My next 7 day lifestyle experiment was to give 7 days of meditation a go. I’ve always found meditation hard. My mind wanders so much and it was a real effort to try and quiet my mind.
But I want some of its purported benefits such as improved concentration and focus, increased creativity, and overall mental happiness.
I got a week-long free trial to use Calm Premium, a meditation app and found a 30 day course called How To Meditate by Jeff Warren.
The course is guided and narrated by Jeff. I sat in a chair and relaxed my face and different parts of my body with each exhale and tried to view my thoughts as things that just happened and not to get frustrated when they came and when I got distracted by them. By distracted, I mean that I got carried away by them. If I started thinking about lunch, for example, I’d think about what was in the fridge, if I needed to go to the shops etc. Literally being carried away by the thoughts instead of just observing them and bringing my attention to what was going on in the moment. When I opened my eyes, I smiled involuntarily and widely. A good sign!
The second session was about establishing a ‘homebase’, which is something that you can always bring your attention back to if your mind wanders. The instructor recommends using your breath as a homebase. Watching and observing the breath in and the breath out. He likens meditation to building a mental muscle of concentraion, which is simply being able to focus your attention on what you want to focus on.
I also did a ‘Love and Kindness’ meditation session on the app, which gets you to feel love and kindness to yourself, then to direct that feeling to someone you feel affection towards, and finally to direct this to the world.
Both times, when I opened my eyes, I felt relaxed and peaceful.
The third session of How To Meditate in the Calm app is about ‘popping out of your thoughts’ in the same way as if you were in a Greyhound bus and you hopped out and sat in a chair next to the highway and watched Greyhounds pass by. You establish your ‘homebase’ (as in Day 2 above) and when you notice yourself caught up in a thought, just return your attention to your homebase. My homebase was my breath again and it felt like I had a stronger sense of my breath or a greater connection to what it was that I was focusing on (a bit vague I know but it’s hard to explain!)
Today’s session was all about developing ‘equanimity’, or as Jeff explained ‘feeling a sense of smoothness’. Not focusing too hard on your homebase or even on concentrating on the meditation itself. Just giving everything the gentlest of your attention.
Days 5, 6, 7
It felt easier to just focus on my homebase (my breath) and to quickly connect with it. I can just close my eyes and focus gently on my breath. Breathing in, breathing out. Feeling the breath on the way in through the nostrils, feeling my stomach expand and my chest raise, and my head moving upwards at the end of the breath in. And on the way out, the way my belly and shoulders fall.
What changes have I noticed?
Nothing really yet. I’m happy that I’ve enjoyed the sessions throughout the week. The Calm app is really easy to use and the instructor is someone that I could relate to. The sessions are well-planned and definitely not repetitive. I think I’ll have to do this for 30 days to really see what changes daily meditation could bring. I’ll report back in a few weeks!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried meditation and what it did for you!