Reader Aaron Friedly meditates for 30 minutes a day and firmly believes in it’s many benefits. He says that by learning to be an observer of our internal chaos we can take major strides in living a much more pleasant and happy life. He cannot imagine his life without meditation.
It brings clarity, calm and self-knowledge. It can be very difficult in the beginning, but this is a clear indication that there is a deep need for this practice. Pretty soon, it becomes apparent that everything in life can be a form of meditation: walking, surfing, driving, working, writing. It is all about coming back into the moment and observing without reacting. This is simple yet powerful, and is unequivocally life changing.
As we predicted, meditation does not come naturally in the beginning. For starters, when meditating first thing in the morning I found it difficult differentiating between sleepy time and meditation time.
Additionally, while I made an effort to avoid distractions, distractions didn’t make quite the same effort to avoid me. Take my kitten for example, who decided to smash some glassware in the next room while I was meditating. The sounds of glass shattering and a whimpering cat were impossible to ignore, and after cleaning up the mess, it was all I could think about. I initially let my anger get the better of me, but in the end I was able to accept the reality for what it was. In the end, I think I came out all the better from the ordeal.
Several readers who tried the habit challenge also experienced difficulty. Reader Julia Opferman, a medical writer and registered nurse, found that five minutes felt like an eternity when meditating.
After dropping her daughters off to their high school she attempted to squeeze in 15 minutes of meditation in the school parking lot. She focused on her breathing, and when she noticed herself focusing on the traffic whizzing by, she refocused her attention on her breathing.
But she said that suddenly, for no apparent reason, she could no longer focus:
I heard other cars pulling into the parking lot. I heard voices taking. I heard birds. Trucks. And my nose itched. My stomach grumbled. I struggled mightily to hang on to the simple “in and out.”
Opferman says she was sure her timer would soon set her free, but when she opened her eyes, only five minutes had passed.
While this has been her one and only attempt so far, Opferman says she will try again–eventually.
“I do think that for a few brief moments I felt something. Or I felt nothing, which might be the point,” she says. “Less is more in our crazy, over-stimulating world.”
Reader and mindfulness coach Meg Salter offers some tips for more mindful meditation that I found to be pretty effective:
Have a purpose.
Know what is driving you to start meditating. What specific itch are you trying to scratch? Where does it hurt? Try to name these discomforts quite specifically. Knowing what you are worried about is a lot better than a general feeling of stress.
Imagine what better might look like.
While you might not achieve it, it helps to have an idea of what you want to achieve. Consider goals like “I’d like to not blurt out so much in my conversations” or “I’d like to savor my food and really taste it.”
Pick a method.
There are many available. Focusing on your breath is one. You can pick anything as the object of your meditation. Try also: focusing on your body while you work out, while you walk down the hall, or perform other daily rituals.
Make time in your schedule.
Make it for the same time every day if you can. A little bit of time done regularly is better than longer times once in a while.
Be it from friends or family, meditate with a buddy, checking in daily on how it’s going. Find an online group. You are not alone. You can also get support from online apps, CDs, or other ways to anchor your method solidly.
Be prepared for windows and walls.
Plan ahead for challenging days and how you might respond. If you fall off the wagon, just get back on again and don’t beat yourself up about it.
Be kind to yourself.
This is all about getting to know yourself from the inside out. The more you accept the experience as just an experience and greet it openly, the faster the bad bits will fall away.
Do it on the run.
You can pay attention to your breath, your muscle tone (or aches) while you work out, at yoga, while running–any sport or game will be potentiated when you add a “mental game” component to it. Doing this simple add-on could easily take your total meditation time from 15 minutes to much more.
Remember that meditation is a marathon, not a sprint.
You don’t brush your teeth for a few days only; you do it forever so you have teeth forever. Likewise, if you want to keep using it, you should be exercising your mind forever. Start small, build slowly, ease up on yourself, and add a dose of humor for good luck.
While making the time to meditate and embracing the fact that life is full of distractions is no easy feat, this is a habit that I think I’ll try to keep. I plan to continue to meditate for at least 20 minutes a day–for sanity’s sake.