Meditation ain’t just for buddhist monks anymore.
It’s hit the mainstream harder than ever through celeb endorsement, mindfulness apps, and brain sensing headbands.
But, plenty of people still think it’s a waste of time or choose to avoid it because they assume it has to come packaged with religious undertones.
It’s more than that. Or, should I say, more refreshingly simple than that.
A Month of Meditation
I’ve meditated at irregular intervals off and on for several years, but I recently made it a point to meditate every day for a month for at least 15 minutes. Not a daunting goal, but just enough to toss a regular interruption in the momentum of the day and hope to see the effects start manifesting.
I tried incorporating it into different times of my day to see what was most effective. Right after I woke up in the morning and right before going to bed at night were both plenty enjoyable.
Only issue I ran into?
I’d often meditate myself right to sleep. But, what did I expect? I’m out here tryin’ to meditate laying down and then expecting to maintain consciousness. Improbable.
Two amazing times of the day to meditate: Right after work or right after a workout.
I have a job. Maybe you also have one of these.
Ideally, I get my mind out of the work zone ASAP and tune in to what the rest of my day needs to be: fitness, creativity, maybe some sociableness if the stars align, and general enjoyment for being alive.
So, I often try to get in a 10-minute meditation shortly after walking in the front door. The comfy clothes go on, the cross-legged position activates, and I try to release the day.
It’s a signal to my mind to let go of irrelevant events and move into a renewed space of mental energy so that I can focus on all the things that make me a person I like to live with.
One thing I’ve internalized is that I usually have enough time in a day, but I don’t necessarily have enough energy or focus UNLESS I actively reserve that mental energy for the things that matter and learn to switch gears effectively when work ends and the rest of my day begins.
Another amazing time to meditate is right after a workout. The blood is pumping, you’re more present, the body is loose and exerted, and it’s gonna feel like a gift (rather than a chore) to sit still and appreciate a mindful moment once you’ve put in that physical work. Focusing on the breath and recognizing how closely the mind and body are connected comes easy in these moments.
Reap the benefits, you little life hackers.
Things That Happened As a Result of Meditation
I’m able to focus easier.
Thank the Gods. I’ve got a mind that likes to zip back and forth like a dog fresh out of a bath. My mind is a professional ping-pong tournament. I’ve been known to start writing one blog post and, 30 minutes later, I’ve changed topics 4 times and listened to “Africa” by Toto twice just because I’m overthinking and looking for any possible escape. I can be a mental wreck of distraction if I allow it to go unchecked and don’t take a proactive step to reign in that wild pony. Maybe you can relate.
The practice of drawing my focus back to the present over and over reminds me to do the same thing when I’m trying to write, read, podcast, or take part in any other aspect of my own existence.
A mildly essential benefit when you think about it.
I’m more conscious of which thoughts are unnecessary.
A lot of people won’t meditate because they think it’s impossible to make their mind shut up.
Welcome to the club, MOFOS.
It’s hard to quiet the mind and 90% of the time I think it’s gotta be nearly impossible unless your name is Siddhartha.
But, guess what?
It’s more about aiming to slow the mind down, recognizing the thoughts that pop up, then getting better at pushing them aside so you can return to the quiet place.
You’re not going to be perfect at it and don’t delude yourself into thinking that that’s what makes the meditation successful.
It’s about looking at those nonsense thoughts taking up space in your mind and getting better at shutting them down so you can re-allocate your mental juices.
I’m more conscious of what matters and what I’m grateful for.
Best path to leading a happier planetary existence, am I right? We shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and most stuff is small stuff.
If I’m doing it right, I start to feel more grateful for what I have instead of focusing only on what I’m still working towards. That’s why setting an intention for your time is a good start. Gratefulness, confidence, and self-awareness are bound to increase.
You start seeing things rather than just looking at them. You start to savor rather than just devour. You start realizing that life is simply a series of moments, so you should probably start paying attention to the beautiful ones.
You start feeling absurd and super existential when you try to articulate your thoughts out loud, so you write it down instead. You still end up feeling mildly ridiculous, but you legit don’t care because you’re on a path to mindfulness in a Prius with a full tank.
I became unexpectedly emotional.
Yeah. This one threw me for a loop.
During certain guided meditations where I was being asked to show lovingkindness towards myself or to visualize a beautiful place where I release my worries onto leaves and watch them float down a river, water would begin to fall out of my eyes.
Begging the question: “Why does showing myself kindness open the eye faucets?”
Answer: Probably stems from my battle with perfectionism.
It’s not weeping from some place of deep sadness. No. Just more of a…release. A watery, exhalation of my body’s stress and anxiety. There’s a reason why we need a good cry from time to time.
They’re referred to as “psychic tears” and they’re the ones related to strong emotional or physical response: stress, anger, pleasure, sadness, and pain. Our bodies produce three different kinds of tears and the psychic ones actually contain a natural painkiller called “leucine enkephalin”. It’s healing and fascinating to know that you can access that simply by creating space for it.
Another way to cry spontaneously? Watch any episode of “This Is Us”. Damn that show and its pure emotion.
I want to meditate more.
I now look forward to interrupting the mental momentum. I look forward to slowing down and allowing myself to remember what matters and what absolutely does not. I look forward to realizing that my forehead has been scrunched up or my breathing has been shallow all day because I was stressing about some B.S.
If I can recognize stressors during the meditation, I can train myself to recognize them during the rest of the day. Maybe then, I can become aware enough to change the things that don’t serve me.
I’m always curious to see what thoughts will pop into the forefront. Some days are zen and some days are clunky and distracted AF.
But, it doesn’t matter.
All that matters is some version of me showed up.
Guided Meditation vs. Unguided Meditation
What helps you zone out?
Would you prefer a soothing voice that can talk over your own inner monologue, lead you through visualizations, and remind you to return to your breath? Guided is a great option to be a little less alone with your thoughts.
Or maybe you prefer something instrumental, the sound of rain, waves crashing, Tibetan singing bowls, or pure quiet.
Sometimes, I mix it up. I might do a 10-minute guided meditation followed by 5 minutes of raindrop listenin’. I do whatever feels like it’s going to be most effective for where my mind is during the day and what my intention is.
Do I need to be kinder to myself or tap into some motivation? Guided. Do I need focus or a way to access a little calm? Singing bowls or falling rain.
Currently, I find it difficult to meditate in absolute silence unless I’m looking for a direct path to super nervousness. But, you’re talkin’ to a lady that has slept with the TV on for as long as she can remember.
Choose the way that feels most natural to you.
Headspace vs. Insight Timer
With apps like Headspace and Insight Timer, sitting down to create a few moments of mental space is more fun and accessible than ever before. You know damn well we love to track things and get special badges for doing any and all basic tasks, so why not include meditation into the mix?
If you’d like the benefits of guided and timed meditation through that nifty little phone device of yours, I’d highly suggest downloading both Headspace and Insight Timer to see which one is speaking your language.
Open up Headspace and its got instant visual appeal. There are a ton of specific guided sessions to choose from. If you’re a beginning meditator, these are a great way to get you going on your journey and they create a beautiful and consistent experience because you’ll be soaking all of these in through one man’s dulcet tones.
Andy Puddicombe is the man behind the entire experience and that gorgeous, British voice of his had me hooked from the first word. He makes you feel at ease and there’s a casual quality in the language that he uses that makes the meditation feel so accessible. The one thing you might not like about Headspace is that it’s not free. You get to try for free, but cash is gonna need to come into play to really dive into this one ($7.99/month if you pay for a year).
I haven’t jumped into the paid version yet, but I’m now accepting donations.
Insight Timer is completely free and comes with over 8,000 free meditations PLUS the use of their timer that allows you to create your own presets for jumping into a meditation session and customizing the experience. Decide how long you want it to be, what you’d like to listen to, how you want it to start and end, whether you’d like interval bells (I don’t personally prefer them because they draw my attention to time), and it tracks the time that you’ve meditated just like our other friend, Headspace.
When you’re finished meditating, it tells you how many people around the world meditated with you and shows you their profiles. You’re able to send them a little message that says, “Thanks for meditating with me” or whatever else you’d like. Then, maybe add them as a friend. Or don’t. Whatever floats your boat, you little mind explorer.
Search for meditations by length of time, topic, teacher, popularity, etc. Then collect your favorites in your Library so that you can return to the ones that resonated with you most.
If you want to make this a daily practice, but aren’t ready (or willing) to spend the cash, this app is a wonderful and thoroughly incredible tool.
No, you won’t become a pillar of pure peace.
You will still feel stress. You will still get bothered. You will still be remarkably human.
But, it’s a self-awareness practice. It’s about giving yourself room to breathe in a world that is full of distractions. It’s about taking time for a little self-care and I think the mind respects the hell out of us when it sees us trying.
Start with 10 minutes a day.
Just 10 minutes.
Everyone has that time somewhere and it’s worth the investment to come out the other side with a little more clarity.
Let me know how it goes, friends.