We’ve all heard the benefits of meditation. Many a successful person has expressed how meditation helps them achieve their mission, setting them up for the day.
One of my goals in 2018 is:
Daily meditation, for 20 minutes, first thing in the morning
Why Daily Meditation
I want to feel calm, centred and ready to take on the day. I also want the self-discipline of committing to a practice that helps my well-being.
There’s many things I know to be good for me — eating healthy foods, regular exercise, plenty of sleep etc… Meditation is one of those healthy habits I want ingrained in my life.
It may even be a little ‘easier’ than something like eating healthily, because I either do it or don’t do it first thing in the morning. Whereas with eating I can choose to eat, or not eat, healthily many times throughout the day.
The decision to practice meditation as my first activity for the day seems achievable, and rewarding, knowing I am self-disciplined to stick to a healthy habit.
There is another benefit of daily meditation, and that relates to my phone.
Like a lot of people I know, I have a bad habit of checking my phone first thing in the morning. As soon as I wake, I reach over and grab my phone and check it.
The reliance on my phone made it feel an extension of my body. I’d firstly check my notifications, the more the better I thought (that’s another not-so helpful habit to explore another time). Then I’d check some Apps, email, the news — even though it is 95% bad news, and not a great way for me to start my day.
Nevertheless, it was my habit, and I found it incredibly difficult to get out of bed without checking my phone. I wasted a lot of time on it, without getting anything meaningful from it.
My eyes would hurt too. They would go from being asleep, protected under their own soft blankets of darkness, to then having bright artificial light beamed into them. My eyes would feel dried out, warmed up and fuzzy. My brain would feel drained too.
These negative side-effects of my habit were not enough for me to simply wake up, and get on with my day, sans checking my phone.
No, I needed something else to break the habit. By replacing it with a much healthier habit.
To re-cap, the two reasons I have a daily meditation goal are:
- Positive — to have a feeling of inner-peace and calm each and every day — ahhhhh, bliss!
- Constructive — overcoming the unhelpful practice of checking my phone
After a week of consistently getting up and going to my designated place for meditation (a yoga mat on my floor), this is what I learnt:
- I can easily sit for 7 minutes. Previously I could only manage 2 to 3 minutes, and even that felt a long time. But now I am comfortably meditating for 7 minutes in the one spot.
- My mind is busy. The first part of my day is a time when I have lots of ideas flying around in my head. I either have enthusiasm for the day — yay, go me! Or I have anticipation for the day. Either way, there’s a lot going on!
I want the full benefit of meditation, not just prolonged sitting — I do that enough each day at work. The quiet mind has not occurred naturally, so I need to focus on that.
Although I have heard that focus and trying are not really what you’re supposed to do in meditation. Instead, simply be and observe, not engage in the thoughts. I’m going to be aware of that — not engaging, and letting the thoughts float by.
At the end of week 1 I’ve realised two more reasons why I want to achieve this goal of daily meditation:
- Last year I had a very full year. I felt my emotions were getting away from me and I was tired. I felt I was externally-facing. As in, I was over-extending myself chasing after many things. I wanted some inner time, for me. Previously when I tried meditation, even though it was only 2 or 3 minutes, I noticed it improved my mood and resilience. My emotions were more stable and I felt calm — which is a beautiful feeling. I want more! Every day!
- The days I meditated I felt such benefit that I wanted to do it every day. It was simple. I mentally committed to it being for only 3 minutes. But because it was so easy, I never did it. Each day I thought, oh, not today, but tomorrow for sure. Tomorrow would come and go, and I’d continue with the same thought of not today, tomorrow. I made it too easy for myself not to do it. This is despite feeling SO much better when I practiced meditation. The reward was there, but the commitment was not. I needed to build a habit around it.
This is what I am trying now. Building a habit to bring more positivity into my life. And to reduce negativity. It is a win-win.
At the end of week 1, I’m feeling great about my commitment to meditation.
After a successful introduction to my daily meditation practice, I started week 2 with curiosity about how far I would progress and what I would gain. This is what I learnt:
- I can sit for longer. Perhaps it is muscle memory — both physical and mental? Physically I am now fine to sit for at least 7 minutes. A few days I have sat for 10 minutes, with my eyes closed, still, in the one spot. I don’t feel I have to try to be there, I just am, and it is natural.
- The quality of my meditation is improving — slightly. I’m still engaging with my thoughts. It looks something like this:
… thought — think some more — analyse it — speculate — problem solve — identify other issues — think about those new issues I created — oops, I’m supposed to be meditating — ok mind, be still! — … — … — … — I wish had remembered not to engage with my thoughts — … — but that’s ok, I’m still learning — … om — … — … — … — … — … — ooh, wow, my mind is quiet — … — wait, that’s thinking — dammit!
At the end of week 2 I am still engaging with my thoughts. But that’s ok, I am not judging myself. It is more an acknowledgement for now, and a recognition that at least I showed up to the mat.
Talking with a friend about this I gained an additional insight. She said she wants to get into daily meditation, but feels she spends too much time thinking when doing it.
I reflected and shared that is ok, I am the same. For now, I am encouraged by the time and routine I’m establishing. I believe the quality will come in time. The quality won’t come unless I actually do it.
Experience is everything, much like learning any other new skill.
However, to be transparent, there was a day or two that I contemplated skipping my morning meditation. But in those moments of doubt, I knew my disappointment if I skipped the meditation, would outweigh the perceived inconvenience of doing it before moving on with my day.
Do the Results Stack Up?
Yes, in terms of my phone. I’m not as driven to look at my phone.
In week 1 I would check my phone straight after the meditation. Now I will meditate and do something else, like have breakfast, do some chores, or read.
My eyes feel better, and my brain is much more alert and ready for the day ahead. No fuzziness, no draining feeling before I even begin. Win!
It feels good to be in the beginning stages of setting up a healthier, constructive routine. And it feels good to be breaking my dependence on the instant hit I would get from looking at my phone and the notifications.
I’m not noticing significantly increased calm and inner-peace yet. But then, I am on holidays, so my days are quite different than if I were at work. Once I am back at work I think I’ll notice the impact.
Tim Ferris has said daily meditation allows him to increase the time between event and his reaction to it. I would love to have this presence of mind. Especially in those situations where I have automatically responded with ‘yes’, when I really wanted to say ‘no’.
Overall, I feel I am well on my way to achieving my goal. I have enough reward to keep going. And I have the accountability of writing about it to help me stay on track.
Daily Meditation — Where to Begin
If you are interested in starting a daily meditation practice here are my top three tips:
- Just start — starting gives us confidence to continue. Creating a habit can be daunting. The only way it will happen is if we practice.
- Start small — we don’t need to aim for a whole month of meditation for 20 minutes a day right off the bat. Setting a smaller, more achievable goal can reinforce the good habit, and our feelings of positivity and commitment to it.
- Be grateful — consider what you want out of daily meditation, and be grateful for it. Be grateful too, for your commitment to yourself. Again, this reinforces our experience through our thoughts and feelings.