A conversation between me and Italian.
Me: I have meditated for 30 days in a row! Italian: That’s great! Me: Do I seem more enlightened? Italian: No. Me: No? (in disappointed tone) Italian: No. But when you fall asleep, you start to levitate.
I have been running away from meditation for a very long time. It was woo-woo, and touchy feely, and no way I was going to sit in one place and do nothing. I needed to produce and create, and be productive. Preferably, twenty four hours a day. Now, if I could only hack sleep!
When I was a teenager, I remember reading a sci-fi short story, where a man invents a pill that allows him not to sleep. In the story, he eventually gets bored and lonely being up at all hours of the night, so he stops taking the pill. What a fool, I thought to myself. If only I could get my hands on that pill. [Yes, yes, I know there ARE pills like that now. Sort of. No, thanks.]
It is now years later, and I feel like I have been running after meditation for a while. It just wouldn’t stick. I felt like I was trying to quit smoking – one failed attempt after another, after another. I’d do it for a day, and quit. Feel bad about myself for a while. Try again – last two days. Then a week. Then nothing for a month. Again and again.
Finally, I decided the unthinkable. I was not going to commit to anything – I was just going to do five minutes whenever I felt like it.
So I did five minutes, and then did not meditate for a week. But in a week, I did it again. Then nothing for week and a half. Then another five minute session. Then I meditated two days in a row, and another long break. Then I meditated twice in one week. Three days in a row. Then nothing.
It has now been 30 days in a row. I do not plan to stop any time soon, but if I will, I’ll just do what I have done. Do it again whenever I feel like it.
So far I’ve felt like it almost every day. And the days when I have not felt like it, I shrugged and did it anyway. It was only five minutes.
Slowly, slowly, I am aiming to just stop running, and let meditation come to me. And it has been doing just that. When I have a panic attack on a plane, when I am lost in the middle of a busy city square.
Life often gets in the way of whatever new behavior we are seeking to incorporate. Yet… if you make it small enough, life will not pull you away.
With just five minutes of meditation, it does not matter if I am travelling or not, sleeping in my house or not, going to bed late or not, have my app handy or not. I can do it anyway, do it later in the day, do it without my phone, do it.
The same applies to physical movement – establishing a habit of exercise is something that many people struggle with. Yet there is an assumption that your workout has to follow a structured program and last at least an hour. It may indeed look that way some day. But, chances are, that day is not here yet. And today, you can just go for a walk, just do ten squats, or five push-ups.
It doesn’t feel like much. Just like a five minute meditation. And that’s ok. It’s not supposed to. The goal is not to break personal records or achieve enlightenment. The goal is to establish a habit, a practice. If all goes well, you and I will be here for a while. Why hurry?
I am plugging along with my five minutes for now. Some days, it’s ten minutes, or even twelve. I am not committing to anything though. I know better than to scare myself like that. ????
Here are few things I learned (and things that I seem to keep learning, and keep needing to re-learn):
Progress is slow. Progress is hard to define. Little things matter. Environment matters. You need to make it easy for yourself – whatever that means for you.
The above five things apply to ANY habit you are trying to form, of course. Try them with anything from eating healthier to moving more. Yep, they work.
If meditation is your thing, chances you already have a tool (or no tool) that you prefer. If you are just starting to dabble, and want to learn/try more, here are few app recommendations.
4 Meditation Apps To Try
This is probably the most well known app out there. The session time is set at ten minutes. The meditation is guided. I tried it a couple of times, and could not stand the male voice in the sessions. He sounded like a psychokiller. That fact probably has more to do with the inside of my head, than the actual dude in the app – who I am sure is quite lovely, but… I moved on.
This is the one that I used for a while most. It is very simple (and free!) and it also allows you to customize the session to your preferences – you can choose any duration, and decide between a guided meditation or a simple timer. I have experimented with both guided and unguided meditations – I do both, depending on the mood. Guided meditations often make more sense in the middle of the day. And I do like the absolute still of unguided meditations first thing in the morning.
What’s unique about this one, is that it’s not technically a meditation app. Yet I have been looking for something like this. It’s a deep breathing app that helps you breathe through the belly, and not just the chest (which is where most of us breathe). And since your phone goes with you everywhere, you can use it in any situation (before a job interview? dentist appointment? date?). I would have loved to know about this one last time I was navigating through Toronto’s all-of-a-sudden overwhelming subway system.
You can use Calm.com both as an app and as a web client – just go to calm.com, and you can select your background, your sound and the meditation duration. Currently, this is my favorite app.
I have purchased an annual subscription in order to have access to all of their guided meditations, including 7-day long courses on topics like happiness and anxiety. I also love the highly specific guided meditations for peaceful commuting, sleep and anxiety, as well as the recent addition of breathing section and bedtime stories.
Note: You get a pretty good idea of what an average person considers calming, simply by considering the different backgrounds that the apps offer.
White sandy beach. Nope, just reminds me of all-inclusive vacations. Being under water? No, thank you. Sky and clouds – a little too heaven-y. Moving across the water – too many questions: why am i moving? am I flying? what am I flying on? a broom? a bird? Sun moving through the clouds felt like a political trailer from the 1950s – I constantly waited for the nuclear mushroom to appear. Close-up of flowing water was just trippy. The blue shimmery things falling down look way too much like snow. I liked the field with grass and flowers. I liked the orange falling down glitter though with instrumental soundtrack. The green sunny stuff is awesome. Looks like what you might see if you try to look at the sun through a leaf.
Ok, I clearly have way too much time on my hands.
Off to meditate. Maybe.
P.S. When all fails, and it’s one of THOSE days, do this: