Saturday, May 11, 2019

Week 19: Learn how to Meditate

A zen proverb says, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

I subscribe to a lot of blogs, newsletters and podcasts about happiness and self-improvement, and meditation comes up over and over again as a practice that can be 'life-changing' and has been proven to reduce stress, and  improve happiness.

Even though I've been resistant to the idea (Really? I'm supposed to use my precious time to NOT think?), I added "Learn how to Meditate" as goal #18 on my 60 until 60 list.

In January, there were two opportunities I found that could help me with this goal..  an Udemy class on Meditation and a free guided meditation at the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver.
I went to the 'guided' meditation and was very disappointed. I'm putting 'guided' in quotes because there really was very little guidance other than to focus on breathing. Basically, there was a beginning gong and an ending gong with 20 minutes of silence in between. Then we were free to quietly roam the museum for a short period and then another 20 minutes of meditation.  Booooring!

Even though I didn't think meditation was for me, I'd already purchased the Udemy course so decided I wouldn't consider this goal complete until I finished the entire course. Unlike the museum event, I was pleasantly surprised by the course.  Once I realized that meditation was a type of skill that would exercise my brain, I stopped thinking of it as a bad use of my time.  It was more like building emotional intelligence or an awareness and ability to control my thoughts... something I'm very interested in.

I really liked the pace of the Udemy course and learned about different types of meditations. The instructor did an excellent job and provided a lot of resources such as downloadable .mp3 files. Unlike learning a new instrument or a new language, learning how to meditate does not take constant study and is not a big time commitment in that sense. It's really pretty straight-forward, though I know it does take regular practice to gain the full benefits.

I can see how the practice of deep breathing can really help during times of stress. Meditation is a way to calm the mind and I think people who are usually described as "Type A" (like me) need it more than most people, but also resist it because it feels like we're not being 'productive.'

I have to admit, that I still want to gain the benefits of meditation but not while sitting in the traditional position. The most stressful thing in my life these days is worrying about my back. I have to do daily exercises and I've started focusing on my breathing during those exercises. For me, this makes more sense than meditating while sitting (which is NOT good for my back).  I also like doing meditation while I'm relaxing in a hot bath, enjoying the scents and sensations. And even though I haven't tried it yet, I could imagine meditating while getting a massage. By combining meditation with things I already do to relax, de-stress, and stay healthy, I feel like I'll get the benefits without the need to add another 20 minutes to my morning routine.

What worked well
  • I really liked the Udemy course and learning more about different types of meditations.
  • I can see how starting the day with deep breathing and clearing the mind really will help me be more calm, and ultimately more productive throughout the day.
  • I like focusing on my breathing when doing my morning exercises 
  • I understand much more about the benefits of meditation 
  • I like the flexibility of the practice..  there is no judgment about 'how' to do it.. you can adapt it to what works best for you
What could be better
  • One reason  I didn't like that initial experience was that it was too long. Even in my class, they suggest not more than 20 minutes.
  • 5 minutes is really the max amount of time I want to do this if I'm sitting.. 
  • I only really like doing this if I can do it when I'm in the bath-tub or having a hard time getting to sleep.. 
  • I probably need to be more consistent and practice this every day to see the full benefits.


Anonymous said...

"I probably need to be more consistent and practice this every day to see the full benefits."

You hit your own nail on the head with your own hammer!


Anonymous said...

Made me think of this Zen story:

Yvette Francino said...

Thanks for the comments! Good little zen story.

Here's a compassionate meditation that I like doing more than the type where you're just supposed to focus on nothing but breathing: