TRY: Pt. 2 Month of Meditation
It is half way through the month of April which means that it is half way through my second experiment: The Month of Meditation.
For the first 2 weeks of April I have meditated every day except April 13th and 14th. This last week was an extremely busy week and after missing those two days of meditation I was surprised to find how stressed out I felt. I felt like my anxiety had been turned on high and was coursing through my body non-stop. As soon as I got back into daily meditation, I noticed a huge difference. It was easier to breathe again and my levels of stress were more manageable.
In these past few weeks I have worked on building skills for quieting the mind, focus, and for noticing how my body is feeling. There are two techniques that I find super helpful when you are feeling anxious or stressed out. The first is deep slow breathing where you breathe in for 5 counts, hold for 5 counts, and breathe out for 5 counts. This technique will make you let go of your worries by focusing on your own breathe and the sensations that come with it. The second technique is sitting still, closing your eyes, and doing a body scan. The body scan is a technique for quieting the mind by focusing on different areas of your body and noticing the little things and feelings that pop up in each area. You start at the top of your head and work your way slowly down to your toes, and then scan back up to your head again. These techniques are great for when you start to feel a bit anxious or stressed out about something. I use them when I start to notice that fluttery panic feeling. I take a moment to sit with my body, relax into it, and breathe or do a body scan. Little moments like this have decreased my overall stress levels a lot. It feels so amazing!
At half way through my Month of Meditation, I have found that I use the Calm app the most. I am really enjoying the guided meditations because the guide's voice offers a point of focus. Having a point to focus on while meditating makes it easier to keep your mind from wandering. I am also really enjoying the bits of advice that are offered in the guided meditations. I use the free version of the Calm app. In this version you can choose from different white noise backgrounds, and you can access the first day of each of the guided meditation programs. There is also calming music that can help you fall asleep, and what is called “Sleep Stories” which are 45 minute bedtime stories for adults. The free version is great. There is a ton of content that you can access, and you can listen to the first day of the guided meditation programs as much as you like. The guided meditations are like training wheels, you won't need them forever but they are a great starting point for learning to sit still and focus. You can get a lot of value out of listening to each of the guided meditations more than once. When starting out, I had a hard time focusing my attention solely on the meditations and my breathing. I have found that listening to the guided meditation programs more than once helps to better absorb the content and increase focus each time.
I see meditation as becoming an integral part of my life after this Month of Meditation experiment finishes. At half way through the month I have already experienced the difference that 10 - 20 minutes a day of focus and stillness can offer your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being and I can’t wait to see how much more it will help me to manage stress and live with more focus.
Tips for making meditation more effective:
Put your phone on silent! When I do guided meditations, I am using the Calm app on my phone and there have been a few times where I forgot to put it on silent. Nothing is worse than a ding or a buzz pulling you out of your practice while you are learning to focus and quiet your mind.
Use an accountability partner. My boyfriend and I text each other every day asking "Have you meditated today?" It is super effective for keeping each other accountable to our own practices. An accountability partner is also great for talking about any unfamiliar or uncomfortable emotions and questions that come up during your practice.
Don't stress about it. Sometimes when you are trying to change a habit uncomfortable feelings and resistance will surface and try to stop you from making the change. This resistance can stress you out even more or make it feel like you aren't making enough progress. Then you get stuck in a loop of feeling stressed out because it isn't working the way you thought it would, which stresses you out even more. It spirals and you either end up in a panic or decide it isn't worth it and quit. I've been there and it can seem like a tough place to get out of. Sometimes though, you have to surrender to all the fears (because that is what is hidden behind the resistance) and do the thing. So sit down, let go of the idea that you need to be totally still and have zero thoughts during this meditation practice, and just witness yourself and your body. Keep doing that every day for 7 days. Notice how you feel after every daily practice and what fears or uncomfortableness came up. Compare your feelings from Day 1 to Day 7. Do you feel a bit more comfortable with your meditation practice? Has it started to become something that your body craves? Be gentle with yourself and it will get easier.
To the quiet times.