My 100 day Meditation Goal-
My yoga teacher always said “you are only ever one breath away from calm”. But to be honest… I didn’t really understand this. I had spent my entire life breathing but yet I was still an anxious mess. Was I missing the memo here? Or worse, was I breathing incorrectly? And what was the big deal about meditation? But this year I thought I was going to put this saying to the test. That’s right, I was going to become one of these people who meditated.
The people who meditate- you know the type. These are the same people who seem to all get up at 5am daily to drink lemon water and go for a run. Now, I have never seen myself as one of these super-humans, and my 7 daily alarms in the morning would attest to this. However, how hard could meditating be?
And so I set myself I challenge. I was going to meditate every single day for 100 days. No excuses, no breaks. I was not going to break my streak.
So why did I do all of this?
Quite simply, I wanted to see what would happen. I had heard all these crazy claims about meditation, and I wanted to test these out. Would I have some wild epiphanies? Would I become Mega-Brain? Or would I even achieve serenity and peace for my entire life?
Now, *PLOT TWIST*, unsurprisingly none of the above happened. However, I can finally say that I understand what my yoga teacher was saying.
My calm had arrived.
So what is Meditation?
Meditation had always been a bit of a mystery to me. With so many different types of meditation it becomes difficult to work out what it even is. Between walking meditation, chanting, mantras, different breathing techniques and guided meditations it can all get a bit confusing. But the common thread between all of the above is the act of breathing and being present.
Meditation in its simplest form is paying attention to your breathing, and through this, we become present.
Yes you heard me right, you sit there and breathe. Ta-daaa!
We are not focusing on what happened in the day, or what is on our to do list. We are just focusing on the current sensations of our body. The air inhaling through our nose, deep into our lungs and our bellies expand, and the feeling of release as we breathe out.
Common Frustrations with Meditation
I know that a lot of people find meditation frustrating and end up more stressed out than when they began. And this is a really common occurence at the beginning of any meditation journey. I remember thinking that it was essential that I had an ‘empty’ mind, and so as soon as a thought popped into my head, I would get so annoyed. I was trying to ‘meditate’ but my brain was just not obeying.
However I had misunderstood what meditation is all about. Meditation is not about completely emptying our mind, but really it is just about shifting our focus to the present. It is completely natural that random thoughts will pop up when we are meditating. This is an inevitability and it means our brain in working.
However, the important thing here is just to return to our original focus. We can let the thoughts pass through our brains. When this happens to me I like to imagine each thought is a stone, and they pass by I pick them up and plop them into a massive lake until they sink to the very bottom. We observe that we have the thought, but we do not judge ourselves or the thought itself, we just on meditating. This returning to your focus, to the present, is the act of meditation itself.
So now on the good stuff…what happened during these 100 days of meditation?
1. It gave me greater emotional intelligence
Whenever distracting outside thoughts would enter my mind during meditation I always said the same thing to myself; ‘Hi thought, I see you there, and I acknowledge you, but I am meditating right now so I will think about you later’. It wasn’t ever about denying thoughts, or saying that certain thoughts were wrong. But it was about allowing myself peace from those thoughts in that particular moment.
And this lesson is probably the best thing I have taken from meditation.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, sometimes intrusive anxious thoughts can feel overwhelming and unescapable. It makes being inside your own head difficult. I used to feel completely controlled by this thinking. When I woke up and felt anxious, I knew I was going to feel like that all day. It was something beyond my control, and I just had to wait it out till I felt better.
But now I feel in control. I can acknowledge these anxious thoughts for what they are, and I have a choice about what I do with them. Like I have practised doing with my distracting thoughts during meditation, I can say ‘I see you but I chose not to focus on you’.
It has given me the choice of how I respond. I can choose to ruminate on a thought for hours and hours, or I can simply say not today, I don’t want to think about that.
Put simply, I cannot control what happens, but I can control my reactions to it.
And this greater control over our reactions is not just applicable to our thinking, but also our everyday actions. By applying this skills that meditation gives us, it becomes easier to take a step back, take a deep breathe, and plan how we respond to things a little better.
It is all to easy to live in a reactive world where we immediately reply angrily to a shitty email, or we allow our road rage to take over until we are shouting to ourselves in the car. However, by taking a breathe and assessing what has happened, it frees us from acting reactively. This buffer between the event and our response has given us the choice to decide how we want to react, and what we want the outcome to be. In essence these meditative qualities give us better emotional intelligence.
2. It put me in a better mood
Have you ever woken up but you still feel like you are dreaming? And did you know that your brain is the most malleable in the morning? This is because our brain is still waking up and is still slightly in the subconscious state that we experience when we are dreaming.
Now maybe you are thinking, this is all well and good but why is this relevant to meditation?
Well, before this challenge I used to wake up like many of us do. I turned on my phone, surfed the web and checked social media. So, the first thing I was seeing in my malleable brain state was a new celebrity being cancelled each day, or a new scandal. My brain was absorbing all this negativity, all this fear and this anger and it was confounding itself into my anxious state.
I felt like shit because I was feeding my brain shit.
So instead, I decided I would wake up in the morning and meditate before I looked at any social media. My brain was still as malleable, but now I was filling it with positivity and with calm.
My morning meditation has become a bit of an anchor. On the mornings where I haven’t meditated I can feel it. I feel more agitated, more snappy, more anxious. And I am not saying meditation will make you super happy 100% of the time- no way! However, it does help me start the day on the right foot. I begin my days feeling calm, and hopeful and peaceful. Meditation optimises my day.
And I know, if I feel stressed or angry at any point in the rest of the day, I can always take a step back and meditate. It is a tool that is always there for me to help balance my mood.
3. I slept better
As well as doing a 10 minute morning meditation, I also started practising a 10 minute meditation just before I went to bed. I had always struggled with sleeping but these meditations really helped me nod off in minutes!
This is due to 2 things. Firstly, meditation encourages deep breathing. This deep breathing sends signals to our brain that we are calm. And as our brain receives these signals, it then sends signals ot the rest of our body that we can relax. Our shoulders drop, our legs feel heavy, our pulse slows down. These are all sensations that all happen when we sleep and therefore, unsurprisingly, this makes us feel sleepy.
Secondly, meditation before bed allowed me to de-stress before I closed my eyes and hit the pillow. It is not new news that stress has adverse effects on the quality and quantity of our sleep. And this is why it is so important that we go to bed in a calm state. By meditating before I went to bed I was able to sleep deeper, better, and have less stress induced nightmares*.
*you know those horrifically vivid nightmares where you realise you have forgotten to wear trousers to work.
4. I have better insight.
I have come to think of meditation as spring cleaning. When my house is messy I feel a low nagging level of stress, like I cant quite relax, and nothing is where I put it. But when I clean it, I can breathe a sigh of relief. Nothing is staring at me from the corner or my eye, and I can finally find my missing glasses. And this is kind of what meditation feels like for my mind.
Often times when our mind is racing we can become so distracted by the noise that we lose sight of the solution. A bit like my glasses in a messy house. However, when we give ourselves time to stop, clean and reorder, things all become a bit clearer.
Now, I have had no great epiphanies meditating, nor have I ‘found myself’ or whatever these ‘gurus’ are selling nowadays. However, very occasionally when I am meditating a little thought will pop up. Like a teeny tiny lightbulb in torch keyring. And something has just clicked. I see a new way of looking at something, or I realise a solution I previously could not see. I have found my glassesg
Was 100 Days of Meditation Worth It?
I am so glad I gave meditation a chance. It has become a non-negotiable in my life. No matter what I have to do that day, or how busy my schedule is I make sure I make time to meditate. It has become my ‘me-time’, where I can return to myself and just focus on my own inner peace for 10 minutes. My meditation is my self-care. It is my gift to myself.
And this is why meditation is an essential part of my Mental Health ToolKit as discussed on my post here.
When I used to think of meditation I pictured a bearded man in the lotus positions floating, so you know, something casual we can all do. But after the 100 days I can tell you it is nothing like this. It is at times frustrating, and joyful, and sleep-inducing, and peaceful, and inspiring, and all of the above. Meditation is nothing like I had imagined, and yet it is so much more.
Song of the Day
Todays Song of the Day is Surf by Mac Miller-
If you liked this blog post and want to read more why not check out some of my previous posts?