One morning in college, the guest speaker in my Psychology of Spirituality class was a monk. He introduced us to meditation and had us try it for 10 minutes. I quickly deemed the task impossible and only lasted 30 seconds.
For as long as I can remember, the concept of meditation made my eyes roll. I don’t have time for that. That’s boring. That’s not helpful at all because it’s just preventing me from all the things I actually need to do. I didn’t believe it could work for a person like me. Someone who’s always on the go, always talking, often (unsuccessfully) multitasking, never still.
But a few weeks ago, I decided to take on the challenge of meditating at my desk every day for one week. Because often, I feel like a top that’ll never stop spinning. And there’s so much research out there that says this could be the habit that grants me the calmness I crave. So, I thought that if I could pull this off, it could be life-changing.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t. At least not yet. But it did teach me two great lessons that I have embraced—which is a solid amount of lessons in just five days.
1. The Best Ideas Happen When You Least Expect It
For the challenge, I used Headspace, an app that walks you through short meditations. And FYI—The sessions I used were free! (But if you’re interested in doing it in a less tech way, this two-minute exercise is a good place to start.)
Each session, the Headspace guide leads you through a body scan and some breathing exercises. For most of it, you’re told to bring your focus back to your breaths when your thoughts start to get away from you. But for the last minute or so, you’re encouraged to set your mind free.
And I’m telling you—these final 60-second periods were pure gold.
Once my mind was let off the leash, it would wander to the issues I most wanted (and needed) to solve. Before I knew it—and without prodding—a solution would appear. Or, I’d at least be pushed in the right direction.
No, I didn’t solve world hunger, nor did I magically discover why the Starbucks lids always drip all over my hands. But it did help me figure out the perfect intro to an article, as well as how I wanted to tackle the project planning for all my summer projects
Often, the answers we seek are already in our heads, but we pile too much other crap on top of them to be able to see them. When I wasn’t distracted by my surroundings, when I wasn’t frantically attempting to make my ever growing to-do list smaller, my view of those solutions I so desperately sought was a whole lot clearer.
2. Start Your Day With a Clear and Focused Mind
Usually, I get to my office and dive straight into work. Time is precious, and, because I believe efficiency’s fundamental to my work-life balance, I want to check things off my list ASAP.
And while I’ve become better at not wasting the first hour in my inbox, I’m still whooshing into the office like a mini (but friendly) tornado, tackling projects with no sense of direction or purpose.
Dedicating 10 minutes to meditate helped me realize how important it is to take a beat and get myself together before charging full steam ahead. Rather than transitioning right from my commute to my responsibilities, I slowed down, closed my eyes, and turned my focus inward.
Simply the act of setting that time aside prompted me to think, “I’m doing this to settle my mind, and I want to keep building on this calming, slowing feeling.” This reminder motivated me to approach the rest of the day with care and intention.
Confession: I didn’t make this into a habit. Part of this is due to two hectic weeks of work travel and vacation. But most of it is also because habits are really hard to form, and one week isn’t long enough.
But one week was long enough to introduce me to some of its benefits. And, because I’m wondering how doing this regularly could positively impact me, I think I’ll challenge myself to do it for two more weeks. Then three, then four.
And hey, if you want to join me, know that it’s OK if your practice isn’t impeccable. Once, I completely forgot to do it until it was already 3 PM, and another time I heard my co-worker arrive, so I stopped at minute eight. This isn’t about being perfect. It’s just about feeling better.
Oh, and one more thing. I’m extremely fortunate that I have my own office. I was able to shut my door and meditate with little risk of interruption. So, for those of you who work in open spaces, yes—I acknowledge it could be weird to sit at your desk with your eyes closed.
If you don’t feel comfortable explaining to them what you’re doing, then try arriving to the office a little earlier when not many people are there yet. Or, pop into an unoccupied meeting room. Just because it’s trickier doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, you know?