For years, I’d been told by all manner of people: ‘You should try meditation.’
And several times, I’d given it a go via:
- The Headspace app.
- Guided meditation programs.
- Meditation classes.
I tried all of them and none of them ‘worked’ for me. In the end I decided ‘Running is my meditation,’ and since I ran pretty much every day … I was meditating every day. Right?
Then a few things happened all at once that changed my thinking on meditation:
- I listened to Dan Harris (who wrote 10% Happier) on a podcast (he was a cynical news anchor who had a panic attack live on air and meditation changed his life).
- My anxiety ramped up to crippling levels and I heard from a number of people that daily meditation was a non-negotiable for people with anxiety.
- I had a conversation with Brooke, my Let It Be podcast co-host on the topic.
The conversation with Brooke was the real game-changer. She mentioned most people undertake meditation thinking two things:
- It involves completely emptying the mind and if you can’t empty your mind of thought, you’re doing it wrong.
- It makes you feel amazing in the moment.
These are the reasons I’d never felt meditation ‘worked’ for me.
I’d spend the whole time I was meditating feeling frustrated at my inability to ’empty my mind’.
And I certainly never finished any session of meditation feeling amazing!
After chatting with Brooke I changed my approach:
- I set the bar low with regard to time. Instead of telling myself ‘If it’s not a 20-minute meditation it’s pointless’, I gave myself permission to do as little as two minutes. The only thing I mandated was I had to do it every day.
- I meditated to music. Some people like guided meditations. I hate them. I don’t like people telling me what to do (!!). So I found some music I liked and meditated to that. (A favourite was the Pentatonix cover of Hallelujah … but I also found some nice meditation music in the Insight Timer app.)
- I stopped trying to clear my head of thoughts. Instead, I noticed they were there, but didn’t engage with them. When I didn’t engage with them, they floated on by.
- I stopped aiming to feel like the Dalai Lama-like whenever I finished.
And finally, meditation began to ‘work’ for me.
It certainly didn’t happen overnight (it took over six weeks from memory), but eventually, I began to notice more calm in my days.
Practically speaking, what did this look like?
In challenging moments, instead of losing my temper or running from the challenge (my usual approach), I found I was better able to sit in the moment and … observe.
Take a second.
Be a little less reactive.
That ability to ‘take a second’ when experiencing anger, frustration and the like? It’s saved me a lot of time, (time cleaning up from thoughtless comments or actions I regret).
Meditation has also dulled the power uncomfortable feelings wield over my life. I now experience less anxiety, overthinking and stress because I’m able to sit with uncomfortable thoughts instead of trying to ‘do something’ with them, (interrogate them, run from them or rationalise them away).
If you’ve tried meditation in the past and decided it’s not for you, might it be time to re-visit it in light of the two things Brooke pointed out to me?
Just take it slowly and approach the experience with an open mind. You might be surprised at what you find 🙂
If you’d like some support or instruction around tackling meditation again – feel free to join the Better Than Yesterday group here (it’s free). We’ve been tackling a series of mini ‘make life better’ habits challenges over the course of the year and our next challenge (starting Monday 18th September) is a 21-day meditation challenge.
Know someone who’s keen to try meditation too? Why not share this post with them 🙂