At the age of sixteen, my interest in meditation began. I must have read about it somewhere or seen something on television. So, like a curious teen, I tried it. I did not have formal instruction. I felt self-conscious and was always thinking that I would ‘get caught’ and be embarrassed about doing it so I tried to do in secret. As you might guess, I was not successful and soon gave up but I never lost my curiosity about it.
Over the years, my interest has drawn me back time and again so in my quest to wrestle with negativity and pull Pollyanna to the surface, I decided to give it a dedicated go.
For 30 days, I attempted to meditate 20 minutes per day, twice a day.
I set aside time in the morning then again before bed. I also kept a journal noting how much I had slept the night before, any significant activity in my life, and my key thoughts during the meditation process (written from memory once the time was up).
This is what I learned:
8. It’s hard to keep a routine but not impossible. There were days when I did not make time to meditate twice a day (and I say ‘make time’ because isn’t that how all change comes about?), and days when I didn’t fit it in even once.
7. Twenty minutes is a loooong time. I decided that I would not set a timer as I had read in a few online “how to meditate” guides. I felt that I would be too focussed on the time ticking and chose instead to follow my natural rhythm. I rarely made it past eleven minutes and felt especially proud of myself the few times I hit the fifteen minute mark.
6. I slept better when I made time for meditation right before retiring for the night. The chance to let my thoughts flow and the slowed breathing helped relax me and allowed for a deeper sleep.
5. Where my mind was at. My “how to” readings suggested that you should focus on your breaths as a means of blocking out thoughts thereby allowing yourself to enter into an altered state of consciousness. If thoughts filter in, acknowledge them then focus again on your inhalations and exhalations. I must admit that the more I practiced, the easier this became but I don’t think that I ever entered the altered state; I could see the off-ramp but was unable to cross the bridge – there wasn’t a long enough break in the traffic. Perhaps if I had regularly reached the twenty minute mark, I would have been successful. What I did see on the journey though was where my thoughts were focussed. There seemed a recurring theme and I was thankful to have the time to address the issues, uninterrupted.
4. It forced alone time. Making time for meditation means that you are carving out alone time – time for just you – remember those days? You are taking the time to relax and giving yourself the time and permission to think about things that you otherwise “don’t have time to deal with”. Not only will you be able to deal with them, you may actually come up with solutions for issues in other areas of your life. By clearing your mind, you are opening up space for other solutions to filter in.
3. Studies have shown that meditation can lower your blood pressure. I felt this. Not just during the time I sat meditating, but throughout the day. And if I felt stress building up, I could quickly return to a calmer state by ‘going within’ and breathing deep.
2. Meditation opened myself up for possibilities. You’ve acknowledged recurring thoughts. You’ve devised solutions for problems. You’ve lowered your blood pressure. You’ve had a better night’s sleep. Now you are available for the possibilities that await you and are in a calmer and more open state to receive them when they do.
The biggest benefit that I gained from this rudimentary attempt at enlightenment is:
1. I gave myself permission to take the time to listen to me. It allowed my voice to be the voice in my head.
Perhaps one day, I will reach the twenty minute mark. But that is not my goal. I am more interested in actually crossing the bridge and seeing what’s on the other side – however long it takes. Then Pollyanna will have won the championship fight.
In the meantime, she is still a contender.
Have you had experience with meditation? How did it work for you?