Recently I’ve been in a bit of a slump, feeling like there’s way too much to do and too little time.
And this is before any of my holiday to do’s have even made it to my list. Yikes!
So, I’ve decided to do nothing.
Just kidding (sort of!).
I’ve actually decided to make a new commitment to daily meditation.
And I’m going big.
You might be wondering how I got into meditation in the first place.
Go Away, Stress!
Last summer I started looking into meditation as a natural way to deal with stress.
I started reading about it on the internet, mostly looking for How to Do It. There were way too many links to transcendental meditation. No offense, but I don’t think anyone should have to spend thousands of dollars to learn how to meditate.
And then I turned to books.
After searching Amazon for books about meditation and reading tons of reviews as I love to do, I decided to order Quiet Mind: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation, compiled and edited by Susan Piver.
In the book six different Buddhist meditation teachers share how to meditate. I started using the first chapter, which is called “Shamatha: The Practice of Tranquility,” by Sakyong Mipham, as a guide to my own meditation.
Sakyong Mipham explains that shamatha is the simplest form of sitting meditation and involves training our mind to come back to its natural state of being calm and clear. I can totally go for that!
In my Amazon search, I also found 10% Happier by Dan Harris with its five zillion five star reviews. I requested it from my library. After months of hardly moving up the list and an estimated wait time of approximately ten years, I decided to just buy it.
Boy, am I glad I did. I haven’t laughed so hard reading a book in a long time. Maybe ever. (Anne Lamott’s work is a close second, I think.)
In it he shares about his journey of learning about meditation after having a nervous breakdown on national TV.
I LOVED that book! It was such a surprisingly entertaining read. Dan is such a great writer… honest, smart, and funny.
With Dan’s book as more inspiration, I decided to meditate ten minutes a day.
Does It Work?
When I meditate daily, I feel more calm, less anxious, more mindful, and less reactive to people and circumstances. More often I’m able to think something, and think about those thoughts as an observer, so that life’s stresses don’t affect me quite as much–at least some of the time.
My experience of meditating has been that it’s good, and simple, and surprisingly hard. Letting go of thoughts, for me, ranges from somewhat difficult to extremely difficult.
To get behind the waterfall, and find the stillness in your mind, is not easy. Often I’m lucky to find that stillness for even two minutes out of ten.
My meditation practice has fallen by the wayside more often than not in the past few weeks. I think part of the derailing was due to several nights of really poor sleep with a sick toddler. And my cell phone struggles (which are finally over!). And just having so many other things to do, and not making it a priority.
Even on “normal” days, it can be really hard to fit it in.
With children in the house, quiet time is at a premium. If it doesn’t happen during naptime, or when Rose is at playgroup, or Lily’s at school, it doesn’t happen. And by the time the kids are in bed, I’m usually exhausted.
But all of these normal busy days of life, and all of the extra stressful times, are just exactly the reason why I need and want to make the time to meditate. To slow down, and let my mind have a break.
So, when I saw that Eva has developed a new a way of meditating and is looking for people to try it out, I jumped on the opportunity. Her method has helped her have more peace and energy, and those are two things I could definitely enjoy more of.
Today I am on day three of a seven-day commitment to meditate using her method for 20 minutes a day. At the end I’ll give her feedback on my experience.
If you’d like to try it, too, she’s looking for more beta testers for her program, and if you’re a beginner, or someone without a regular meditation practice, that’s perfect.
It’s definitely a win-win for me, because I could use some added motivation to make it a priority. Plus I’m curious to see how upping my meditation from ten to 20 minutes a day affects my life. (Not to mention actually doing it every single day for a week.)
If you want to try out Eva’s program with me, that would be fun! Here is where you can check it out. (And by the way, I’m not getting anything by mentioning Eva’s program. I just thought you all might be interested in it, too.)
If you’re just starting out and don’t feel like you can commit to 20 minutes a day right now, I totally get it.
You don’t have to do 20 minutes… You can do ten, or even five.
Just commit to doing it daily for one week.
How to Meditate
Here is how I usually do it, although it’s not exactly how I’m doing it this week:
I definitely need to be alone in a quiet place.
I usually sit on my bed (breaking the “rules!”), or sometimes in a chair.
I close my eyes, and focus on my breath, without trying to control it or change it. I try to let go of thoughts. When thoughts arise, as they will, I mentally give myself a hug and consciously let go of them. I consciously do not judge myself for thinking. I accept my thoughts and then let them go.
And then I come back to the breath. Or I just pay attention to whatever I’m thinking or feeling.
What It’s Like for Me, Sometimes
It’s interesting to come to a place of noticing your thinking without identifying with it.
And sometimes I get to this place of quiet awareness. And that’s a really nice break from the constant torrent of thoughts.
Just to let you know, those moments are not long, maybe just seconds or a few minutes at most. I think that may increase as a I practice more.
Sometimes my mind wants to think, but I can make an effort to keep out the thoughts. It reminds me of how in Twilight, Bella has the power of being able to project an invisible protective barrier around herself and others. Sometimes I imagine something like this bubble, this force field, holding back my thoughts, protecting my peaceful state.
Sometimes I envision being at the bottom of the ocean, looking up towards the surface, with my thoughts as ships floating by.
And sometimes focusing on the breath turns into being aware of whatever is there, which the second chapter of Quiet Mind explains is vipassana, or “insight meditation.”
I will also say that sometimes it’s just a pure struggle. My thoughts are racing, and I have to come back to the breath over and over because thoughts keep on popping up. That’s normal, too. The goodness apparently is in the coming back, over and over. It’s a workout for your brain.
Meditation Is For Me and You
I’m not a meditation expert, but I don’t have to be to experience its benefits. And neither do you.
I don’t recommend trying to completely understand it before you do it. You really don’t need to. Just read some directions and do it without worrying about doing it just right or trying to achieve anything.
Join me in committing to make daily meditation a priority this week, and let’s see what happens!
Whether you commit to 20 minutes, ten minutes, or five minutes a day, I encourage you to try it.
I think we’ll emerge a little bit more refreshed and relaxed. I hope so!
Leave me a comment below and let me know when you’re starting and how many minutes a day you’re committing to. Hugs!
Image Credit: The beautiful photo above was taken by DinosaursAreNotDead, courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons.