I’ve been trying lots of different things on my journey to better myself – self-care activities, CPD courses, and new hobbies. In ‘Trying Out:’ I will document my experiences and thoughts on things I try, and hopefully inspire you to try some new things too!
I’ve mentioned recently that I have been getting into meditation. In the past couple of months, I’ve built to meditating almost every day (at least 5/6 days per week). This is a practice which I feel has been really helpful to me in a number of ways, so I wanted to talk about it in more detail. What is meditation, how do I do it, and how is it helping me?
What is Meditation?
Meditation can mean different things to different people. For me, it’s the act of taking time out from the stress, noise, and busy-ness of your life, to sit and focus on specific things for anywhere up to 20 minutes. You can practice meditation for longer than that, but so far that’s the longest I’ve done in one go.
The key thing for me is that meditation doesn’t have to be not thinking at all.
I use the app Headspace, and they focus on the art of not getting carried away by thoughts, rather than not having any thoughts at all. Some people do meditate where they work on completely quieting their mind, but I think that’s a very advanced technique.
How I Practice Meditation
I’ve developed something of a routine around meditation. Usually, I do it first thing in the morning, after M has left for work and before I start my day. I begin by opening the curtains and windows to let in light and air. Then I get my meditation stones. These are two pebbles which I picked up from the beach in Brighton, which hold special significance for me as they mark a time in my life when I was starting to transition from my old, self-destructive and unhealthy habits, into the version of me that strives to do better. I’ve always felt connected to water, being near it calms and soothes me. These pebbles remind me of that feeling when I’m stuck without access to any good bodies of water.
Once I’ve got my pebbles I sit down either in my big desk chair or on the sofa, depending on my mood and what I’ll be doing straight after meditating. I open Headspace and select a meditation. One of the things I love about Headspace is that there’s such a variety of different meditations for all situations, moods, or activities.
Currently I’m working through the ‘Creativity’ pack, which has 30 meditations to complete over 30 days. It’s all about learning to let the minds’ natural creativity come to you, and how to notice it when it does.
You can choose how long you want to meditate, usually either 10, 15, or 20 minutes.
Depending on my schedule I try to meditate for at least 15 minutes, but some days I just do 10. I still count it as I’m consciously taking time out of my day to be quiet and listen to my mind and body.
All the meditations are guided except for a few special unguided ones, and the pleasant coach Andy takes you gently through the steps. This means you never end up sitting thinking ‘am I doing this right?’ (at least not for too long, as he always comes back with the next step).
How Meditation is Helping Me
Meditation has been a big surprise. When it first started becoming a ‘thing’ a few years ago I laughed at the idea of sitting in silence for 10 or 20 minutes. I didn’t think it was for me, and was convinced I couldn’t calm my mind for that long.
However in April I was in a difficult place. I was suffering from burnout and stress, and desperately trying to find myself again. I remembered I’d first tried meditation in 2016 while I was living up North. I managed to meditate for a couple of weeks, and it had made me feel better, but life got in the way and I didn’t keep it up. Thinking about how good it had felt to make space for myself every day, I re-downloaded the app and vowed to get back into it.
Along with support from my coach my determination to make a lasting change has helped keep me going for about 3 months this time.
I started off inconsistent, but now I make sure to fit meditation in to most days.
If rushing in the morning and don’t manage it, I’ll do a meditation on my commute, or at lunch time. There are special meditations for exactly those situations, making it even easier. There are even bed time meditations, so it can be part of an evening routine too.
Since I’ve been meditating, I feel that I’m better able to focus on my work. My mind is slightly clearer, and less swirling with a million thoughts, and I can focus on a task much easier than I was finding it at the start of this year. I also spend a bit less time mindlessly scrolling through the internet, which is always welcome. Another welcome side effect is to my mornings. I find myself waking up easier, looking forward to the time out for meditating.
Challenges Along The Way
It hasn’t all been easy though. Along the way I’ve struggled with meditation, and still have some challenges I’m working on. For ages I couldn’t manage to find the time or motivation to meditate every day. I would do it one or two days, then wake up feeling really groggy and not up for it at all. I’d skip a day, then another, until I’d gone several days without even trying to fit it in.
Luckily, that issue has got less with time. As I meditate more, the good feeling I get from it grows, and makes me more inclined to do it the next day. I now see it as a treat rather than a chore, and so work harder to fit it into my schedule.
Another challenge has been with the ‘homework’. A lot of the meditations come with exercises to do throughout your day, outside of that special meditation time. These are designed to help enforce the things you’re learning, and build on the feelings and benefits of the meditation. I have appalling short term memory, so I really struggle to do these little exercises every day. First of all I was annoyed with myself for this, but then I decided to be proud that I’m trying, and work to improve.
I haven’t cracked this one yet, but I think putting reminders on my phone, and sticking up post-it notes might be the way to go. I’ll update on how I’m doing once I’ve put this into practice for the next few weeks!
Overall, meditation has really had a positive impact on me, and I’m happy to say that I’m making it a permanent part of my life.
Do you practice meditation?
What apps, courses, or techniques do you use?
Will you try meditation after reading my thoughts?
Let me know in the comments!
Take care of yourself,
P.S If you want a month of free Headspace comment below – I’ve got 4 to give away!