Over the past four weeks I have been meditating daily as part of my four-week challenge. Meditation seems to be very ‘on trend’ in the world of self development at the moment. It seems that anybody who has ever documented turning their life around sites some of their success to regularly meditating. Meditation is not something I knew much about before I started so this has been interesting to say the least.
Before this four week challenge I had dipped my toe into the practice of meditation for the exact reason stated above. Is this really a miracle that can transform my life? The problem is that I didn’t persist at it for very long, naively expecting that the 20 minute YouTube visual guided meditation would miraculously turn it all around and, as you would expect, it didn’t!! So that was that, meditation didn’t work for me!
Knowing that it didn’t work out for me so well before I decided to opt for short periods and slowly increase in time. I began with 7 days of calm from the calm app as this was an introduction to meditation. This is a really great app for anyone starting out with meditation as the woman’s voice that talks you though the short meditations is very calming and you can choose your background noise. I chose the sound of the lake as this was the most relaxing for me.
In week two I tried using the app Headspace and commenced their ‘Take 10’ which is 10 days of ten minute meditations aimed at beginners. In hindsight I felt that Headspace was better for complete beginners as it gave some great tips to start your meditation in their introduction animation which would have helped me personally. However, headspace didn’t give me any background sound in the guided meditation and, for me, I felt more calmed by the vocals of Calm than Headspace but that is personal opinion.
I’ll be honest in saying that the first week felt more like a task that I had to complete as I had said that I would do it for the month. As I sat on the floor in my room I felt fidgety, restless and pre-occupied by all of the things my mind thought I could alternatively be doing, but probably wouldn’t have done given the chance, with those 10 precious minutes of my time. I was also pre-occupied by thoughts from my past and worries for my potential future. Calm actually talks you through how to just let these thoughts just flow through and asks you just to re-focus on your breathing when you find your mind drifting. Sometimes I also felt surges of emotions come over me through some of my first weeks. This was probably due to my mind slipping to memories that evoked an emotional response, but again, I didn’t let it phase me and just re-focused on my breathing when I recognised that I was drifting. After the first week I found that I relaxed into it a lot easier and actually began to really enjoy the experience. I would often finish my sessions feeling immensely calmer but also re-energised which is not a sensation I expected. I am glad that I started with only ten minute sessions as in the beginning the ten minutes feels like an hour but once you start to enjoy it it feels more like ten seconds.
I did try and get up earlier in the first few weeks of meditation to do a session before I went to work but in those first fourteen days I actually only did this twice. I like to tell myself as I go to bed that evening that tomorrow morning I will wake up super early and get lots of productive and life altering tasks done before work. The reality is a lot of snooze pressing followed by a half woman half monster half consciously making their way to the kettle where she simultaneously makes herself a mug of tea and coffee to drink at the same time. This in turn transforms her into a human being and the caffeine rush then enables this, now, woman to rush around her flat franticly due to the miniscule amount of time she currently has left to get ready and leave. Due to these current morning malfunctions meditation was often done when I returned from work or before bed.
In these first few weeks of meditating there was a lot of trial and error. One of the issues I found was that I could not focus properly on my meditation if my surrounding space was cluttered or untidy. However much I would try I just could not focus which actually lead me to the massive task of de-cluttering my room, a blog topic I will talk about next week. My advice would be to find time to meditate when you wont be disturbed. This is difficult when you are house sharing and even more difficult when you have children. Being interrupted when you are completely calm and focused can actually be quite frightening when the noises are unexpected and also irritating as it does ruin the experience.
After trialling these apps, I then went on to use my Bella Beat (link). If you haven’t seen these they are great. They are female activity trackers that look like stylish pieces of jewellery, as shown in the photo above. Bella Beat comes with access to a range of 2-10 minute guided meditations that range from relaxation, focus, deep sleep, inner peace etc. My personal favourite was the deep sleep meditation as it did what it said on the tin. My sleep vastly improved and therefore my morning routine was less zombie and more functioning but weary human like.
By the beginning of week three I started using 20-30 minute sessions found on YouTube. The most helpful being by Jason Stephenson. These are guided visualisation meditations which take you into a state of relaxation and then proceed to focus your mind by guiding you through doors, into boxes, up stairs etc. Where your mind takes you can be extremely interesting as everybody’s perceptions of these guided meditations will be different but it can give you an enlightening insight into your current state of mind.
By the end of the four weeks I actually made the effort to do a ten-minute meditation in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening for the last three days and I have to admit the results were amazing. I felt less tired as my sleep had improved from the night time session and my mornings were a lot less stressed. My day was more focused and productive and I found that my emotions were a lot less reactive than before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite a calm person anyway but even my instant reflex responses to being bumped into on the tube platform or the constant IT problems at work were almost non-existent. I was actually walking home from work and a couple of teenagers bumped a shopping trolley into a bus stop at such pace it created a massive bang. Instead of jolting round to see what had happened my reaction was somewhat delayed as I slowly turned, looked, thought ‘that was silly’ and carried on my walk. It was only on reflection of writing this blog that I thought this must have been something to do with the meditation.
All in all, I have been converted and this is definitely a practice that I will continue but it requires just that… practice. I can’t say this was easy to get into and I realise that the more you use it effectively the better the results, however, now I feel confident in calming my mind and focusing on my breathing I feel this is a skill i will benefit from for a long time, even without using specific guided meditations.
Please let me know if any of the meditation worked for you!
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