This article could’ve been named as 1000 days of meditation but my best friend, procrastination, helped me make it 500 days instead.
I wanted to meditate for the longest time. Even a lot of people around be want to meditate. And then we get back to our lives and this want remains unfulfilled.
Today, anxiety and overthinking are widely talked about.
Have you ever experienced over-thinking? You know, when you build up stories in your head. Before you go for a date or an interview, do you already think you’re not good enough? Do you sometimes create an entire situation about something with mere assumptions?
Has anybody ever told you — “it’s all in your head, love. Everything is fine.”
Yeah? That was my usual. Not just mine, but don’t most of us today have the art of creating stories out of nothing. And we cannot be blamed for it. Life today is far more complicated than it was 20 years ago.
There is a lot of information we are fed every single second and when we get enough of it, we move to a different app to feed ourselves more information. While absorbing this information we feel a fluster of emotions that are often too quick for our mind to even wholly feel them.
500 days of meditation honestly does not feel like a lot of days. I’m no saint — in the last 500 days I have been lazy and pushed myself to meditate, and sometimes I miss a few sentences of the guided meditation because I am lost in my thoughts daydreaming.
This is what makes us humans, humans of today.
It is okay to not be okay
I started with 5 minutes of guided meditation. Those 5 minutes never seemed to end.
Fortunately, you are constantly reminded in a guided meditation that it is okay for your mind to go away on a vacation in the middle of meditating.
It’s like any other new habit you are trying to form, our body has a natural mechanism of resisting change.
Don’t fret over not being able to focus or concentrate. The meditation app Headspace also mentions in their meditation FAQ (frequently asked questions) about meditation giving a headache, which is also normal in the beginning.
The Buddhist monks call it the monkey mind. The purpose isn’t to make it stop jumping from one place to another, the purpose is to tame it so it listens to us.
Zen Mode (not) On
Contrary to the famous statement ‘Zen mode on’, meditation feels like anything but zen when you start.
The first month will indeed induce some calming, but it will also be frustrating.
There is an increased feeling of impatience because we live in a time when sitting on our own with our hands empty is not much of a thing. It is alright to feel this way, and it will get better the more time you put in.
The best thing you can do is not to start meditation with expectations. Yes, there are hundreds of benefits and it will make you happier and healthier.
But do not have a mindset of ‘I will now be completely de-stressed after a month’, because a month is just the beginning of the beginning!
6 Months Later
This is the time I got lazier to meditate. I even started skipping it on weekends. I started taking Sundays off. You weren’t expecting this 500-day journey to be rosy, were you?
Still not calm
If that is your question/expectation, the answer is no.
What is calmness? The word for you has a different meaning than it does to somebody else. It may mean silence to me but control to you. And 10 more people will give us 10 different interpretations.
Does this mean I experienced no changes? The answer is again no because I did.
There were some benefits of meditation taking place in my mind and body, but I was too unaware of myself to notice. It was only a few months later than I began to notice minor behavioural changes.
We tend to act without thinking. We tend to say things we don’t mean. We tend to get angry fast. There are different impulsive thought processes and behaviours we possess.
Don’t we all associate ourselves with certain flaws when it comes to relationships? E.g. anger issues, insecure, impulsive are the common ones. I too associated myself as somebody who is impulsive.
A few incidents took place and it took me a long time to realise that I did not react the way I would have a few months ago. It took me self awareness, which was enhanced by practising meditation to realise the impact of meditation.
Meditation gets you in touch with yourself.
For example, eating food while watching TV and eating food and focussing entirely on food. The taste, texture, smell. They are two different experiences, right? Meditation in this context is the removal of TV and focus on sensations, which in other words is also known as mindfulness.
12 Months Later
A year of meditation felt like the beginning of this journey. I felt different.
If you’re still expecting that I became a changed human ready to take this journey to a Himalayan cave, I’m sorry to disappoint you.
365 days later, I fell in love with this practice.
When you spend time with a new habit and gradually increase your time practising it there is a certain sense of comfort as opposed to resistance which one feels earlier.
If all goes wrong, you still got your breath
If you deal with anxiety and stress, this should be beneficial for you. If you don’t, this practice is still undoubtedly beneficial to you.
Practicing meditation for 6–9 months may reduce anxiety by 60%.
Imagine you’re in the middle of a tough day. There is a fluster of thoughts and a lot of work to be done. Your stress levels increase, your breath starts becoming shallower. Sometimes your heartbeat increases marginally.
These are normal physiological responses to emotions we feel when faced with certain circumstances. In this case, the circumstances are stressful.
This happens to us at least once or a couple of times a week with regards to work, school, or just this unpredictable thing we call life.
The only difference between pre-meditation and now is that you notice this. You become aware of this mind and body relationship. Multiple times a day you begin to notice whenever your body negatively reacts to a situation.
What is the benefit of this awareness? You can improve your physical and emotional reactions to situations.
Next time when you’re stressing about something, take a deep breath (or ten). You will realise that it doesn’t matter how hard the situation is on the outside, you always have your breath to come back to and everything will be alright.
Mindfulness and Mental Health
Mindfulness is about being attentive to the present moment.
You know as kids when we had so much fun dancing in the rain or were awed with snowflakes, we had those feelings of happiness because we were attentive to such moments. We were mindful of them.
Another example is when you eat your favourite brownie. You want to eat it bit by bit relishing it in small bites. Admit it, you also do this because you don’t want this delicious thing to finish!
Can you imagine these few moments being felt how they did if you were constantly seeing Instagram stories or constantly refreshing your email?
You will be numb to your first snowflakes and rain will just be another noise. And the brownie, you will finish it before you realise it’s gone.
Living mindfully helps you be more aware of yourself and your surroundings.
This helps you take more control over yourself and your life.
In more relatable terms, life pretty light because thoughts don’t overpower you.
Even more importantly, life feels worth living every moment because little things feel joyful.
500 Days Later
I now feel like a calm saint on a mountain top.
Do I stay calm and quiet when things go down for me? No. I cry I feel upset, I get angry.
Do I stay as affected? Not as much.
I experience reduced anxiety and increased power over my thoughts and emotions, but my favourite bit is something different. If there is just one reason why I would highly recommend you to meditate, it would be to be in touch with yourself.
Know the person inside, that person is so strong. That person is beautiful. That person is capable. Before you attach yourself with negative adjectives, ask yourself if you even know who you really are?
There’s a whole world inside of you that reacts to your thoughts.
When you’re upset, the frequency at which your heart pumps blood and the various hormones that your body releases because certain parts of your brain are telling it to are very different than when you are smiling.
The purpose of meditation is not that you sit and smile through hardships, the purpose is to help you be the captain of your ship and stay in charge of your life.
How Do I Start?
It’s never too late to start this beautiful journey. Some tips to help you kickstart:
- Started with a guided meditation of 3–5 minutes.
- You can choose popular apps such as Calm or Headspace. I have only used Headspace of the two and I am not disappointed.
- Don’t expect anything. Your journey is yours only to see and feel and will be very different from somebody else.
- Do it at a particular time e.g. after a workout or before you head out for the day, that way it becomes a part of your routine.
- Read about the benefits when you feel lazy or demotivated.
I hope this inspires you to meditate or just take a few deep breaths.