After reading The Compound Effect - it really motivated me to take a look at practices that I wanted to start implementing as well as get rid of, in my life. So I’ve decided that I’m going to make this a series! So welcome to the first challenge.
I decided the first habit that I wanted to develop was meditation.
Why that challenge
“Meditation is a simple practice available to all, which can reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity and promote happiness.” According to this NYT article and lots of other sources.
And maybe this wouldn’t hurt either - “Often considered as the ultimate goal of meditation, ascension meditation the essence of enlightenment and self-realization. Also called Nirvana, it is the final stage of an individual’s spiritual evolution – an amazing state of being in which you can fully experience oneness with all creation and realize your true nature as a spiritual being. This is most commonly achieved through ascension meditation.” Source.
What I was currently doing
I would set my alarm for 3 mornings of the week around 6:30am. First I would “wake myself up” by checking my email and instagram (which it did get my brain firing). Then I would lay in bed, put earbuds in, and turn on a guided meditation - aka - fell back asleep.
What I wanted to do
So I decided to confront the three things that were preventing me from getting my zen on:
1. Make it easier to get up:
I set my alarm for 6:50 and allow myself one 10 minute snooze.
I put the phone on the other side of the room so the act of getting up wakes me up (twice, once for the initial alarm, and then again after the snooze)
I go the bathroom
I fill up a glass of cold water, and drink half right away and bring the other half where I'm meditating
2. Create a space outside of my bed. I've heard of people talking about meditating at the same place everyday and creating a little alter. So I did. I had:
A non scented Ikea candle, because I thought that would be cozy and a nice ritual to start
Lighter, for said candle
A beautiful dried flower that I picked up on the street (okay, maybe I reached into someones garden, but it was dead and on the ground, they didn't want it, right?)
Planner to write all the epiphanies I would have every morning
A folded up sheet to sit on so it's a bit more comfortable - someday I would like to get a proper cushion
3. Fight the cold. I sleep in a t-shirt - so that first body part out from under the duvet is a real cringe moment. So next to my bed I put:
My biggest bulkiest longest sweater
My thickest socks
And thinking about it now - I don't have this but should have a blanket
I started small - only 5 minutes. Trying to get into a regular routine was hard. Do I use a guided meditation? Stop, Breathe and Think app? My phone timer? Insight timer? Just focus on breathing? Count backwards from 10?
After a couple of days I settled on this routine, which I still do (but a little longer now):
Start phone timer for 5 minutes and count my breath. 4 seconds inhale, 4 seconds hold 4 seconds exhale 4 seconds hold. Then 5 seconds inhale 4 seconds hold 5 seconds exhale and 4 seconds hold…
Set timer for 3 minutes and invite "love" into my life and ask the universe "how can I serve?"
Write anything that came to me during that time in my Madness Planner. Sometimes I would look back at it, and sometimes just allowed it to be written and maybe it would work itself out.
Benefits I started seeing
So many, but here are a few:
More aware of my breath during the day
When I was at really busy traffic intersections I would notice my breathes starting to get shorter! I walk these streets everyday and feel fairly comfortable - but it’s something I started noticing my body reacting to.
I attended a networking event and had an extremely uncomfortable interaction with someone where I found myself bright red. I then noticed I was breathing very shallow and rapid and started to slow down my breathe which helped get my composure and continue on with the evening instead of bolting home.
More in control and objective of my thoughts
This was a huge “aha” moment for me. I always thought meditation was great as far as having more zen. But I also started noticing when I would think certain negative thoughts and being able to have more objectivity with them - almost not take them as seriously. It has been really powerful. I’m absolutely not perfect, but I’m noticing a difference
More in control of the voices in my head
Starting my day with meditation meant that I was not only kicking it off with focusing on myself, but I was also telling my inner voice to “shhhhhh, you’re good”. Before when I started my day with reading email and checking instagram - I was giving those unanticipated voices power to set the tone and involuntarily reacting. Ex. “oh shit! that’s right, I forgot to send them that PDF!” = panic or “what’s that comment all about? was she trying to be rude? or am I reading that wrong?” = unnecessary questioning and over-responsibility
Have I continued
Yes! I’m really really proud to say that I have! It will be 8 weeks now and I haven’t missed a day.
I tried to order an alarm clock so I wouldn’t have to use my phone but it was honestly so confusing to set up I’ve abandoned the $16 purchase. But I would like to set it up at some point as well as get a timer so I don’t have to be around my phone at all.
I feel like I am finally starting to understand meditation in a way other than just a bit of quiet for a moment. I see myself continuing to do at least what I’m doing now for the rest of my life.
Tell me tell me tell me. Do you meditate? What have been your hold up? Would love to know!