breath’s natural cadence flow in and out while maintaining an awareness of it. The breath is very important, as it is a cleansing action and oxygenates the blood stream while helping to dilate blood vessels and send more oxygen to the brain, which has a calming effect on the entire body.
It is important to be attuned to the process not about “trying” but “being” in order to allow the mind/body to resonate with the stillness and inner quiet of the moment. Let go of any thought, care or issue and, when it returns, acknowledge it and allow it to be there without judgment, condemnation or interest. This may be difficult at first, but keep the intention strong and, with time, you will be able to sit in quiet stillness with only the sound of your breathing as your thoughts come and go. Eventually your ability to just “be” will become stronger and you may find you are held captive less and less by unruly thoughts.
Practice meditation at the same time everyday to help instill the routine and habit, especially when beginning. It’s a perfect way to start your day. It can rejuvenate, align, invigorate and charge your system, infusing you with a sharpened sense of attention to important matters. It’s also a wonderful way to end the day to wind down, de-stress, realign, shed tension, calm the system, and generally defuse any negative energy that could disrupt a good night’s sleep. A mediation break at lunch is an excellent tool to maintain balance and focus for the day to weed out distractions and remain on purpose and on task. As you can see, any time might be the best time for you. You choose. Additionally, you may want to develop a two-a-day practice, once in the morning and once in the evening, as a powerful way to instill and maintain a sense of calm intention throughout the day and night. There is no set time interval to meditate but, generally speaking, 20 to 30 minutes is what many use. For beginners, I usually suggest that they start with 5 minutes and ease their way into longer time frames until they are able to remain still and focused for 20 to 45 minutes.
Your trading deserves the best you can give while activating and accessing all of your internal and external resources. Diligent and consistent meditation will help you to reduce distorted judgment and distracted thinking by building patience and a level of detachment. Invite and engage the inner serenity of your power and move beyond the chattering monkey mind that tends to permeate your head. This and other powerful tools are what we teach in “Mastering the Mental Game” On-location and Online courses. Ask your Online Trading Academy representative for more information. Also, get my book, “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader.”
Dr. Woody Johnson