I Meditated Every Day for a Month, and This is What Happened
I did it. I sat down (almost) every single night for the past month for my daily meditation practice. Meditation for me has always been that thing on my list that I would like to do. You know what I'm talking about. Like when you write "start project" on your to-do list week after week and you don't actually think about it until a week before it has to be done? The wishful things we write on our lists that would be nice.. in an alternate universe where I have time to be wishful. This time, I did it.
I've taken a few mindfulness workshops and have read extensively about the importance of being present. I knew meditation would be good for me, and after seeing a posting for a free meditation class on campus, I signed up and blocked it out in my schedule. An hour and fifteen minutes, once a week? Check. I attended the class for several weeks and got a little discouraged after not seeing results. Sound familiar?
Anyway, I was waiting for my zen/yogi/tree-hugging/sage-burning/present self to appear. It hadn't. I'm not a particularly stressed person, but I was expecting some sort of outcome for this investment of my time and patience. Every class, we opened with a concentration meditation focusing on an imaginary blue ball of light out in front of us. We watched our thoughts like clouds passing in the sky and brought our minds back every time they wandered.
Our instructor reminded us how important it is to maintain a home practice. She emphasized that we needed to do a short meditation every single day either before bed or in the morning. I shrugged it off for the first few weeks, and then had an epiphany. As I sat on my cushion attempting to meditate on a blue ball of light, I noticed that I couldn't even control my own mind enough to create an imaginary blue ball. After weeks of this class, I couldn't bring myself to complete the first step.
That was the point I decided to go all in. This realization that I didn't have the control over the direction of my own mind enough to imagine a silly blue ball made me think about what else I don't have control over. The arguments that linger in my mind long after they're over, the pit in my stomach that I can't identify, the self-doubt that might be driving some of my decisions. And as the thoughts about my own thoughts swirled through my brain, I made a plan.
I would meditate for at least 3 minutes every single night before bed. Meditation is best done in small segments every day as opposed to my intended one-and-done weekly practice. Each day, I didn't think much about it - obviously I'm not thinking much while meditating - but I formed a habit. With my minimum at just 3 minutes, it was an easy enough task. Sure enough after 4 weeks, I found myself getting to that blue ball of light almost instantaneously and being able to sit longer.
Meditation is a practice of gently controlling the mind. It's about getting meta with your own head and seeing what you're thinking about. It's also about disconnecting from those thoughts and just being. Finding your present self and watching it in a weird sort of inception. From this practice, we build control of our minds, and that control comes in handy all the time.
After starting my meditation practice, I found myself to be less reactive and with more self-control. I was able to stop in the middle of my day and get outside of myself thinking of my life as a movie I'm watching. Like if someone said something that probably would form that pit in my stomach, I could see it, be aware of it, and actively decide how to react. I'm not saying my life was fundamentally changed, but those 3 minutes every day did help me become more present.
It has also helped me with physical health. With any pain, hunger, soreness, happiness, I'm able to register it more quickly and respond as necessary. The mind and body are inextricably linked, and we can't be in-tune with our bodies without being in-tune with our minds. Now two months into my meditation home practice, I approve this message. Meditation is bomb, and everyone should try it.
It's for everyone and anyone, and you can call it whatever you want - mindfulness, centering, ground, etc. The point is to practice controlling your own mind. Settle in to a comfortable, seated position with your shoulders and head stacked above the hips and either soften the gaze or close the eyes. Start by paying attention to the breath and maybe scan the body for any sensations as you think about where you're sitting and your immediate environment. Then, imagine that blue ball of light.
I usually set a timer on my phone for however many minutes I plan on going, but it's also good practice to just go for as long as you can. They key is to gently bring the mind back when it starts to wander and knowing that that is all part of the process. If your mind wanders the entire meditation, you didn't fail. Look at your practice non-judgmentally. After all, meditation is for you. Treat your mind with the same care with which you treat your body.
I'm no meditation expert, but I would be happy to answer questions or provide resources if anyone needs help. As always, feel free to email me.