(Photo by Julia Sakałoŭskaja on Reshot)
Back in December, when I said that I wanted to start meditating as one of my goals for the year, I had actually already started. So I guess that means that I’m already two months into my new meditation practice, and seriously loving it. But I know it sounds super New Age-y, and probably a bit odd for people who know me. I’m a geek, a techie. Sure, I buy the super expensive free-range, cage-free eggs and have a few other “crunchy” tendencies, but mostly I’m a modern, sarcastic, pragmatic kinda woman. So what am I doing meditating, and what am I getting out of it?
Well, it’s precisely because I’m so modern, sarcastic, and pragmatic that meditation is ideal. The reality is that I often feel like I’m thinking about a bajillion things at once. If I’m not thinking about work, I’m thinking about this blog or my YouTube channel. If I’m not thinking about my kid or my husband, I’m thinking about my mom, my friends. I’m planning dinners and figuring out when I’ll slot in a gym visit. I’m thinking through a grocery shopping list and trying to organize a meet up with some local working moms. Life is busy, and I’ve often lamented not even having a chance to breathe. But meditation has helped me get exactly that.
What I do when I meditate
So, how am I doing it? To start, I actually do some yoga. One of the REASONS yoga was developed was to give a way for people’s bodies to hold up while meditating. To make it so that sitting for long periods didn’t cause the body to cramp up. Sure, yoga is, in itself, a kind of meditative flow, and I adore it. But this is essentially the warm-up.
I do the yoga to help my body wake up, and also to work out any kinks. I do it to make it more comfortable when I sit to meditate. And I do it because it’s a way for me to “sneak” yoga back into my regular routine. I’m not doing the extended sessions or videos I did when I did the month of daily yoga. Usually, it’s about 10-15 minutes of yoga. I flow with it depending on what I need. I know that I always need to work on my pigeon pose – it’s pretty much vital for me as someone who sits at a desk the majority of the day.
Once I’m stretched and ready, I settle in for meditation. I set a timer on my phone. Maybe that sounds counter-intuitive. You know, like you should just “sit and meditate until you feel done”. But realistically, time moves differently when your eyes are closed and you’re focusing on not focusing. By setting a timer, I don’t need to think about being done or not, trying to sit for longer or not. Instead, I set a timer for however long I want to meditate. When it consistently starts feeling like too short a time, I extend the timer. Thus, I’ve gone from 5 minutes of meditation to 9 minutes.
I usually start in a kneeling pose. It’s my preferred pose for meditation. However, my body doesn’t always agree. If my toes fall asleep or get tingly, I switch to a cross-legged position. Then, I take a deep breath and clear my mind. I learned a few techniques for this when I was an adolescent. My mom was into the New Age meditation stuff, so she had loads of tapes and stuff for it, which I really enjoyed as a kid and early teen. So I take deep breaths and try to focus in on the moments of stillness, of nothing.
It’s about the practice, not skill
Let’s be honest, if there were a test for meditation, I would probably fail. Not even 50% of my time meditating is spent in that awesome, still place. But I always remind myself of the advice I got back when I started doing yoga.
For those who don’t remember this story, I chatted to one of my oldest and closest friends, Sadaf. She’s been doing yoga for years, and when I finally jumped on the yoga train, I told her that I “suck” at yoga. And she laughed at me. She said you can’t suck at yoga. It’s not a competitive sport. It’s not about getting deep enough into a pose or being super balanced or strong. It’s about the practice. About showing up for your body on the mat. About accepting where you are that day and striving to move and breathe into it.
So sure, I “suck” at meditation. Let me take you through what usually happens.
Deep breath, clear my mind and think of nothing. Experience that amazing moment as my brain relaxes and I breathe into the darkness and stillness. Remember that I need to take something out of the freezer for later. What did we put on the meal plan? I’m so glad that I wrote that blog about meal planning, sorta. Oh, it’s a blogging day today. Have I decided what I want to write about? I think I had a topic sketched out, so I’ll need to see if I have time before Harley wakes up to write it, or if it’s going to cut into my work day.
Hey, stop it! Breathe. Stillness.
Deep breath. Stillness and clear mind. It’s okay, don’t judge your mind, it’s bound to wander like a toddler, just bring it back to the stillness.
Breathe. Focus. Relax.
Should I still think of Harley as a toddler? Where is the line between toddler and little girl? I think she’s a little girl now. An under 5? What’s the classification now? I wonder if that means I need to start more Pinterest boards. I can’t really use toddler development anymore for these sorts of topics I’d write about, can I? Oh, and I should probably plan a post about what I pack in her snack each day. Is that a thing people would care about. In fact, I’m not sure what I should pack today. Is she over string cheese? It keeps coming back at the end of the day… Dammit! Breathe!
Focus. Relax. Breathe. Enjoy the stillness.
So, maybe during the 9 minutes of meditation I’m currently doing (hoping to build it up to 20 minutes eventually) I end up in that amazing place of focus and stillness for… 2 minutes? 3 minutes? The rest of the time, My thoughts wander and I bring them back. I get a few moments of “good” meditation and then my mind wanders and I need to bring it back.
Maybe this will get better over time. I’m already a bit more focused now than I was when I started. Or maybe I just get better at sitting longer, which adds to the overall moments of focus. But it’s really not about getting “good” at meditation. It’s about showing up for myself. It’s about taking the time to breathe. It’s about the practice, not any kind of skill.
Benefits I’m feeling already
If you Google “benefits of meditation”, you’ll find tons of results. I like the science-based ones, like this article. According to the research, it lowers stress, helps with anxiety, boosts emotional health, lengthens attention span, decreases blood pressure, and can even help with memory and self-awareness. All of those things sound wonderful, and I’m sure they’re true.
For me, I’m getting a range of unexpected benefits.
For one, I’m much less stressed. Now I say this despite the fact that a couple of weeks ago, I was at peak stress levels. Between potty training and changing Harley’s school, work, and organizing life, there was a lot on my plate. I was super stressed and anxious. And that was WITH the meditation.
But meditating has generally helped me find the moments of calm. I don’t feel the anxiety and stress in the same pervasive way. I feel it, it’s not like all my stress and worry is gone and I’m an enlightened yogi under a tree or something. But I know that I can take a deep breath and let those thoughts take a break. I can always pick up the racing thoughts again if I want. The anxiety will always be there if I want it. But I don’t NEED to panic. I can just breathe if I want. And maybe decide not to stress for a while afterward, too.
I also don’t feel the same time crunch that I used to. Maybe I’m just generally cutting myself more slack after listening to that book with the idea of the time mosaic. But I’m realizing that there is enough time in the day for me to breathe. To relax. To focus. To work. To parent. To love. There’s enough time for everything. Maybe not always in a 24-hour time period, but it does all happen. I’ve added half an hour of sitting quietly and breathing to my week. It hasn’t meant cutting anything. I’m not sacrificing anything to make time to meditate. If I’m able to do that, what else can I do?
More focus, maybe. I like to think that I’ve always had a decent attention span. I can sit down and read, play a game, write a blog post, or do my work. Yes, I get distracted now and then, but if I’m actually interested in something, I have no issue focusing in on it. I think the meditation has helped push other distractions out of my head more. It’s also made it clear that the distractions and other thoughts are always going to be there, I just don’t always have to listen.
I think in general I’m feeling calmer and less stressed, which was the whole point. So meditation is working for me. I don’t always get to do it every day, but I’m doing it often enough that I feel good and I’m seeing a clear boost in my mood. What more could I want? Are you a fan of meditation? Do you use any particularly interesting or useful techniques? Drop me a comment below and let me know about your practice!
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