I have been practicing some form of meditation since the beginning of 2015. It has been part of my #ResponsiveResolutions (12 monthly resolutions instead of 1 yearly) project, which I’ve regretfully not been consistently blogging about. On the topic of meditation though, I’ve learned a lot about my own personal practice and about myself in general. It’s an interesting topic and journey, and it is something I think everyone could benefit from. Here’s what a typical Q&A conversation goes like.
Why did you start?
To be honest, I started exploring the topic because of the hype I’ve read about it. It seems like every successful business executive to entrepreneur attributes some level of their success to daily meditation. A little bit of curiosity and some research later, I was in…and hooked. As I mentioned in the intro, every month I am exploring a new ‘habit’ to modify. This was a habit that would also strengthen my (desired) habit of waking up earlier and investing in myself.
What are you learning?
There are three major learnings that I have gathered from this journey. Absolutely most critical: you need to make meditation a ritual. You also can’t expect it to be perfect out of the gate and, journaling can help you learn about yourself and adapt meditation to be more successful for you.
Make it a Ritual
First things first was to figure out ‘when’ I could find the time to meditate. I thought about doing a mid-day meditation…trying to break the stress of the day in half. I quickly concluded that this would be a hard ritual to keep. My next choice would be to do it in the morning. At the time, my morning rituals would consist of sleeping until 7am, helping get the kids up, feeding the pets, showering and taking off for rush hour traffic. I knew if I tried to fit in even 15 minutes of quiet time for myself — it likely wouldn’t work either. Luckily I was already keeping a monthly resolution to get up early (5am). Meditation felt like a perfect way to help strengthen that ritual and also give it purpose. Obviously, 5am isn’t required for this. Setting your morning alarm for 20 minutes earlier is all that would be needed.
Shoot First, Then Aim and Adjust
My research warned me there was no ‘right way’ to meditate. It’s a little bit of the old saying “you get what you put in”. Unfortunately, this means a little trial and error and some patience is required. It will take some time to find out what works for you. So, you should go in with a commitment of at least a couple weeks. Experiment a little. First try to force yourself to think about nothing. Focusing only on breathing is a good way to do this. Also, experiment with thinking about just one thing. In both cases, as your mind might wander, bring it back to your focus.
Write About It
I wrote another post completely dedicated to Journaling. I think this is absolutely critical. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy saga about the experience. It could just be a few sentences in a Field Notes notebook or anywhere for that matter. I like small physical notebooks because they are simple and can go anywhere with me. Write about what you are thinking after meditation. This will help you tune in to the output of the meditation. Something quick and dirty, no more than 5 minutes time. Also, very important: always re-read your written thoughts…often. This will help you discover about yourself and will help you fine-tune your practices.
Specifically, What do you think about?
This is the #1 question, but I saved it for last. Every day is a little different for me. Some days, I just want to “stop thinking”. I wake up and my mind instantly starts going. A colleague of mine often says, “sometimes you need to slow down to speed up”. This slow-down practice helps me enter the day, usually with a journaling session, with clear mind. Other days, I want to focus on a specific topic. Usually, I’m trying to drill something into my head or explore that topic for alternative ideas. For example, I may focus my session entirely on how I need to be more patient in my life. Or, how I am going to deliver difficult feedback to a family member. Another day, I might just think about what I NEED to get done for the day. In any of the cases, I have learned to enter my meditation session with a specific goal in mind.
Big Take Aways
Be intentional about using your “me” time. No matter what you do during your “meditation”, it will benefit you best if you set goals, dedicate time to think (or not think) about it and measure your progress along the way.