I've never seriously considered practicing meditation daily. In fact when I think of meditating I picture some old guy dressed in white, sitting in the lotus position on a cliff or a yoga class full of yummy mummies ommmm-ing their way to a state of relaxation.
Last month I saw an advert for a daily mediation app, called "Calm" on Facebook that a few of my friends have downloaded. I work in Marketing so I'm fully aware of the irony in what I did next... I thought "Oh, maybe I'm missing out on the benefits of meditation." I fell victim to social proof and downloaded the app.
Thousands of people around the world meditate regularly and have been doing so for centuries. Research shows that meditation can help with stress management, anxiety, sleep disorders, and chronic pain. It can increase our compassion toward others.
I think we can all agree that help with any of those things can only be a fantastic addition to our lives.
My mission: to mediate every day for a minimum of 20 minutes the first week and emerge a totally Zen human being.
My plan: Set my morning wake up alarm for 10 mins earlier than usual and do 10 mins of guided meditation at the start of each day. Then I'll do another 10 mins when I get into bed at night.
The app I downloaded, conveniently brings the soothing voice of an instructor into your home for FREE. Each session aims to tech you the skill of meditation, how to relax your mind and body through breathing and get a more restful nights sleep.
The first session. My mind keeps flitting between focusing on my breathing and something I have to do at work or how I'm really hungry.
I peek at how much time there is left of the 10 minute session. It turns out that emptying your mind - well at least attempting to - is really hard! That said I already feel noticeably less stressed even if I didn't do it properly. I'm now convinced that mediation could be beneficial with a bit of practice. So I stick with it to see if I can get my oxytocin and serotonin pumping.
One week in, I don’t feel like I've mastered meditation, but I'm hooked!
I've made time every day to slow down and pay attention and on the weekend I even did extra. I notice that I can focus on my breathing for a longer period than when I started. I think the pre-sleep meditation has already helped reduce the time it takes me to get to sleep and I no longer wake up at 3am like I usual do.
Week two was a busy one for me but I still made time to meditate daily, morning and night. I'd be lying if I said I was too busy to spend 20 mins a day on myself. Meditation was actually the perfect excuse to slow down, take stock of the day and really feel the benefit of it.
By day 14 my app was telling me I've spent over 7 hours meditating which is way over my target *smug face*.
I'm still not sure if I'm any better at mediation this week compared to last week but I'm still rejoicing in the sleep benefits.
I've listened to 3 of the 20-30mins "Sleep stories"- these are beautifully written tales about the sights and smells of lavender fields in Provence, a luxurious trip on the Orient Express and the decent up ancient Machu Picchu. They are enchantingly descriptive and have subtle sounds effects to help transport your mind to far flung lands. I get totally lost in them and can imagine myself there.
So here I am in week three and I'm realising the cool thing about meditating is that you can do it anywhere! My preconceived idea of meditation has been shattered. You don’t need to be installed on a secluded mountain top. You don't even need a quiet room with zero distractions. I've done it in a busy open plan office. I didn't put on headphones and fire up the Calm app. I just closed my eyes and focused on my breathing and slowed my thoughts. It made me realise I'm more in control then I think. You can access peace whenever you need it with just a few deep breaths and some practice. Learning to do this before you get really stressed is such an amazing skill!
By week four I've well and truly cemented meditation into my morning and bedtime routines.
Having found I can benefit during the day I try introducing it in my daily routine too. I don't draw attention to it because you can't be the person who utters the words "Back in 5 mins, I've got to meditate."
I tried finding little windows to fit it in. No window was the same from one day to the next. I meditated in the car on the way to work one day, on my lunch break and while waiting for my Nespresso to brew.
Embracing those otherwise wasted moments actually feels luxurious and I really recommend it.
Did meditation change my life?
No. It helped me find a level of peace that I thought was unattainable, especially on manic days. I feel like I've been a little bit kinder to my mind and body which can't be a bad thing and I'm going to carry on.