As you might have read from my last blog post, I recently started meditating. Of course I’m now a professional.
But I did think to myself :This will be great. I’ll be this calm, tranquil person living on cloud 9, free from all the stresses that life presents me.
[Ah, yep, sure Jess.]
I’ve started by practicing with 10 minutes each day.
So, naturally, as I begin to get comfortable and start meditating, I begin thinking. I start thinking about meditating and the process of trying to achieve inner peace. Clearly a success.
I have always found it hard to ¨switch off¨ as my brain races through a million things at a time. I have always thought I’m just not built for meditating – I use my anxiety productively, or so I thought. I have tried meditating in the past but found I couldn’t reach that calm plateau I was searching for. Instead, I just ended up staring at the ceiling feeling bored.
Not for me, I thought.
The truth is that for all these reasons I am the perfect candidate to keep practicing meditation and mindfulness.
So after 10 days of taking 10 minutes, have I managed to reach inner peace?
Of course not, but you doubted that the second you read the title, didn’t you? I bet you thought, let’s see what nonsense is written here.
What’s this post about then I hear you ask?
Upon refection, this time when I began to attempt mediating again, I chose to be patient (a quality my family and friends will tell you I do not naturally possess).
While reflecting on my meditation so far, I got to thinking about how everything is aimed at making us want, and giving us what we want right now. Immediate satisfaction.
As a result, we are programmed to believe that by changing a few things in our lifestyle we can quickly and dramatically change our lives. And this is true, except for the quickly part.
We seem to have trouble with this concept of waiting for things. Maybe it’s partly because people of my generation (Gen Y) and the following generations have been raised in a world where everything is available on demand. At least in the Western world.
We are bombarded with so much information. At our fingertips we have everything we (think we) want (and even that which we don’t). When was the last time you bought something using lay-by? We have everything we want at the click of our mouse or the tap of a send button in an app on our smartphones.
We’re so used to having everything right now that we have no patience to wait for anything.
It seems there’s a way for anything and everything to happen quickly, except changes to our lifestyle and habits. These just take time and this is something I have to relearn because it’s just not in my nature.
So, after 10 days of practicing mediation/mindfulness:
Do I feel remarkably different?
No, but I do feel different. I have managed to be more aware on a daily basis.
Do I feel so calm and so at peace that I walk around like a cat whose been rolling in catnip all day?
Again, no, but I do feel a little calmer. And I do catch myself slowing down, focusing on my breathing or refocusing my attention.
Have I managed to meditate for 10 minutes straight without being distracted or thinking?
Of course not! But that’s not the idea, at least not at the start. Expecting a dramatic change like that so quickly is near impossible and kind of deluded.
I’m not going to be a professional over night because mastering any new skill takes time. Just like learning to dance salsa or learning a new language.
In time I will progress and doing something is always guaranteed to get me closer than doing nothing.
As my friend Kristy recently said when we were discussing this:¨If we don’t keep trying to find balance we’ll never get any closer.¨
So, what have I learned (and am still learning)?
- To take pause each day, even if it´s just 10 minutes.
- To focus my attention on one thing at a time.
- To pay attention to my breathing, my emotions and how my body feels.
- To be a little more patient with the world and, importantly, with myself.
- To celebrate each small achievement, each step is worth a little celebration.
- To keep trying, keep going, because doing something will ALWAYS get you closer than nothing.
While that might not seem like much is actually is. [Insert round of self applause.]
OK, so I haven’t reached nirvana yet, and I haven’t mastered meditation, but I’m certainly closer to finding some balance than I was 10 days ago. And that’s an achievement I will celebrate (I can highly recommend dancing around your living room).
Just like expecting obvious physical changes in our body by exercising 10 minutes a day for 10 days, we can’t expect dramatic changes in our minds in the same time either.
But we have to keep trying or we will never get any closer.
A little help achieving balance
As per my previous post, I’ve been using Headspace which has personally given me a great introduction to meditation. They call it ¨a gym membership for the mind¨. They have a 10-day meditation/mindfulness trial (free) using an application from Headspace. The trial is just that (for 10 minutes a day for 10 days) – it basically guides you and give you some strategies to introduce you to the practice of meditation/mindfulness. I found these 10 minute guided sessions helped me to be patient with myself in this journey.
I do not have any association to Headspace apart from being an app user. I’ve just found it very useful and hopefully others do too!
Photos taken in Chile and Cambodia.