Skip to main content

BLOG

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.

Fake it til you make and why even fake Gurus sometimes have wisdom

There has to be a way. I will find a way. The way. My way.

I will find a way to be the person I am destined to become. The true me. I know he is in there somewhere.

I watched a movie recently called Kumaré about a filmmaker who impersonated a fake guru and built a following of real people. The filmmaker Vikram, pretends to be a guru who recruits followers into his entirely made up, fictional world. He invents chants that mean nothing and creates fictional yoga moves. He immerses himself inside the guru and what he comes to know, ironically is himself.

The lesson which after seeing the movie seems so obvious, hit me hard and I lost my breath for a moment. What the film reminded me of was that the answers are already within each of us. Our own path is there for us to discover if we only just listen and believe that it is waiting for us to discover it.

“The answers are already within us” feels like a cliche – but it isn’t. It’s true.”

People are searching for answers in the wrong place. We are numbed by social media, and by the toxic culture we’ve built around us. It’s everywhere and yet, we do nothing about it. We get caught up in “living” and forget to listen to our truth, to our inner voice. How to do that comes soon, but first, let’s start with the basics.

I’ve always been fascinated by how the mind works. If you haven’t seen this experiment before, watch this video now:

Ok… did you see it? Did you see the obvious?

No?

Watch it again. Look closely.

See it yet? It’s right there! If you were like me (and like most people) when I first saw this experiment years ago, you should be stunned. How is it possible to miss something so obvious. It’s the same thing for finding your own answers. You don’t need to be told, because the answers are already inside you. It’s that simple, and that obvious.

That should be a head slapper for you. If it isn’t, think about the video. The very first moment realized what you had missed – how did you feel? For me, it felt ashamed – I mean, the freaking thing is right there – hiding in plain sight! Not even hiding… not even trying to hide!

The mind sees what it wants to see. 

In Kumaré, Vikram (the filmmaker and the guru) quite literally tells everyone around him he is a fake, and yet the telling of that lie fortifies his appearance as a guru. He literally tells people he is not a real guru.

“I fake so much, I forget who I was before.” Vikram Gandhi

Vikram, and his alter ego Sri Kumaré show us this fundamental truth in a way that our egos do not like. I’ve seen comments on blogs about the film that it was cruel for him to make this film. That people aren’t mice and shouldn’t be experimented on. That he fooled his disciples into thinking he was someone he was not. Don’t we all fool each other about who we really are every day?

I still feel like I’m a kid, dressing up in adult clothes doing adult things.

This comment from ragnaROCKER on Reddit gets to the heart of the matter (unedited for grammar, spelling, content):

“I thought he was kind of a dick. I mean i get that he was trying to prove that gurus can be spewing bullshit and people will follow them, but when it got to the parts where people really opened up to him and asked him for advice on important life issues (like the lady with the marriage problems) i think he went to far in maintaining the charade. He should have at least pointed those people to places where they could get help.

Overall i think it was a good idea/ bad in practice kind of thing. You can even see how he is in over his head at the end and scared to reveal. It came across as “hey, these hippy people will believe anything! That’ll be a funny documentry!” But once he(and the audience) come to realize these are real people and not just carictures caught in the 60’s it takes on a meaner tone that i don’t think even vickram was ready for.

I came away thinking, these people are gullible, but kumare is an asshole.”

SPOILER ALERT, THERE IS A GORILLA IN THE VIDEO WALKING AROUND

Once you see the Gorilla in the video (you did watch it didn’t you!), you have glimpsed the first secret: “The mind sees what it wants to see.”

Each of who discover this secret must make a decision. You must decide to start to wake up to the world around you. This is is Neo in “The Matrix” deciding to take the red or the blue pill. It must be a conscious choice or it doesn’t count.

If you were surprised by the gorilla video, ask yourself “what else am I not seeing that is right in front of me?”

Are you in a broken marriage?
Are you unhappy at work?
Are you miserable with your life?

Your brain will lie to you – it will disguise the signal in the noise. You must find a way to turn the volume of the noise down, at least a little, and you need need to be honest with yourself.

Sri Kumaré did not give his followers a choice, there was no blue pill or red pill. Even as he literally told everyone he was a fake his followers simply feel deeper into the trap. Him “saying” he was a fake only served as further proof of his authenticity. Kumaré’s followers were so desperate for answers that they believed what he said, believed what he said because they were looking for answers outside themselves – they needed someone to tell them how to live.

They didn’t see the Gorilla.

When I started this blog I promised myself to never write trite, stupid top 10 lists. There are no shortcuts to waking up and living a fully conscious life. There is however, one thing that I started a few weeks ago in earnest that does seem to be helping me, bit by bit.

I invite you to try it with me now…

Breathe. It doesn’t matter how – through the nose, out the mouth or reverse. How you breathe is not important. Just breathe. Think to yourself, I am breathing as you breathe. You don’t have to say it out loud, just take a breath and think “I”m breathing.”

Breathe in and hold it for a long second or two. And blow it out. And all the while, think “I’m breathing.”

Do it a few times. 

Yes, you, sitting there at your computer or on your phone. No one is watching. You don’t even have to close your eyes. Just breath in, hold it, and breathe out. Slowly.

I just did it to try this for myself. For real. Just now as I was writing this. I’m on a commuter train. No one knew. No one noticed.

Did you do it? Do it. You know you want to.

So here’s what you just did. You just created a tiny crack in the universe. You allowed yourself to stop thinking for just a tiny second. And if you can do it for a second, you can do it for more. And the more you do, the more room you can make to think. And listen. To listen to yourself and to see the obvious. To glimpse the Gorilla. Congratulations

Also, you just meditated. Yea, I know, you don’t meditate. But you just did. That’s it. That’s the basics of meditation. Nothing else needed. No yoga pants or sweaty, smelly rooms fully of people. Congrats, small victories eh?

I need to hear from you, I need to you to share how you feel, and what you think. Tell me  in the comments, or email me at searchingforsumthin@gmail.com. Make up a name if it makes you feel better. Just tell me. I’m here and you are not alone. Thanks for reading.

The Matrix

Wake Up from the Matrix – your entire life depends on it!

Life should not feel dull. In order to live your life wide awake, you need to avoid becoming a zombie. You need to “Wake up from the Matrix.”

A note about this post: This post is the original spark for this blog. I posted it originally to Reddit (it’s been slightly altered and edited based on feedback I got). You can see the original post here. I also guest posted on High Existence where there is yet another slightly different version of the post called Stop Bullshitting Yourself If You Want To Wake Up (From The True Matrix).
Read More