First, you should know why this very modest meditation goal was a big deal for me: I am the opposite of zen. While I’ve actually calmed considerably in the last five years or so (age mellows you, or whatever), I am what is known as “high strung” in some circles. I fidget constantly; staying still actually makes me uncomfortable. My husband ascribes Chuck Norris-like qualities to my sleeping habits, saying “Ashleigh doesn’t sleep, she waits.” I certainly don’t create extra stress in my life, but I’m one of those people that tries to do everything, and get everywhere, as quickly as possible, even when it makes no sense to rush; I think sleeping is a waste of time; I consider yoga a chore, and when the well-meaning instructor encourages me to “be calm” and “find my center” I refuse, out of spite. Not sure why. I blame genetics? Anyway, you’re starting to get the picture.
I finally succumbed to the pressure of all my pro-meditation friends, every health guru in the world, and every article about a successful person who cites meditation as an important element in their daily routine. I’ve thought for a while that I could use more peace in my life.
Anyway, I figured I should at least give meditation a try before I banish and chance at peace from my life forever. I downloaded an app called Headspace on my iPhone that guides you through ten, ten-minute sessions. A calm, soft-spoken British dude (the founder) guides you easily through the sessions, allowing time for slow, focused breathing (my least favourite part), free mind wandering (I like this better) and generally “bringing your attention back to your body” vs, I guess, thinking about that cupcake you want or how much work you still have to get done before you can have a drink with your friends.
I did my meditation every morning shortly after I woke up, which I figured is when I’m the most calm and likely to be focused. I was not focused. My mind basically wandered throughout the entirety of the ten minutes, for almost all ten days. I will say it got marginally easier- near about day eight, I noticed the ten minutes seemed to move by faster. But I think it’s safe to say it will take a lot longer than ten days before I can focus only on my breathing for ten minutes straight without getting distracted by thoughts of breakfast or my next trip or the story I have to write later.
Another observation: I did feel a bit calmer in general. This may also be a result of better sleeping habits. I recently visited a naturopath who suggested I basically inhale as much magnesium as I can before bed, which I’ve been doing, and it’s really helping me fall asleep faster and have a better quality of sleep. So, generally, I’m feeling less frazzled and more zen. One of the biggest lessons from meditation, I think, is the ability to step back from your thoughts and feelings, and observe them, see how they’re affecting you, and make a choice in how you let those thoughts affect you. It sounds corny, but I think it’s true: most unpleasantness in life is a result of how you choose to react to it. It’s easy to let looming deadlines or family issues make you upset or sick; but if you can look at them a bit more objectively, realize your limitations or ability to control what happens in your life, and refuse to let certain issues disrupt your life, you can work towards becoming a happier, or at least less stressed, human being. I do think the introspective nature of meditation can help you achieve that.
So, will I keep meditating every morning? Not sure. But I have bought into the hype that it’s a good thing, and making it a consistent part of my routine certainly can’t hurt. Do you meditate? I’d love to hear your stories!