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:
- I must meditate every day for at least 5 minutes, 10 is better, 20-30 is best
- I am allowed to use any guided meditation I want, or none at all. But no music or other sounds.
- I must follow the directions of the guided meditation at all times
- 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.
|2/12/15||Accepting sometimes my practice stinks, fell asleep twice and was unable to relax today. Meditation on a commuter train can be hard.||3|
|2/15/15||Very short 10 min guided by Sam Harris from his podcast||6|
|2/17/15||Stop falling asleep but love this||8|
|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|
|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 firstname.lastname@example.org.