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Can Type 'A' personalities meditate?

Updated: Aug 10, 2019

Lots of people are self-proclaimed Type A personalities, driven and go-getters. Perhaps you are one yourself -- always on the go, can't just 'do nothing', and happiest when the calendar isn't blank.

When a go-getter tries meditation, you might hear something like this:

  • "It's OK. I did kind of find it relaxing, but it's not for me. I like to be active and on the go, rather than sitting and doing nothing in meditation."

  • "I relax by exercising, and that's my meditation."

An example that sticks in my mind is a vice-president saying to me "It relaxes me too much and I don't like that. At work, I need to feel energized, not relaxed, and don't want to lose my edge."

The unfortunate myth about meditation

Most people assume that meditation is about relaxation. Period. End of story.

The reality is that although relaxation might be an outcome of the practice, there are many reasons that people meditate. People who learn about meditation begin to realize that there can be specific goals for their meditation, such as: clearer thinking, lowered anxiety or depression, enjoying the present moment, lowered stress, better problem-solving, improved attention, improved learning and memory, invoking the relaxation response so the body can better heal itself, and the list goes on.

Evidence shows that with regular practice, the brain changes, forming new neural connections that lead to these benefits, called neuroplasticity.

It's not correct to say 'exercise is my meditation', unless you know how to mindfully pay attention to your exercise, when it can be one kind of moving meditation. Just reducing your stress through exercise is not a meditation, and won't exercise your brain to get the benefits of neuroplasticity.

The best meditations for Type A personalities

To help a Type A person enjoy meditation, here are some suggestions. These allow a more 'active' meditation and can increase energy rather than make someone relaxed and sleepy.

  • Mindful movements. Instead of sitting or lying down to meditate, move your body mindfully, paying attention to the intricate movements of your body as you move. This can include walking meditation, running, exercising, tai chi, yoga.

  • Guided visualization where you do something energizing. Sit quietly and envision in your mind's eye that you are doing something you find stimulating and productive. Examples could be: delivering a presentation with confidence and vigor and interacting skillfully with the audience, or running along your favorite beach.

  • Pay 100% attention on your breathing, even for a minute. Too busy to meditate? Take a few deep, energizing breaths wherever you are - walking down the hallway, waiting for an elevator, etc. The key is to focus on your body's sensations as you do this. Notice the rise and fall of your chest, of your abdomen, as you inhale and exhale. Notice the feeling you get when you do this. This is mindful breathing, and is considered a short meditation.

  • A 7 minute guided meditation by Marc Lesser, former CEO of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, and my friend: "Finding the one who's not busy".

After practicing some of the above suggestions, you may find that, in time, you can enjoy more typical seated meditation. That's what happened to me. I'm a self-proclaimed Type A personality who previously could not sit still. After doing tai chi, I was able to understand and enjoy seated meditation, and so glad that I could!

Warm regards,

~Wendy Quan, Founder, The Calm Monkey


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