Earlier this year, I reached 72 consecutive days of meditation - a personal record!
Then, after two weeks of traveling (and still meditating), the time-change on the 17-hour flight home caused me to miss the midnight deadline and my personal record was gone.
I was frustrated with missing the 73rd day and having to start over. I considered adding the meditation session I had done when I landed retroactively to Insight Timer (the app I use to track my sessions). This would have kept me on track and I was close to doing it after debating back and forth the ethics of entering it.
Would it have been cheating? Should it have counted since the country I was returning from was technically still in yesterday?
I had the app open, ready to enter it in, and I asked myself,
What am I doing?
Somehow, I had made tracking my meditation sessions into a competition with myself. I was arguing the legalities of cheating in tracking my meditation record!
Me: I earned that session.I mean, it was the TIME-CHANGE, PEOPLE.
Also me: This is the LAST thing that meditation is about: maintaining a personal record? Come on.
The banter went back and forth. I beat myself up for being such a failure at meditation, for missing the deadline AND missing the point. I wish I could say that I decided to start over and forget the 73rd day because I let go of the competition and became enlightened. But no, the truth is, I felt like I deserved the punishment of having to start over again.
I should’ve anticipated the time change, I berated myself.
Now, it’s 100 days later and I’ve meditated every day since.
My practice has completely changed.
I actually consider it a practice and not a competition.
It’s a regular part of my day that I simply must do, not out of obligation or to maintain a record, but out of habit and just feeling good. I don’t plan if and when it’s going to happen, although it tends to happen naturally at night. I wait for the desire to wash over me and if I can take a few minutes, I do. Sometimes it’s in the middle of the day at work, sometimes it’s on the subway ride home, sometimes it’s just before going to bed. I set my Insight Timer out of curiosity, not duty.
Another change is my relationship with the act of meditation itself. It is no longer something I am trying to perfect or a fad that I am trying on.
I genuinely want it to be a part of my life,
as integral as yoga, walking the dog, and brushing my teeth. I don’t fight it and I don’t fight myself over it. Meditation is my friend that I am in a long-term relationship with, so we work through our differences and try to find common ground.
The final, most significant change in these last few months is the goal of my meditation practice, what I want to get out of it. Aside from seeing it as an activity to be rigid and obsessive over, the biggest misconception I had about meditation was that its purpose was to clear my mind. This was how it had been described to me and how I understood it. So when I would sit or lay down to meditate and never be able to stop my thoughts, I felt like a failure and that I would never be "good" at meditation.
Now I know there is no being good or being bad at it.
It’s just doing it.
It’s not about clearing the mind, but about watching it with curiosity and love. It’s not about suppressing thoughts and feelings, but letting them come up to the surface and acknowledging them as they do.
There is no final goal for meditation because it’s not about an endpoint.
It’s not about making it to day 73, day 100, or even day 500. If I miss a day, so what? At least I know it’s a part of my life. It’s not about doing 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or one hour. If I do it for one minute, so what? At least I’m doing it.
I used to force myself to do it every morning and every evening because I was so intent on making it a part of my schedule. For the most part, it was very pleasant and I was always glad I did it. Yet, it’s not something I should have to force myself to do. So now I do it when it comes over me and I make the decision to take out a few minutes to watch my mind. I try to do it after I’ve had even just a little exercise so it’s easier on my body to sit or lay still, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes I’ve been in my office sitting for awhile and just need to do it right then and there.
My goals and priorities for, my relationship with, and my techniques of meditation have all shifted in 100 days. I’m sure they will keep shifting with more and more practice and I welcome it all. I anticipate having days where I’m frustrated with it and days where I can’t even do it. I will question it and I will dissect it,
but I know it will be there for me no matter what.
Are You Interested in Meditation?
Start with one minute a day. Listen to music, do it in silence, do it sitting up, do it laying down, chant, count your breaths. Do whatever feels good for you. If you want to increase your time, slowly add a minute a week at a time and see how that goes. Just know that studies have shown the positive effects from meditation are not about how long you do it for, but how frequently and consistently you do it.
They have different types of meditation, including guided meditations, visualizations, themed (sleep, anxiety, etc.), and more.
My Personal Practice
There are many ways to meditate and, like I said above, there is no right or wrong way.
I use Insight Timer and set it for one, three, five, or ten minutes, depending on how much time and energy I have. I used to count my breaths, but I learned how long my breaths took on average and started to use it as a way to count down how much time I had left on the timer. I stopped doing this since it was taking away from the experience.
Now, I try to focus on a particular sound, like my refrigerator, traffic, my dog snoring, anything. I then may try to bounce around to different sounds or try to hear them all in harmony together. After a bit, the sounds become entrancing. Thoughts come up and sometimes I get carried away with them, but if and when I notice them, I bring myself back to a sound.
At night time, I do a few restorative yoga poses and then lay on a blanket on the floor with my legs up the wall. I used to think that meditating had to be done sitting up in a cross-legged position, but lo and behold, I can choose how my body is when I meditate! I find that I'm just too exhausted at the end of the day, and that particular restorative pose also helps prepare my body for sleep.
Just know, whatever your meditation practice may be, it is ENOUGH.