Creating a Meaningful Life: Learning to Meditate

meditationI’ll be honest - meditating this week was frustrating. After sporadically meditating for the last six weeks, I buckled down and did it seven days in a row. That wasn’t hard. I would either wake up and meditate right away, or meditate after my workout. What was discouraging was how hard it was for me to keep my focus during the meditation. This week I gave all my attention solely to using a beginner’s technique of being aware of and counting your breaths. Sounds simple right? Not for me. I learned about this technique after some research on the internet. The idea is to sit or lay down, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Count each breath until you reach 10 and then start over. If a thought pops in your head, start the count over from one. Unfortunately, I would consistently only make it until two or three before some random thought floated in. I would get farther in the count if I visualized what my body and lungs were doing with each breath or if I thought in my head “breathe in, breathe out” with each breath. But concentrating for the entire six minutes (I decided to work my way up to 10 minutes) proved almost impossible. And it was a vicious cycle. I would get angry about my lack of focus, which would make it even harder to focus, which would make me more angry.

A few days ago I re-read the article to try and figure out what I was doing wrong and a sentenced jumped out at me that I hadn’t taken in before. “During your meditation, you may experience feelings of frustration, boredom, fear, anxiety, pain or anger — this is all normal. Acknowledge them, and then let them go…. ‘Your job is to not react,’ he (Todd Goldfarb) says. ‘Your job is to witness the process … and be OK with it.’” (How to Meditate: A Beginner's Guide)I had been obsessed with not letting any thoughts in, but that isn’t realistic. I am human, I have thoughts and I can’t turn them off completely. During my meditation in the days following that realization, I was less hard on myself when my mind wandered. I would acknowledge the thought, sometimes even laugh at the truly weird things that popped in my head when I was not actively thinking, and then send it away and refocus on my breath. I still wasn’t able to focus for an entire six minutes, and getting all the way to 10 was still a struggle, but I was less irritated and kinder to myself which I will consider a win!

So, this week I learned that fixating solely on my breath might not be the best way for me to meditate, at least at this stage in the learning process. I also learned that I prefer laying down to sitting. It is easier for me to relax my entire body when I am laying down and that helps me zero in on my breath. I also learned that while it was hard in general for me to concentrate when I meditated, it was much harder to concentrate when I meditated as soon as I woke up. I thought being half asleep would help me focus because my thoughts hadn’t had a chance to be thought yet, but I was wrong again. My brain felt like it went into overdrive and I couldn’t quiet it down. Meditating after my workout, while I am lying down is my most successful practice of meditation so far.

For the next week I am going to continue focusing on my breath, but I am going to add in listening to a repetitive sound like waves, rain or a gong and see how that goes. I have a sleep machine app that I am going to use to produce various sounds that I think are relaxing or meditative.

Did you try meditating this week? How did it go for you? Any tips you learned during your practice?

Creating a Meaningful Life: Learning to Meditate

meditationA professor in college once told our class that you’ll know you found the right partner for you when you like who you are when you’re with them. It made me realize that the Sonja I had been in past relationships was not a Sonja that I liked. When I met Rob, I finally was able to see what my professor had been talking about. He is patient, caring, genuinely kind, always looks at the world with a cup half full mentality and will go out of his way to help anyone. I inherited a lot of these qualities from my mom, so they have always been there. But for a long time they were buried beneath my shell of anger, impatience, jealousy, and selfishness. Over the last five years a lot of these qualities have been unearthed by simply being around him and subconsciously mimicking how he lives his life. In the last year or so I became more consciously aware of how exhausting it is when I am in a bad mood, impatient, angry, or just generally in a bad mood. While a good portion of the time I like the Sonja I have become, there are still times that the other Sonja rears her ugly head. I decided to make more of an effort to be a kind and positive person. Life is too short to be spend it angry or unhappy. The Happy Vibes posts were my first step in working to be more positive, more of the time. And I have noticed a change. I take time each day and week to think about a moment I am in and appreciate it for making me happy. This change has given me motivation to find other ways to learn how to be present in each moment, and to find the positive in any situation. So when Rob mentioned he’d heard a segment on Smart Passive Income about morning routines and meditation, I was intrigued.

Now while I do try a lot of different ways of improving my life and health (like taking creative writing classes, not drinking for two months or doing VB6) I always approach them with skepticism. Before fully committing to learning how to meditate, I wanted to try it a few times. I’ve spent the last month practicing sporadically. I did a quick search to find a few tips and techniques and have been trying them all out to see what seems to work best for me. I haven’t noticed a significant change in my overall mood yet, and honestly it is not easy. However, the few times I have done it, I have really enjoyed it. I have felt light, happy and calm afterwards. I have been able to get to a point in each session where I feel weightless, as if I am floating, and I really love that feeling. At this point though, I haven’t been able to hold that feeling long. It has inspired me though, to practice more consistently, and research more tips and techniques.

My goal is to meditate for 10 minutes every morning to start my day off feeling light and happy. I’d also like to use meditation as a tool in specific situations that stress me out or make me feel angry, to calm myself down and look at whatever the situation is in a more positive light. As I move forward in this journey of practicing meditation I will share with you the techniques I try, which ones work best for me, and if I see a change in my overall mood. For the next week my goal is to meditate each morning using the counting breath technique. If meditation is something you have wanted to try, I invite you to try the techniques I try each week and tell me how they work for you. I would also be interested in tips and techniques from all of you since this all new to me. I can’t wait to share this new journey with you!