For ten minutes every morning I sit cross-legged on a cushion on my living room floor. If I’m cold I wrap a cozy blanket around my shoulders. I put on my headphones and launch my meditation app.
Sometimes I play the daily guided meditation, some days I choose a theme, and every once in a while I just set the timer.
Inhale deeply, eyes closed, straight back, shoulders relaxed, hands resting on knees, exhale. Be present. Focus on the breath. Notice when thoughts arise (they always do), let them go, and gently redirect focus back on the breath. It’s very simple, but it isn’t easy.
I started meditating when Bee and I were in Paphos, Cyprus for three months in 2015. It was the perfect opportunity to try new things; I had the luxury of time and could choose to do whatever I wanted with each day.
I had started to notice a lot of buzz about the benefits of meditation. Curious, I decided to dig deeper and learn more. I downloaded a few of the apps available and started to follow along.
It was…fine. I couldn’t tell if it was having any impact on me but I had the time, and it certainly wasn’t hurting, so I decided to stick with it for awhile. To keep practicing.
That was three years ago. And while I have a daily practice now, I haven’t always. I would be consistent for a few months and then something would derail me and I’d get out of the habit. But I keep getting pulled back in.
The rewards are internal, small and subtle, but I’ve learned enough from my own experimentation and experience to know that the positive effects of this ten-minute habit are significant.
I fall asleep more easily, sleep more soundly and wake feeling rested and ready to face the day. If I do have trouble quieting my mind at night, I play music or a bedtime story from my meditation app (I use Calm). That usually does the trick.
I have a kinder and gentler relationship with myself. I’m not so quick to judge, censor or berate myself for my actions, thoughts and feelings. I am aware of things I’d like to change, but I’m less likely to unconsciously punish myself for falling short of my expectations.
Less Stress and Anxiety
I am better at letting go of things that don’t matter and I don’t worry so much about things that are beyond my control. I am less likely to panic or freak out when faced with something new or challenging. When I do experience stressful emotions I am better at recognizing and coping with them. Socializing isn’t quite so scary. I have far fewer of those days when I don’t feel like I can get out of bed and face the world.
I am more mindful, more grateful and more compassionate. I believe these are qualities I have always had, but now I am actively cultivating them and allowing them to blossom.
Decreasing Bad Habits
I’ve always had my “crutches,” the bad habits I turn to when all of the above problems (lack of sleep, low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, depression) begin to overwhelm. They seem to help, pushing me through to the other side. But I’m very aware that they don’t. Yes, they provide temporary relief, numbing the pain, but they’re not making my life better. And that’s what I’m really here to do. Make positive change.
There’s a reason it’s called “Practice”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that meditation is a cure-all or a quick fix. It won’t transform your stressful and complicated life into a zen garden of peace, joy and love. But I do believe it helps me to be a kinder, calmer and more open human being. Most of the time.
It’s a process. I’m still susceptible to negative thoughts. I still freak out for no reason sometimes. And on occasion, I will eat an entire bag of potato chips and drink a whole bottle of wine. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not perfect. If I do these things, I pay attention to the triggers, notice how my actions make me feel and make an effort to do better next time.
Some days my practice feels amazing, as if all of my senses are heightened and I can notice and appreciate everything around me. Some days l feel annoyed and disappointed in myself for being unable to let go of the distracting thoughts bouncing around my brain. Most days I feel… nothing special. Isn’t that what practice is like for anything? The key is to keep at it.
What is your experience with meditation?