In case you missed my New Year post I decided to challenge myself to try new things, things I’ve had on my “someday” list. Instead of beating myself up about failed resolutions I wanted to embrace discovery and trying new things. For January that challenge was trying meditation.
I have heard that meditation can be good for your health, memory and happiness so why am I not practicing it? Maybe for the same reason I don’t drink more water or head to the gym. Or perhaps it’s because of preconceived notions or myths around the practice of meditation. Whatever the reasons I put these thoughts to the side and made a mental promise to myself to give meditation a try for a month and this is what I’ve discovered:
Schedule Time Early in the Morning. Although Zen Habits suggests getting up early in the morning to meditate that just wasn’t going to happen but I do agree with the notion of early the better. I often planned my meditation to occur in the morning after walking the kids to school. The walk ensured I wouldn’t snooze during meditation and it also limbered me up a bit for sitting still. I once let a project get in the way, working on finishing it before starting my meditation but my mind was so wired at that point, like being on caffeine. I kept thinking about what I had to do and emails to check. Putting the practice into place before checking on my computer seemed to stave off this anxiety.
Pick a Room Without Significant Purpose. Just like Becoming Minimalist explains how television can disrupt sleep when it is in your room, in my mind it makes sense that rooms with a purpose could disrupt a sense of calm and releasing your extraneous thoughts. Of course all rooms have some sort of purpose but I mean rooms like your bedroom where you sleep, a family room where you watch television, or in my case a home office. I choose our living room. It’s inviting and used for casual conversation or listening to music. Of course if your space is limited perhaps it’s just creating a simple corner that isn’t busy.
Avoid Distractions. I never planned a meditation practice during the weekends when everyone was home. As a mother I know that asking the kids for a moment of peace because you have to make a phone call or need to go to the bathroom seems to trigger a deep desire in each child to ask every obscure question that comes to mind. I anticipated the same response if I asked to not be disturbed to meditation so it didn’t make sense to set my experience for failure. And even if the kids did leave me alone my mind would wonder why and what sort of destruction were they up to. I did have to contend with my cats but I noticed when I went to meditate the same time in the same spot every weekday they slowly started to ignore me. At first they would sniff and meow and rub against me but after a week or so this became very infrequent.
Use a Candle or Meditative Sound. I tried meditating sitting with my legs crossed, arms loose on my legs and my eyes closed. The sitting stance was comfortable enough but not long after closing my eyes my mind would wander. Like Free Meditation suggests, I added the addition of a candle to help me focus. If I felt my mind getting caught up in active thinking I would focus again on the candle and my breath. I also started using the sound of waves or rhythmic drums. I live on a streetcar line in an old house there are a lot of noises that often go unheard until you’re trying to sit quietly. The candle and sound helped me to bring my focus back to what I was doing if I found myself wandering in thought.
Be Persistent. Be Patient
. I’ll admit I’m not the best in this category. My enthusiasm for something new sometimes wanes when it doesn’t work out as I expected. I think setting a goal of trying meditation for a month forced me to keep going even when it didn’t seem to be doing anything. That persistence paid off on some days. There were moments when I felt like I wasn’t in the room and I could feel my breath moving in and out of my body. Of course those moments were few and far between. Okay, maybe only twice during my whole month but it was enough to encourage me to keep trying.
Meditation was harder than I thought. Not the sitting quietly but the focus. During my month I could sit for up to fifteen minutes before my focus tools (the candle, breathing, and sounds) wouldn’t help to pull me back in. Unlike a workout I didn’t walk away sweating or feeling sore muscles. I’m not sure what I expected. I did like the moment to focus and just hear my breath and feel the sensation of a finger or hair or elbow. My memory and concentration can sometimes be lacking and it is meditation that I hope will help. I think this will be something I will continue to practice and I’ve even tried the techniques in my office when I’m feeling frustrated around a project or writing.
Next Month’s Challenge
For February I wanted to challenge myself with something different, nothing to do with my health. This month I’m challenging myself to make scones. Doesn’t sound like much of a challenge? Well the kitchen isn’t really my domain and I love scones but I have heard they can be challenging to make, challenging but not impossible. So for February I’m going to give it a try, probably many tries, to get a scone that reminds me of one I would enjoy at high tea. This could be one tasty challenge.
What do you wish you could do? What’s one thing you would love to learn?