I’ve been meditating inconsistently for a few years. I’ll do it a few days a week, then not for a few weeks. Or every day for a week then nothing for a month. I’ve always known that there are many benefits to mediation, but I never truly committed myself to it. The Coronavirus and shelter in place order changed all of that.
Not being able to live how I was used to was screwing with me mentally. I went through a wide range of feelings from anger to sadness to anxiety to indifference. The uncertainty of TFT as a business and my professional future was driving me nuts. My mental state would change day by day. With all of the extra time on my hands, I started meditating at the same time every day. It became a ritual that I looked forward to.
My original goal was to do 30 days in a row. Once I reached my goal, I didn’t want to take a day off, so I charged on. Shelter in place was lifted when I was at around 50 days straight. My schedule changed, so I didn’t have the same luxury of time I had before, but I still made time for my meditation. The time of day I meditated couldn’t be the same as before, but I made sure it happened, even if it was only for 5 minutes at the end of the day. On August 16th I hit 100 hundred days straight. It wasn’t my goal, it just kinda happened. I enjoy my quiet time so much, that I don’t care how many days in a row I can go. The practice itself is my goal.
I know that the word “meditation” can have a stigma attached to it. When I hear the term I get visions of a guru leading a cult of desperate, gullible people. I don’t even like calling it mediation, so I refer to it as my quiet time. There doesn’t have to be anything wrong with you and you don’t need a guru to practice meditation. The rewards you get from consistently practicing is well worth the effort and will dispel any stigma that may be attached to it.
The list of positive things you receive from meditation is very long. According to this study, the health benefits of meditation include improvements in stress, anxiety, depression, pain (physical and mental), memory, blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol levels, oxygen utilization, and blood flow to the brain. The list of benefits goes on and on too. All of these great things are yours to be had by just sitting in silence for a small portion of your day.
I am not an expert in meditation by any stretch, but I have gained some insights from my 100-day streak. So here are some takeaways from 100 straight days of meditation:
Meditation is a skill just like any other. You have to practice to get better. Some days go smooth others do not.
Your mind is constantly creating thoughts. Even if you don’t want it to, it’s still going to do it. While I’m meditating, the thoughts don’t stop.
I am in control of how I react to each thought. Your mind will throw some random thoughts your way, but you decide if you’re going to follow them. You can follow thoughts that create all sorts of internal turmoil, but it’s not necessary. I’m not saying that it’s never going to happen and that I’ve risen above it, but I know that I am in the driver’s seat when it comes to how I react. I have the choice of which thoughts I want to pursue. This takeaway is huge for daily life.
The more I do it, the more I enjoy it. I started with 10-minute sessions and now I like to go much longer if I have the time.
To get better at anything, in this case, meditation, you have to practice. The better you get at something, the more enjoyable it becomes. When you get better at a skill, the less cognitive effort you have to exert while performing that skill. Once you’ve reached the point where your subconscious can take over and perform that skill more automatically, the longer you can do it. A good indicator of whether you enjoy an activity is if time goes by fast while you’re doing it. When I’m in a good meditation groove, 20 minutes feels like 5 minutes. The more I meditate, the better I feel afterward.
My quiet time is not a chore or something I feel obligated to do. I genuinely enjoy it and look forward to it. My day does not feel complete without it. As of the time I’m posting this, I’m on day 117 straight.
If you’ve never meditated and don’t know how to get started, worry not, I got you.
I have been using the headspace app. It’s a great product. The courses on it teach you how to meditate. They have a bunch of specific programs for things like sleep, anxiety, happiness, sports, pain, and much more. There are plenty of similar apps out there, so if you’re looking for one, there are many that will assist you well.
If an app or guided meditation doesn’t sound appealing, and the book is more your thing, there’s a great one called Innercise. The author, John Assaraf, doesn’t use the word meditation in his book, but that’s exactly what he is referring to. Assaraf views mediation techniques as exercises for the brain for self-improvement. The book as a lot of techniques to help deepen your meditation practice. I use a few of them regularly.
I leave you with a simple mediation technique you can use right now. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Take in 3 slow, deep breaths through your nose and out your mouth. On the third exhale, close your eyes. Continue breathing at a normal tempo. Listen to the different sounds in your surroundings for 30 seconds or so. Next focus on your breathing, specifically the rising and falling of each inhale and exhale. Count every breath with a 1 on the inhale, 2 on the exhale, 3 with the next inhale, and so on until you get to 10. Now start the count over with 1. If your mind wanders, and it will, just gently bring the attention back to your breath and resume your count. Continue doing this until your 10 minutes is up.
Now pat yourself on the back for completing your first meditation.
Pretty simple, right?
Now go start a streak of your own, and enjoy the ride!