Every year, I've made a resolution to learn to meditate and start a meditation practice.
I've been making that resolution for about nine years, maybe longer.
The reason I kept trying? Because every interview with or profile of anyone I admire - whether they're a writer, a public figure, an entrepreneur, or just a generally enlightened and content person - usually mentions meditation in some way. That it is key to their creative practice, to balance, to keeping calm, to staying sane. That it opens the door between the person they are, or have to be in the world, and the person they want to be.
At the start of this year, a friend gifted me Danielle LaPorte's The Desire Map, a much-spoken of phenomena in the online world that gets a lot of traction around New Year, and with good reason - it's a pretty effective system for driving down into what you really want for your life. One of the activities is 'Core Desired Feelings' and after much excavation and brainstorming, two of my four were 'calm' and 'wise'.
Much of the work in programmes like this centres very much around action and sovereignty when it comes to what you want to happen in your life. In other words, what do you have to do to feel the way you want to feel? What is something you can do, that is within your control, right now to get you closer to where you want to be?
The answer for those two particular desires I had identified in myself was.....meditate.
So, around the same time I did the Desire Map work, I began experimenting with meditation with the help of a wonderful (and free!) app I highly recommend called Insight Timer. This is the moment to tell you this is not a sponsored post, in any way, I just love this app! I think Laura might have recommended it to me too.
The app was great. But instantly I was reminded of why I had abandoned all previous attempts - because my mind was so manic, it wouldn't focus. I could barely get through 60 seconds.
"Just focus on your breath" - sounds easy, am I right? Wrong.
After many months now, the trick that has helped me the most in learning to meditate has been thinking of my mind as a puppy in training. What do you say to a puppy when you're trying to teach it?
So every time I notice my mind wandering in meditation, as it always does, I call it to heel like I would an adorable puppy. Hearing the word "stay" does jolt my mind back to the task at hand. A few breaths and it will stay, like a good mind. Then it wanders off again, and I gently grab it by the collar and lead it back.
It's a nice metaphor, when it works! But my mind isn't always a cute puppy that comes back obediently when it's called. Sometimes meditation for me is like finding the puppy has destroyed the couch, chewed your favourite books and done its business everywhere. Moments like those, I set the timer for 2 minutes and that has to be enough. Miraculously, those 2 minutes do the trick.
The benefits of meditation are seeping into other aspects of my life too. I find I'm calmer in general, able to let things go a lot faster than I used to. I get pissed off, of course but I allow myself to feel it, for five or ten minutes and then, frankly, I get bored and move on! I've also found I'm sleeping better thanks to meditation, even when I'm anxious. Even when I wake up for no reason and can't get back to sleep - the anger and panic at only being 5 hours away from the alarm going off, and then 4, and so on, has dissipated dramatically. I find that I can rest in those moments, even if I don't go back to sleep straight away.
I meditated for 53 days straight over March and April, usually in the evenings, after work, before bed. It seemed to be working. I had gone from barely being able to do 5 minutes to doing guided meditations for half an hour or more. I was on a roll!
But then I lost my winning streak thanks to just one stressful and busy day at the end of April, where making time to meditate merely slipped my mind. Hardly a major crime. But over the next few days, I had one day on, one day off, and it just didn't work. Perhaps the practice hadn't been so carefully carved out as I thought. I found myself feeling really out of sorts and realised that meditation had come to be an essential part of my routine, like perfume, caffeine and morning pages. I didn't feel myself without it. Much like running.
It didn't matter that I'd fallen off the wagon. In fact, there was no wagon. It's a practice. I just had to start again.
Meditation has become part of my daily routine. My rule is "meditation before social media", which means I meditate as soon as I wake up, happily filling the space between being conscious and the coffee being ready.
I didn't expect it to change my life, but it really has.
"Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end." – Jiddu Krishnamurti
More on this subject to come, as I feel it will be quite an adventure, as the post title hints!
Do you meditate regularly? How do you find it?