As you can probably tell, I have approached 2019 as a year of change.
My motto this year is ‘courage over comfort’ (courtesy of Brené Brown). Over the next 12 months I’m going to try new things and find new ways to become calmer, happier and more content, so I can feel more aligned with the person I am or want to be.
Often these things will be outside of my comfort zone, but I want to have the self belief that each small step I take, or challenge I face, is taking me closer to my goals and helping me to grow as a person.
Meditation might not sound like the most courageous of acts. However, for someone who struggles to sit still or do ‘nothing’, forcing myself to not only stop but to enjoy the process of doing so, and learning how to embrace that feeling of stillness, has been a challenge.
February has been my first full month of doing daily meditations… ever.
I have tried other forms of meditation and popular apps, however something didn’t quite keep me going with them. It’s likely a change of mindset, greater motivation and finding an app that I’ve ‘clicked’ with that’s really helped me to see the benefit of daily meditation.
It may only be 5, 10 or 15 minutes a day, but the process of training my body and mind to ‘lean in’ to the silence, to feel it and to not immediately run away and start busy-ing myself has been a great learning curve.
Over my first month of daily meditation, here’s some of the important things I’ve learn about the challenges and rewards of the practice.
Meditation isn’t always comfortable
It’s fairly obvious that meditation has a lot to do with the mind and how you respond to thoughts. It’s also great for calming down the breath and tension in the body. However, what I didn’t expect to feel was a physical, buzzing sensation as I sat in one of the longer meditations. I could feel my body itching to move, it was uncomfortable and jittery.
My mind wanted to sit in the moment, but my body was ready to dash. It was interesting to understand both the physical and mental reaction my body has to stillness. I hope by sitting through these uncomfortable moments I can train my body to actually relax rather than to just ‘think’ I have relaxed. I want to really ‘feel’ it.
You can let thoughts pass by
Something I have always struggled with is the idea that meditation is about clearing the mind and being completely silent. However, one thing the Simple Habit app (that’s the one I am using) makes clear is that meditation is not about this. It’s about recognising your thoughts and making space for them but also understanding that they can pass and don’t have to dominate your mind or feelings.
This has had a massive impact on me sticking with daily meditation as I am no longer fighting to keep my mind clear and quiet, instead I am able to keep a soft focus on the practice and allow random thoughts to drift through my head without taking control (and that’s definitely something I struggle with!).
Even a minute is an achievement
Initially, I thought perhaps 5 or 10 minutes was just not enough time to see any benefit from meditation or that wasn’t ‘doing it properly’. But that’s simply not the case. Without meditation, I’m not sure I would have the tools to really stop, focus or breathe throughout the day without worrying about the next task or feeling a heavy weight of the things I should be doing instead.
By learning how to sit still with nothing else to do, and nowhere else to be, I am really learning how be in that moment and give myself the space I need to slow down. I can then return to this feeling or sense of calm in my day when I need it.
Meditative thought sticks with you
I thought that 5 minutes of meditation would be just a quick activity that would help then and there to make me feel a bit calmer. But I didn’t expect it to change how I react to situations throughout my day-to-day life.
If an argument is about to kick off, I’m feeling stressed and short of breath, or my mind is getting fuzzy with a big to-do list, I find myself thinking about my meditation practices and what would be the best thing to do with those emotions.
Now, instead of instinctively responding negatively or becoming angry at the situation, I pause, take a deep breath and think about what’s going to be the best thing to do in that moment. It might be politely walking away from a conversation, taking a few deep breaths or acknowledging what’s making me feel stressed and finding a way to deal with it.
Now that I’ve completed my first full month and achieved that 30 day streak badge, I have, in theory, successfully completed this challenge to see whether I could stick to a month of meditation. So, what now?
I’m planning to continue meditating daily. It shouldn’t feel like a task to take 5 or 10 minutes each day to meditate – and I always feel better after pressing that ‘pause’ button. It’s a great tool to help manage my anxiety and I want to make sure that it’s a skill I keep building on.
If you haven’t tried meditation yet, I highly recommend it! It may take a few attempts to find out what suits you best but be open minded and try to stick to just a week of practicing and notice how you feel at the end of it.
Enjoy the process!