I love meditation. I find the simplicity of the act beautiful. I love that there's no right way to do it, and I also love that it's transportable. I can meditate anywhere: on the subway, an airplane, my living room, even in the bathroom during a loud family function if I need to (and sometimes, I really, really need to!)
But, as is the case with many things that are good for me, I tend to avoid meditation until I really feel the need. And the fact of the matter is, I am a person who "needs" to meditate on a regular basis. My natural state is one of constant on-the-go-ness, and my mind likes to follow suit—bouncing from one idea or activity to the next, ad nauseam, until it's time for bed and I'm utterly exhausted.
I've always meant to get around to making meditation a part of my daily routine, but until this past week, this goal fell repeatedly by the wayside in lieu of other "easier" routine tasks, such as sleeping, eating, working, feeding the cat, and cleaning the bathroom (just to name a few). In short, there was something holding me back from including this incredibly important activity in my day-to-day life. What was it that kept me from engaging in this (as I've stated) simple, feel-good activity?
If I dig deep, I think the answer is plain and simple: Fear. Fear kept my meditation practice on hold. Fear of what, you ask? I think that answer is discomfort. Here's the thing: The first few minutes of meditation tends to bring up a lot of anxiety for me. I am most comfortable while doing something. I never want to waste a moment of time.
However, this past week, I decided to ignore my fear, accept whatever would arise, and begin every morning with meditation—even the mornings when I had to wake up at 5:45 a.m. to train my first client. Here's what I learned during this first week:
1. Meditating in the morning is challenging for my mind...for a few minutes.
I am, overall, a pretty happy person. I love my life, and I have tremendous gratitude for what I have. When the alarm clock goes off in the morning, I do not feel terror or dread like I used to when I was an active alcoholic. Instead, I feel very excited when I wake up. But this excitement can be overwhelming and needs grounding.
From the moment I hop out of bed, I am already thinking about all the things I want to do: shower, drink hot water with lemon, make a green smoothie, feed the cat, put in my contacts, pack food for the day, etc., etc. I feel like I already have a pretty big morning routine, and the idea of adding in meditation seemed like too much. And so, for the first few days, there were moments of discomfort (or, rather, moments I labeled as uncomfortable), and I felt frustration at sitting still, as the clock ticked and I "lost time." But once I was able to relax and let go into the meditation, this anxiety lessened, and by the end of the session, I felt much more grounded, relaxed, and in a better place to tackle whatever the universe would bring me.
2. Meditating daily allows me to be more mindful and calm throughout the day.
For my weeklong challenge, I alternated between two guided meditation apps—Headspace and Inscape. I've used Headspace a lot in the past, but I wanted to try out Inscape for variation. All of the Inscape meditations I did culminate in a minute of "connecting your inner and outer worlds," and they gently remind you that whenever the day gets hectic, you can return to your calm, meditative state, simply by checking in with yourself.
This proved to be a very effective reminder for me, and I would tap into this grounded connection several times throughout the day when I felt stressed or overly excited. It's good for me to cognitively zoom out whenever I feel the tight pangs of anxiety in my stomach, and my daily practice helped me to keep this reminder at the forefront of my brain.
3. Engaging in the practice of daily meditation is empowering.
When we challenge ourselves to do something that enhances our self-care, it brings a feeling of self-empowerment and can in turn lead us to make even more healthy choices throughout the day. Self-care is an act of self-love, and only when we take care of and love ourselves can we begin to love others fully.
4. Daily meditation makes me more compassionate.
Even though I now live right across the Hudson from Manhattan, I am still very much a New Yorker. I talk, walk, eat, and speak fast, and as such, I also have the tendency to become annoyed easily if someone inadvertently cuts me off on the sidewalk,or if I have to wait too long for a train, Uber, or bus. In short, I can be very impatient. I don't particularly care for this character defect in myself, and so I try to be mindful of it. Meditation teaches us the art of slowing down from within, and when we do so, we are able to breathe more deeply and pause before acting from a place of impatient wrath.
5. Meditation deepens my spiritual connection with the universe, and my life is much improved when I feel connected.
I have always known this, but because my meditation practice had been sporadic prior to this week, I didn't realize how important it is for me to keep this connection going, and to watch it grow. Toward the end of the week, my anxiety during the first few minutes lessened and I was more easily able to slip into the simple state of being and breathing. Through this simple task, I become more deeply aware of just how intertwined we all are, and tapping into this connection brings a feeling of unity, both within and outside of, myself.
Taking on this meditation challenge showed me a lot of things about myself and how much my mindset is influenced by outside factors. It's important for me to stay connected and open from within, and meditating daily helps keep the channel of connection between these two worlds open.
I know that I am a more complete, happy, and kind being when I meditate daily, and this allows me to handle life's challenges with aplomb. My intention is to continue putting aside my fear and reservations and keep this practice going. If you are curious about the impact meditation can have on your life, I encourage you to just start. I highly recommend using a guided meditation app if you are new to the practice, as I know there can be a lot of confusion about "how" to meditate. Both Headspace and Inscape offer free trials that are enough to get you started. Try your own one-week challenge, and you just may find (like me) that it's something you'd benefit from daily.