Challenge #4: Meditate - 2
Monday, October 15
The research-happy part of me is finding it tricky to settle in with just the three meditation teachers I’ve found, powerful though they are. I’m even more curious about the benefits of meditation and guided imagery and want to understand a bit more about what all the fuss is about, especially now that I’m working meditation into my daily routine. I’m certainly benefiting from my newfound quietude, but I know that no small part of realizing the commitment has been reporting it to you, dear reader. Left to my own devices, I might have fallen off the zen bandwagon sometime during Week One.
Here are some of the benefits I found in a 20-minute online search that mostly consisted of the websites of my gurus, Sharon Salzberg , Belleruth Naparstek , and Headspace : Meditation can heighten the ability to focus, combat insomnia, normalize blood pressure, increase the volume of breast milk for moms of preemies (wow), quell nightmares for kids, curb cravings, and slow the progression of HIV (I mean, this is powerful). Oh, and you may have heard about the impact meditation can have on daily stress and worry .
In summary, why aren’t we all doing this every day?! I’m starting to believe meditation breaks should be mandatory during work and school days.
Tuesday, October 16
I’m all jazzed up from the presidential debate and am finding it hard to calm myself, settle down, and let go of the political mumbo jumbo flying through my head. It seems like the perfect evening to use Naparstek’s guided imagery for my meditation session.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about guided imagery vs. plain ol’ meditation in my 2+ weeks into this: When something is really going through my head and I know that thoughts are going to bombard my meditation session, it’s better for me to use guided imagery. Guided imagery is exactly as it sounds: It guides you through a gentle, meditative period using music and pleasing, tender mental images. It’s like a bubble bath for your brain.
Wednesday, October 17
All of this awareness and focus on my thoughts, my physical body, and my breath has had an interesting side effect: I’m feeling a bit less distracted. Aside from the times when I’m with my children (motherhood is the mother of all fragmenting thoughts—good grief!) I’ve gained a sense of presence and attentiveness.
Example: I was standing in the hallway at work, talking over an issue with a co-worker, when a group passed by us and I heard someone say hello to me. Previously, I would have been tempted to respond, ask about her day, let her know I’d seen an email from her and would reply that afternoon, and so on. Now, the idea of literally carrying on two conversations simultaneously seems both unnecessary and extremely rude to the person that I was first talking to. So I stayed 100% present. I felt more focused and clear on what we decided. And I’m sure he was glad I didn’t subject him to an unnecessary side conversation, which would have demanded vague head-nodding and mm-hmming as he obligingly agreed to comment on an unrelated project or the weather.
If nothing else, a real sense of presence is a wonderful outcome of this meditation challenge.
Thursday, October 18
“Remember, it’s not thinking about the sensation, it’s simply being aware of the feeling.” Wise words from Andy Puddicombe of Headspace . He talks a lot in his meditations about scanning the body for areas of comfort, stress, relaxation, and tension. Maybe your shoulders feel tight, but your legs are loosey-goosey (my term, not his). He says it’s worth noting, but not dwelling on, where you hold stress and anxiety and where you hold comfort and ease. I’m finding it interesting that when I do his suggested body scans in each meditation, I actually do find nooks and crannies of absolute peace. As someone who was drawn to meditation to counter panic attacks, I find it enormously reassuring that my body does actually hold on to pockets of serenity. Who knew?
Friday, October 19
Salzberg has a wonderful section in her book about “everyday activity meditations.” Whether it’s washing the dishes, folding the laundry, or brushing your teeth, our activities that require no active attention tend to become mindless. Salzberg recommends bringing mindfulness back to these actions. Her example: drinking tea. For every action in the process, really take note of the entire sensory experience. Feel the weight of the tea kettle as it fills with water, listen to the whistle as the kettle boils, watch the steam rise and curl upon pouring your mug full, really smell and enjoy the aroma, and, of course, savor the taste of the tea. Instead of dashing back and forth across my kitchen to clean, monitor the cat, or check my phone for email, how about I take the time required to enjoy some delicious Earl Grey tea? It’s a worth a shot.
The slowness of this tea-drinking-mindfulness task took me by surprise. Start to finish, it was maybe a five-minute ordeal, but by being completely focused on it, the time expanded—almost into boredom, I must confess. It got me thinking, though: If bringing attention to making and drinking tea could make time swell in such a way, perhaps there are hidden time pockets in more activities. Perhaps I could make my days longer, and fuller, just by paying attention! I’m going to add this to my short, yet growing, list of breakthroughs in the meditation arena.
An Associate Editor at The Daily Muse, Kelly is a book-reading, tea-drinking, vegetarian-eating momma who will be down-dogging until the end of time. She has designed cell phones, reported to the Pentagon and amassed quite a ridiculous amount of wine knowledge, but prefers to focus her energy on writing, her five pets, and dark chocolate. When she’s not standing on her head, you can find this Midwestern girl playing house in her 100-year-old home and trying new recipes that may or may not work out, aspiring to convince one and all that she is a true domestic goddess at heart.More from this Author