After last month's challenge of planning a wedding in 30 days, I thought it would be wise to give myself something more relaxing to do for my next challenge. Meditation seemed like the natural choice.
I decided I wouldn't specify a time of day, nor how long I would meditate for, but simply do it when I had a spare moment. The reality is, I have a busy, full-time job, and I don't need to be unnecessarily adding pressure on myself with strict timings when the main goal of the challenge is to de-stress, not add to it.
So, could I go from novice to meditation guru in one month?
Zoning In Rather Than Zoning Out
The first thing I did was download a free app called 'Breathe' ('Stop, Breathe & Think: Meditation tailored to your emotions'). I read through the 'Learn to Meditate' section, which gives you the basics, and explains how it works, and started by simply setting the 'self meditation timer'.
Depending on how much time I wanted to meditate for, I would set the timer for that length of time and it would 'ding' to mark when I was halfway through and then again when I'd reached the end.
Normally I would have referred to what I was about to do as "zoning out", but as an article on the Huffington post explains: 'As opposed to "zoning out," Mindfulness Meditation is like "zoning in" on whatever phenomenon or phenomena we choose to zone in on.'
So how does zoning in feel? Well, it's amazing how loud silence is. Suddenly I could hear a hum of a television in a neighbouring house, an echoing laughter on the streets, the howl of the wind, never mind the deafening thoughts in my head.
As opposed to "zoning out," Mindfulness Meditation is like "zoning in" on whatever phenomenon or phenomena we choose to zone in on.
I also found it very uncomfortable to sit cross-legged on a wooden floor - the default meditation position. I tried it a couple of times and gave up, preferring to use rooms with carpet instead.
I did, on a few occasions in the first week, lie on my bed to meditate, which I later discovered actually hinders your ability to achieve the desired state. However, it made me more relaxed, and that's essentially what I'm looking for, so if I want to do it again, I will. I'm doing this for me, no one else!
The Halfway Point
I notice I'm being more flexible with my meditation. Whereas when I first started with the challenge, I felt I had to be more prescriptive with where/when I meditated, then I realised that it didn't matter.
If I was on a plane, why not meditate for a while instead of reading my book? If I'm at my parents' house and I don't want to watch the football, why not go into another room and meditate? This flexibility was exactly what I needed and I grew to appreciate the act of meditation more, as well as the added benefits of feeling more relaxed.
There's A Time And A Place
As I previously mentioned, I didn't always meditate at home – I did it at other people's homes; I did it in a hotel when I went away for a wedding; I did it in a meeting room at work in my lunchbreak; I even did it on a park bench one time (but I probably won't choose the same spot again; I sat too close to a bin and a steady stream of nosediving pigeons).
The latter was significant, however, because it was the day of my engagement drinks, and I always get nervous when I've organised a party, no matter how big or small, but for that one period of the day, I completely forgot about the event and my worries.
I have to admit, I missed two days of meditation in the 30-day challenge. I blame a trip to Dubai where the combination of time difference and travelling meant I lost a couple of days in my head. But for every other day I did it, I felt better for it.
Sometimes I only did 5-10 minutes, other times 15-20 minutes. Or longer. Sometimes I did it twice a day. But interestingly, I never did it in the morning. (Granted, probably the best time to meditate.) I'm not a morning person for starters, but I actually found that doing it either during or after work really helped me to unwind.
It's safe to say that I have not become a meditation guru. And rather than practising meditation in the true sense, which is training your mind to attain a state of consciousness that transcends normal being, I was practising Mindfulness Meditation, which is more about being acutely conscious / aware of something, or your present state and surroundings. But as 'Mindfulnet' states, this should be done 'non-judgementally'. For me, I focused primarily on my breath or body.
You don't need to be a meditation guru, but if taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to focus on you makes you feel better and less stressed, then why not do it?
Essentially, what I'm learning from all of these challenges is to take from it what benefits me, whatever that may be. You don't need to be a meditation guru, but if taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to focus on you makes you feel better and less stressed, then why not do it? Considering I have been known to be a worrier, I certainly felt calmer and less anxious by the end of my challenge. More grounded, even.
As David Lynch says, 'The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you."
- Don't concern yourself if you're doing it 'right' or 'wrong' – if it makes you feel better, stick with your own method.
- Start with guided meditation – it's easier to focus on a voice in the beginning, as you're less likely to get distracted by your own thoughts.
- Use a separate timer – not your phone, as to hear the timer you need to have your settings on loud, which inevitably means someone will call or text you the moment you try and meditate and bring you crashing back to reality!