sunday special – meditation
So I’ve been meditating every day for about 11 weeks now, if my streak counter on Habitica (more on that another time, perhaps) is correct. 78 days at the time of this writing. I started at 20 minutes, and have since increased it to 23:30, via a timer on my phone, which, incidentally, is set to an alarm with a gradual increase in volume, so I’m not shot out of my seat when the thing goes off.
It started out difficult. Sitting still for the whole 20 minutes wasn’t a given, and my mind raced from topic to topic like a rat king of fibre optic cables. Gradually, with persistence, things improved. I’m more limbre cross-legged, I think my back muscles have toughened from keeping me (mostly) upright, and I rarely break form to check how long is on the timer (I did this a lot in the beginning).
I’m working the timer up closer to 30 minutes over the next few months, just to extend the experience. I wonder about doing two sessions a day, of 15-20 minutes each, morning and night, as Transcendental Meditation recommends, but I haven’t been doing mantra meditation (where in your head you repeat a syllable or two – “Om” being the familiar classic to the West), which is what TM is; I’m doing something more like Thich Nhat Hahn‘s mindfulness, monitoring my breathing, in, out, in a cycle, finding the space between the thoughts. I try to wear “a hint of a smile” while I do it, and though still the thought-chains bloom, they’re muted, less substantial. I get less attached to them, and I don’t mind letting them go. When I recognize a thought-chain has begun, that I’m a train’s unwitting passenger, I bring myself back to my breath, in, out.
Any other effects so far? I feel I’m a more pleasant person, less prone to negativity in general. Perhaps that’s a big claim for a beginner meditator but studies exist showing greater competencies of “calm” w/ long-term meditators, so perhaps there’s a beginner’s luck facet to it.
The practice is not always easy but it is always practice. It’s a skill, and I’ve come to enjoy learning it. At times it can feel like a chore to pull out the cushion and block out some time and just sit, but when I’m in there, and after I’m done, I feel content satisfaction that the right thing was done, that the practice – even ritual – was observed, and that, for a time at least, I could rest.
I’ve found it best to meditate in the morning, as part of my morning routine. That way it’s built into the day in a prime location, and I’m less prone to leaving it ’til late at night (which can be enjoyable, though I find it more difficult).
If this all sounds esoteric and estranging, don’t fear. At its core meditation is just sitting quietly, without getting attached to any one thought. Observing them as they come and go, as the only constant is the endless cycle of the breath. This still seems ambiguous so perhaps my explication is imperfect but what I recommend is just trying it. Set an alarm for 5 minutes, even, and sit, on a cushion, a chair, or lie down on your back, eyes open or closed, whatever you like, and just sit. (Alternatively try a guided meditation. There’s a million online and I’ve tried a few. I like them but for my daily practice I do as above.)
Meditation is calming, restful, and its own kind of fun. My meditation practice has only just begun, and I’m eager to see where it goes.