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The Meditation Diaries: 30 Days Later, Can you #win Meditation?

Constant low-grade panic

This post is all about the last 30+ days, my trials, tribulations, insights and challenges through my experiment in meditation.

As you may have read, I took a self-imposed 30 day meditation challenge in an attempt to find focus, allow myself to hear myself thing and because it has some noted health benefits. As I outlined in my challenge, I gave myself some rules to follow:

  1. I must meditate every day for at least 5 minutes, 10 is better, 20-30 is best
  2. I am allowed to use any guided meditation I want, or none at all. But no music or other sounds.
  3. I must follow the directions of the guided meditation at all times
  4. I must do this for 30 days in a row, if I miss a day, I must start over!

Before I go into detail, let me summarize by saying that I have a completely new outlook on meditation. I had resisted for years because I thought it required special gear, or the ability to sit cross-legged on a hard floor. Or that it was for religious people. Or Monks. I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, and had never bothered to really look into it. I’d have to say, I didn’t think I was going to love it as much as I do. You mileage may vary.

I’ll be publishing a follow up blog to this that starts to answer some of my own common questions about meditating, stuff I didn’t know about before I started, along with some additional insights I gained while talking to people who meditate, and from some articles and papers that have been written.

First and foremost though, I really love it. I love taking a moment, in the middle of my day, or in the morning and literally just shutting it all down in favor of being quiet and breathing. For the pat 30 days or so, I’ve done guided meditations that I’ve downloaded from iTunes. I’ll post the two different podcasts at the bottom of the post. These guided meditation “tours” really helped me a lot in keeping me focused and because they are so well done, often gently reminded me to “come back” to focus when I drifted off into the past, or the future. Or when I fell asleep, which happens frequently. I plan on continuing to meditate daily and have already experienced missing a day and feeling like I was missing something important.

As for the experience, I’d classify myself as a drifter. What I mean by that is even after 30 days of meditating, I can still only really focus for a few minutes without my brain taking me places, back to odd memories, or to my task list for the day. However, within just a few sessions I was starting to see how fast my brain was racing and doing everything but staying focused. I’d be happily focused on the guided meditation and suddenly have a vivid memory of a childhood experience, or start thinking about an upcoming meeting or e-mail I needed to send. Thankfully, the guided meditations always remembered to remind me to come back, to focus on my breath, or on a specific part of my body – my shoulders, arms, legs or fingers.

Apparently, that’s the key – it doesn’t matter much what you focus on, but you have to focus singularly. It’s freaking hard. And can be frustrating. And I fall asleep. A lot. I don’t know why, but the sleep sometimes literally overcomes me in a wave and bam, I’m sleeping just like that. I think that I’ve fallen asleep at least 60% of the time while meditating, usually for just a moment or two.

One of the most important discoveries I made happened about a week or so into the 30 days. I started to focus on my body parts, looking, scanning for tension or any sort of sign of pain. After a few minutes of this deep body discovery, I realized I had what I call a “headband” across the top of my head – a sense of pressure covering my skull. As I focused on it, it would literally go away, I could feel it dissolve as I focused on it and it felt amazing. I can’t explain it exactly, but I am pretty sure it’s important.

Sometimes, while mediating I’d get super itchy and try to focus on the itch. Sometimes the itch would go away, but other times, it would be so frustrating that it would break my ability to focus. So I’d just freaking scratch. And then try to refocus.

“I feel like most of my time meditating was in fact, me realizing that I was in my own virtual world, and then trying to refocus.”

I almost quit after just 3 days because I was in so much physical pain. For the first 3 days, I sat on the floor, legs crossed sitting up straight. After a minute (it may have been 30 seconds), I’d be unable to sit up straight. I figured maybe I needed to do some stomach crunches or somehow get into shape for meditating and googled around a bit to see what I was doing wrong. I didn’t find anything useful to help me and finally talked to some friends about my problem. I found out that it doesn’t matter much if you are on a comfy couch, your favorite chair or hell, lying down in bed. The point is focus, not good posture. That was a huge, massive relief for me for some odd reason. I believe that I’d have quit because of the discomfort, but instead, now I grab my comfy chair, or just sit on the couch and get to it.

So now that the challenge is over, I am really pleased that I did it, and that I stuck with it. There were even days when I did 2 sessions! I felt consistently like I had a burst of energy after a session, and that I was much more focused, and creative in thinking for the few hours following meditating.

I’ve also been able to tap into this ability to “feel” my body at some new level. The “headband” thing was just the beginning, my latest efforts have me focused on my shoulders and letting them “release” tension by just focusing on them. It’s an odd feeling, I feel like Magneto or some superhero – simply focusing on a body part makes it somehow, come alive. Hard to explain, but easy to feel.

I also get this sense of my breath that I never had before. I can feel that I am breathing differently, deeper, somehow fuller on a regular basis. I’ve even been able to self regulate my breathing during stressful times at work which can be super helpful in terms of maintaining my composure in stressful situations.

One misconception I had about meditating was that it was a way to tap into big ideas and that I’d emerge from these session with big, or new ideas about things. But instead, what I emerge with is a sense of calm and a feeling of being centered.

I captured my meditation notes and thoughts on coach.me and wanted to share the full log here with you to get a sense of how I was feeling during the 30 days. Excuse the crappy grammar, spelling and any confusing remarks.

2/10/15 1
2/11/15 2
2/12/15 Accepting sometimes my practice stinks, fell asleep twice and was unable to relax today. Meditation on a commuter train can be hard. 3
2/13/15 4
2/14/15 5
2/15/15 Very short 10 min guided by Sam Harris from his podcast 6
2/16/15 7
2/17/15 Stop falling asleep but love this 8
2/18/15 9
2/19/15 Was doing well until the last 5 min of a 35 guided session when I either fell asleep or got caught in the future 10
2/20/15 Today was ok. Fell asleep shortly while meditating. Guy behind me laughing like a schmuck. Wondered what to do with it and just tried to hear him and let him go. It was annoying. What is he watching anyway? 11
2/21/15 Really good session despite falling asleep for a moment. 12
2/22/15 Short and so sweet. This felt so good. Don’t know what if anything change but, I really enjoyed that session. 13
2/23/15 Hard time staying focused but had a few really good moments today. My breathing is shallow, stressed. 14
2/24/15 10 excellent minutes- was having a really really negative self hating day and was surprised I was able to stay mostly focused on my breath. 15
2/25/15 On the train and really got into it. I opened my eyes and someone I knew was starting at me! I sensed that I was being looked at. Odd. 16
2/26/15 Meditation on a commuter train can’t be ideal. Got smacked in the head today by the arm of a coat. 10 minute Sam Harris guided meditation. 17
2/27/15 Awesome session even though I slept a little bit in the middle part. Feel like this is really making a subtle difference in my daily life. Calmer. Feel like I can step back and look at life with some perspective. Maybe. Let’s see what happens next time something bad happens 🙂 18
2/28/15 19
3/1/15 Literally cannot believe it has been 20 days. Wow. 20
3/2/15 Short and sweet. Too much caffeine. Mind and heart racing. 21
3/3/15 Awesome, almost fell asleep but had a really peaceful, quiet moment and felt some how transported. Was odd and different. Like. 22
3/4/15 Double meditation today. Just did another 10 min and loved it. Focused on a heavy feeling in my head and really felt calm. Odd feeling. Almost fell asleep but didn’t. 23
3/5/15 Sminreally love the Tara brach guided meditations. 20-25 min and themed. Great today on happiness. 24
3/6/15 Wow great until then end of 25 min and I got lost in some thoughts about work. Resized it just as the end of the session bells went off and realized I was half meditating and half nappingz 25
3/7/15 Tried to meditate while jogging today by focusing on my breath and arms moving, was interesting. Followed up with 25m guided and really invited the moment. The more I do this the more I like it. 26
3/8/15 Gentle 10 minutes mid day got me feeling less stressed. Ok, now I am good. 27
3/9/15 Fell asleep a few times. 28
3/10/15 Really good, found space to meditate on the question of my purpose. Something I have been sorely lacking. No real answer other than… I want to make the world a better place. 29
3/11/15 Double shot today 2x meditation and feel good after a very lousy night sleep 30
3/12/15 Woke up at 3:30 am so I knew I was gonna sleep for part of today’s mediation… And I did! About half. The em rest was really pleasant. 31
3/13/15 First time meditating on a flight. Had to do it. Great session all alone in my little world 30k feet up. 32
3/14/15 Guided + 2 minutes of affirmations on my own 33

So mark the challenge as complete! And a new habit is formed…

Do you mediate regularly? For how long? What kind? How do you sit? Leave a comment here, or email me at searchingforsuthin@gmail.com.

Resources

  • Tara Brach has some incredible guided meditations that range from about 20-30 minutes.
  • Sam Harris has a great 9 minute, short meditation, and a longer 25 minute one that are excellent.

The Meditation Diaries – My 30 Day Meditation Challenge

I resisted meditation for years. I had tried it a few times on my own or with different apps, books and tutorials but I guess I wasn’t ready for it. A few months ago, I used “Headspace” an app on my iPhone after reading about the benefits of mindfulness. The benefits seem too good to be true, and I really thought there was either a catch or it was bullshit. You can read a great article about the benefits of Meditation on here.

I guess my earlier efforts weren’t serious, because I did try. Last summer I meditated using the Headspace app for 10 days straight and felt good about it. But for some reason, I was also hating it. I found that I was unable to be quiet and focus at all. I struggled to keep doing it on a regular basis and always found excuses, or reasons to not meditate. I was too tired, or thought that exercise, or reading was a more important activity. I also felt weird about when and where to meditate. I wasn’t ready to tell anyone, and didn’t want my family to have a laugh at me as well. Needless to say, I dropped the idea.

About 3 months ago as of this writing I started a course called “The Artist’s Way” to help me regain a sense of my creativity. Part of that course was something called “Morning Pages” which are 3 pages of writing first thing in the morning. Morning Pages themselves are a of meditation. I’ve been doing them since December 30th, 2014 and haven’t yet missed a day. I set eggtimer for 20 minutes and write down literally whatever comes to my mind. I focus on the thoughts themselves and write. No filter. No editing. Just writing. Whatever comes out. And sometimes it’s odd. Sometimes it is inspiring. Sometimes it’s cringeworthy. Sometimes I just complain and other times I’m a poet.

Focusing on my thoughts… hey – isn’t that meditation?

So I was sort of meditating but wanted to try the real thing again. Increasingly, I was feeling like my internal voice was trying to tell me something important. I was hating my job and hating my life. And didn’t know why or what was bothering me. My coach told me one day that part of my problem is that my brain never shuts up. That I literally am never being quiet. I thought about it and after reading yet more articles about meditation, I decided it was time to give it a real go. But I had to make it into a game or I know I’d give up too easily.

The rules of the meditation game I set up for myself were:

  1. I must meditate every day for at least 5 minutes, 10 is better, 20-30 is best
  2. I am allowed to use any guided meditation I want, or none at all. But no music is allowed.
  3. I must follow the directions of the guided meditation at all times
  4. I must do this for 30 days in a row, if I miss a day, I must start over!

I’ll be posting the results of the challenge next week. If you’d like to follow the journey, or read my daily specific comments, join coach.me and add me as a friend “Searchingforsumthin

So how did it go? I can’t share yet because I’m not quite done… But here’s a sneak peek:

  • March 9th: “Fell asleep a few times.”
  • March 2nd: “Short and sweet. Too much caffeine. Mind and heart racing.”
  • February 19th: “Was doing well until the last 5 minutes of a 35 minute guided session when I either fell asleep or got caught in the future.”

As I’ve started to meditate regularly, I’ve also realized I have a ton of questions about the practice. Some of which maybe you’ve asked yourself as well…

  • Is this meditating or am I just sitting here talking to myself?
  • Do I have to sit crosslegged on the ground?
  • Why does my back hurt so much when I meditate and why can’t I just sit in my comfy chair?
  • Why is it so hard to stay focused?
  • Do I need incense?
  • Can I meditate while exercising?
  • What counts and what doesn’t count as meditation?

The Meditation Diaries posts will feature my meditation journey. I will also be writing a Meditation FAQ for noobs like us that include answers all my own questions, and any you send in as well. I’m writing it now, send in your tips!

Do you meditate? How do you like it? How do you do it? Leave some thoughts in the comments or email me at searchingforsomethin@gmail.com

Choose My Own Adventure: Why Picking the Red Pill Is My Only Choice

When I first saw the film “The Matrix” something clicked inside me. I hadn’t been able to put my finger directly on it until somewhat recently. Now, as I’ve started this journey to wake up and be more present it feels more relevant than ever.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why so many of us are struggling to wake up and be present in our own lives. Part (or all?) of the answer is that the Matrix is real. It functions across society in a manner that keeps us from achieving our goals and becoming our true selves. It’s a working theory anyway.

This “Matrix” conspires to fool us, and it tells us lies. It feeds us images and ideas that do not allow us to explore ourselves. It is built to drive us to buy more things, consume more stuff, and in today’s technology driven world, keep us tethered to our devices. After all, eyeballs and advertising = revenue right?

The “Matrix” tells us we aren’t creative. It told me I wasn’t good enough to be a writer, or a director, or an actor. It told me I am too fat, or too skinny. Too ugly. Not smart enough. It says stuff and I eat it all. I bought it. The “Matrix” is nefarious, tricky, and evil. The “Matrix” is us.

No one person is to blame – I can’t blame celebrities, or bad governments, or the media. I can’t blame my parents and I can’t blame my boss. All I can do is recognize what is going on and construct defenses against it. My very own tower defense game of life.

The system does everything but love us. It wants us to fail. And for many years as I said, I believed it. I accepted that I was too fat, or to skinny. I unwittingly gave up my dreams of being a writer. A creative director. A comedian. I was afraid of failing, and surprisingly, of succeeding.

“The Matrix is a system, Neo.”

The “Matrix” is our enemy. I know because I’m still inside, at least part of the time. When I’m inside, I look around and see things I don’t want to see. I see myself doing things I don’t want to be doing. I see and hear that there are others. Whispers and rumors of a rebellion.

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” – Morpheus

But, I had to choose. I reached a point in my own life where I was given a choice. Choose the red or the blue pill.

Take the blue pill and go back to sleep. Accept that I am not, and never will be talented or smart. Take the blue pill and relax. Go back to sleep. Allow myself to be swept back into the current. It’s easier. The “Matrix” will reward me, life is easier when you are asleep.

If I take the red pill, I am rewarded with confusion, disorientation and it’s scary. I am finding out quickly if you have talent, or if I do not. I am finding out if I are smart, or if I am not. I took the red pill and so I’m now forced to figure it out. Opening my eyes and seeing the world as it is. It is not easy. I have resisted and been on a diet of blue pills for a very, very long time. I’ve been telling myself it’s ok. I’ve been numbed and fooled. The voice in my own head has been lying to me.

I call that obnoxious voice in my head “My Resistance.” Fucking liar.

Even as I write this post I can hear it saying “You are such a fool. You don’t even know any of this is true. You love movies and think you are some sort of thinker. You are an idiot. Better off just go back to bed, or watch a movie. You know what, you deserve a big breakfast, go for it, on me! Treat yourself. Numb yourself. Destroy yourself.”

Like Neo (errr Mr. Anderson), I am part of the system until I take action against it. But it’s nasty, like a bad computer virus. Right now, even in my own brain my subconscious is working away at me, eating against the progress I’ve made. I am fighting it. Right now.

I see you Mr. Resistance. I am learning your game, and your tricks.

When I look outside myself for answers and for validation I have only gotten back criticism. And judgement. I get back values that are not my own. I am told my writing is not good enough. Bad grammar they say. Or that my poem is not good. Poor structure. It didn’t rhyme. You can’t dance to it. Whatever. I’m told I am not good enough, smart enough or creative enough. And I believed it all.

But the thing is, none of that is true.

I refuse to believe it anymore. I don’t even care if I’m wrong.

Thoreau wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

The games and amusements of mankind. Social media. Alcohol. Expensive toys and vacations. Living in the future, or in the past. Living under someone else’s judgements and assessments.

These are all things that are under my control and yet, I have allowed them to control me. When I think about taking control of these things and living the life I want to live, I get scared. It feels uncomfortable to think about deleting my social media accounts. Blasphemy, I might miss cute cats and what my friend is eating for lunch for fuck sake.

It is scary to sit and talk, really talk to a friend, with no pretense, no expectation of a return on my time. It’s odd to just sit and meditate in the middle of the day when I should be checking email, or jumping on a conference call.

It is scary to think about a world where I leave the comfort of a corporate career and actually do something on my own. Something that is my own, something I’m proud of. Something I can look back on and know deep down that I am talented, smart, funny, and creative.

Every single one of the reasons is “The Resistance” putting up it’s armor. Sending it’s dragons to kill me. Sentinels on loose.

My mission is to shred or ignore self-doubt and live life not in fear, but as a believer.

What’s your mission? Let me know.