For years I struggled to begin and stick with a formal meditation practice. It was as if the gravitational pull was moving away from my meditation space rather than into it. And then 365 days ago, that changed.
Lying on the massage table a client told me, “I just finished 365 days of consecutive meditation.” If this person with two toddlers and a business to run could do this, I really didn’t have all the good excuses my brain had been making. So I began.
I meditated sitting, standing, lying down, and walking. I meditated on planes and in cars. I meditated in the morning and in the afternoon and in the evening, and at night. I meditated for one minute and I meditated for three hours (all in one day, but not all at once!). I meditated through illness, road trips, family visits, and moving homes. I meditated sober and I meditated after a glass of wine. I meditated when I was happy, sad, tired, bored, excited, sleepy, caffeinated, hot, cold, angry, loving, and every other emotion one might feel in a year.
Meditation is often touted for its near magical healing properties. Did, by meditating every day for a year, I magically become a better human whose life started falling perfectly into place making this my best year ever? Did I become someone who was ever calm, rational and able to practice equanimity in every moment? Nope, not really. In fact, last year was probably one of the more challenging years of my life. BUT (and this is pretty important) I did stay present to myself and those who needed me the most and by meditating every day for the year, I kept a promise to truly take care of myself.
365 days and here is what I can tell you:
1. Noticing that once you sit down your mind starts racing is the point, not the problem. So often clients, friends, and family tell me, “My mind is too busy, there is no use in me meditating.” That’s the point. Sit down, follow your breath, and notice the mind. Sometimes you give the mind something to focus on, others you simply sit with an open awareness.
2. Meditating in the morning is 1000% easier than any other time of day. In the morning I easily have time for 12-15 minutes (although I’ve read the 20 is ideal). Which days did I meditate for only one minute? The days I thought I was too busy and it got to be the moment when dinner was in the oven, the table was set, and veggies were sautéing on the stove. I found that although the number of minutes in each day is the same I had more “time” for meditation if I practiced in the mornings.
3. One minute is not “less than”. Often the days when I felt I could only spare one minute to meditate I experienced the most powerful shifts. In a day full of rushing, doing, and movement even sixty seconds of stillness and tuning into the breath created an immediate contrast and shift in my nervous system that allowed me to be aware of my movement and my stillness and within that awareness to get grounded and be present.
4. Being gentle with yourself is important. It took me 10 years to get here so I needed to make this goal both a challenge and doable. I did not commit to any particular length of time or any kind of meditation. I counted any day that I made a conscious choice to meditate whether that was in silence or to a guided meditation, sitting or walking, before the sun came up or after the sun went down.
5. Apps help. I am often a technophobe and am known to lecture on why we should all put down our phones and take a much-needed tech break, but at this moment I have to say, get a meditation app! In the months before I committed to starting this 365-day challenge, I had done a few rounds of 10 days or 30 days and one of the hardest parts was remembering in the evening whether I had meditated that particular day. In the same seat, with the same posture, every morning and the sessions can start to blur together. So the day I started this challenge I downloaded Insight Timer (https://insighttimer.com/) and let it do all the tracking for me. Helpful and super motivating as you see the days add up!
6. It’s still not easy. BUT meditating it is not nearly as hard as it was when I started (372 days ago and counting…)
An invitation: Come join me! Sit, stand, lie down, or walk. Set a timer for 15 minutes, 60 minutes, or 1 minute. All alone or amidst a crowd of people. Eyes open or eyes closed. Let your awareness turn to your breath and try simply following each inhale in, and each exhale out. Then notice when your mind starts to wander. When you notice thoughts and distractions coming up - you are doing it just right. Come back to the breath again. And again.
When the timer goes off thank yourself for making the time to practice. Repeat tomorrow… And the next day… And the next after that…Tell me how you feel after 3 days, a week, a month, and maybe even a year….