It’s a sunny Sunday in Los Angeles, and I’m quietly freaking out. I’m leading a team in a hackathon called Startup Weekend, where the idea is to create and launch a tech company in less than three days. My team has been hustling for 50+ hours. Now it’s all down to me. I’ll be presenting solo in front of a panel of judges, a packed room, and an online audience of thousands. I’m lightheaded. T-minus 10 minutes.
I step outside so my teammates don’t notice I’m losing it. The fresh air helps a bit, and a thought occurs to me: I’ve been meditating for a few years now. Maybe that can help. I close my eyes and use my familiar meditation technique, using my breath as an anchor to stabilize my mind. No good; my mind is too revved up to be still for even a moment.
Then I remember a different meditation technique I learned recently. In this technique, you don’t bother trying to stabilize the mind. You don’t try to change anything. Whatever your mind is doing—whether it’s resting calmly or flipping out—you just observe that without judgment. The practice is called floating noting.
This Startup Weekend took place years ago, but I still remember how powerful it was to simply observe my experience without trying to change anything. Paradoxically, it changed everything; without any resistance to feed on, my anxiety lost its power. I wish I could say we won first place and the crowd carried me out on its shoulders. Actually, we got honorable mention, but we felt great about it as a team, and—if I do say so myself—I gave a killer presentation. In our minds, it was a win.
In the video below, I explain how to use the floating noting technique. This method isn’t better or worse than anchor-based techniques. It’s just another tool in your toolkit, and it’s great for times when your mind feels too agitated to use an anchor.
With floating noting, you let your attention float freely—hence the name. As your attention drifts, various sights, sounds, sensations, and thoughts may grab your attention and take center stage in your awareness. As this happens, you just (1) notice whatever stands out in awareness, and (2) give it a light mental label. As new objects arise in awareness, just continue noting whatever is most prominent.
Give it a try!