My mind is not a quiet place.
It’s full of thoughts; rooted in anxiety, in worry, over things I can’t control and things I can. More often than not, random lyrics and quotes are also bouncing in the ol’ noggin, in specific cadences and lilts as they were spoken in the medium I watched them in.
Late in 2019, I decided to give meditating a spin. I’ve heard the benefits of meditation many, many years ago, but have always dismissed it as a woo-woo new-age alt-medicine (is that enough hyphens yet?) practice. Yet, it has been shown that there are actual benefits to doing it: improving focus, decreasing anxiety, reducing stress, amongst others.
So, I did what I knew best: I read books 1Mindfulness in Plain English, 10% Happier by Dan Harris, Conscious by Annaka Harris, Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein, Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty, and used All The Apps 2Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace (thanks to my company coming through with a free subscription for our mental health), and most recently, the Fitbit app. I fumbled and wondered what I was doing wrong, and tried different things to see if this time, it’ll be the one that sticks.
How it started
I started with guided meditations.
Sometimes I fell back asleep if I did it as part of my waking up routine, which is bad because I would have turned my alarm off by that point. I’ve been lucky that I haven’t overslept by too much!
Meditating at night, too, helps me fall right asleep (except for recordings that have long pauses in between voices, in which case I would be on the precipice of sleep before getting jerked awake because of the unexpected voice in the dark). Now, if my aim was meditating for deep sleep, then this is a good outcome.
My priority was to build my focus and attention through mindfulness though, so the next thing I tried was using just the timer. I breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, and breathe out in – you guessed it – four seconds.
How it’s going (badly, right?)
Meditation seems simple, but it’s not easy.
Here’s the thing that I’ve learned: Like sets of exercise for your body for your body, each ‘loss of focus ➡️ awareness ➡️ focus’ rep is your brain working out. That goes for every time you catch yourself drifting away, and bring yourself back to the present.
Now, I’m by no means an expert obviously, since I’m still fumbling. Even with 376 consecutive days under my belt, every morning still feels like a really tough 10 – 15 minutes. I find myself trying to remember more of my dreams that are slowly fading away, the things I need to put on my things-to-do list, or the next steps I need to take once the session is over.
I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been frustrated because I find myself getting distracted with tangential thoughts and having to pull myself back into focus. Sometimes the latter doesn’t happen, and I catch myself in the middle of a daydream as the ending bell sounds its gong.
How to meditate, if you want to
- Decide if you want to try it guided or unguided – I really like Insight Timer for both, especially for the latter, but Headspace is pretty cool for guided practice, with different lengths that you can choose from
- Choose when you want to meditate, and make that a habit. I do it in the morning when I wake up, but that means I have to fit that in my morning schedule. If that doesn’t work for you, at night works as well
- Close your eyes, and while they are close, lower your gaze (I learned this in Jay Shetty’s book, Think Like A Monk)
- Start with short sessions, and build incrementally
- You’re not doing it wrong, because there isn’t a right or wrong way
Here’s to building your brain muscle! 💪🧠