Meditation is something that I’ve always wanted to do consistently. I’ve had fits and starts where I would meditate for a week and then just sort of trail off. But I really wanted to start a consistent meditation practice and turning it into a 30 day challenge was the best way for me to do it.
In this post I’m going to go over:
-What my meditation looked like
-Issues in keeping the 30 day challenge going
-Benefits that I noticed in my life.
Before I start, I am going to rate this 30 day challenge in terms of difficulty and benefits. Here goes:
This challenge was actually not very difficult. All I had to do was find a measly 15 minutes per day to do it!
I noticed a ton of great benefits during the course of this challenge. The only reason it gets 70/100 is because I believe the benefits of meditation accrue over time. Yes, the first 30 days was great, but if I want the full benefits I know I’m going to have to keep doing it.
How I Did the 30 Day Meditation Challenge
I decided to make meditation as simple as possible. All I did was choose a ‘pack’ on the Headspace app called Managing Anxiety. It was a 30 day pack so it fit perfectly with the 30 day challenge.
I had done some meditation in the past and had always found 10 minutes was not quite enough, so for this challenge I chose the 15 minute option. I found this gave me a true break from the day and allowed me to really get into the meditation headspace (haha).
When and Where?
I was actually very blessed to have moved to a new room in the house where I live. It’s much bigger than my previous room and had enough room for me to put a couch and a rug! I ended up sitting on the rug with my back against the couch. This gave me support, but it wasn’t so much that my back got stiff during the meditation.
I really think it’s important to find somewhere that’s comfortable but not too comfortable. For a few days I tried doing it on the couch itself, but I found myself getting a little too relaxed and even drifting off to sleep a few times!
As for when I meditated, I tried to do it in the morning whenever possible. If I had a hectic morning and couldn’t get to it, I’d do it in the afternoon. I found that doing it in the earlier section of the day allowed me to feel the benefits for the rest of the day.
As I mentioned, I used the Headspace app. For a long time I was quite the meditation perfectionist. I thought that if I wanted to meditate properly, I had to do it without the help of a narrator or guidance of any kind. That was so false. The Headspace app helped me to add a new level to my meditation. It taught me a lot of tips and tricks that helped me harness the true power of meditation.
Here was the basic idea behind the Managing Anxiety pack that I did:
You sit, warm up with some breathing, and then turn your focus to your breath. You can count your breath or just maintain focus on it. As thoughts come and go, you start by simply “noting” them. If you notice yourself thinking, you note it as a thought and then bring your attention back to the breath. If you notice a physical sensation, you note it as a feeling and then bring your attention back to the breath. In the next section, we added another layer of noting where you labelled the thought as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Then in the final section, you add the final layer of noting where you try and label the thought with the emotion that is behind it. For example, if I was thinking about how I was nervous to do something that day, I would: note it as a thought, note it as unpleasant, note it as ‘fear’ or ‘worry’ and then I would return to the breath. I’ll go over why this was so helpful in my life in another section, but this is basically how it worked.
Issues During the 30 Day Meditation Challenge
There were really only two issues that I faced during this challenge: perfectionism and impatience.
I faced perfectionism when it came to thinking about when I would do my meditation. Just like I often thought I wasn’t doing meditation right if I did a guided meditation, I also thought I was doing meditation wrong if I didn’t do it first thing in the morning. I would often simply not meditate at all if I wasn’t able to do it first thing in the morning. This is a situation where perfectionism can simply destroy your growth. It makes no sense to stop doing a habit just because you didn’t do it a certain way. To combat this, I would always make myself meditate even if it was in the middle of the day. By the end, I realized that I was getting the same amount of benefits from meditation no matter when I did it.
I faced impatience within the meditation itself. I would find myself getting impatient at the end of the meditation. Sometimes I would even pick up my phone and start looking at emails while the narrator was wrapping up the session! I also found myself wanting the guy to stop talking at certain points. I am an absolute beginner at meditation and I realize that this is the exact type of thing that meditation will help with in the long run, so I tried to accept it. I know that I will build patience as I continue meditating, and I’m pretty stoked about that.
Meditation Challenge Benefits
I know that when I read articles like this, I always want to see the benefits first. Benefits are the reason we do challenges like this at all! But I saved the best for last, so here goes!
Gained Some Insight Into/Control Over My Thinking
This was the absolute best benefit I gained from meditation. I am a person that thinks… a lot. A large part of that thinking is often worry and fear. I believe a lot of people are like this, and if you’re reading this blog I’m going to hazard a guess that you are too.
After a week or so of meditating, I began to realize just how much thinking I did. Not the good kind of thinking either! The kind of thinking where you’re taking a pleasant walk and suddenly your brain just starts rapid firing thoughts at you. Scenarios of the past and future, judgments of other people, plans for the day, fears and insecurities, excitement and appreciation, worry and doubt. Our brains have an impressive ability to come up with thoughts that just completely suck us in. This is the experience of being “in your head”. Your awareness and focus are not in what you’re doing or your physical body, they’re in the wacky funhouse of your mind. This is where I find myself most of the time. I just didn’t realize it until I started meditating and noting my thoughts.
Once I started meditating, I was able to have tiny moments where I stepped back from the thinking and realized that I was doing it. I imagine it was an awareness floating just above my brain and peering into the craziness inside it. This was a revelation! I couldn’t believe how frenzied my thinking was or how much power it had in my mind. But noticing it was and is the first step in gaining some control over it.
These 30 days have started to generate a little space between thinking and myself/the present moment. I have a lot of moments where I notice it, but it often pulls me back in very quickly. In high anxiety situations, I try my best to pull away but I just haven’t done enough meditation to manage any sustained distance. And that’s okay! These 30 days have shown me that this is a habit that has the potential to produce profound change in my life.
The simple practice of sitting, breathing, and noting my thoughts has produced the base of what I hope becomes a lifelong meditation practice.
Patience and Presence
I know I mentioned that patience was one of the issues I faced while meditating, but I also found it to be one of the great benefits of my 30 days of meditation. Here’s an example:
I am a person that has a lot of trouble on long car rides. I have trouble with sitting still and with having no stimulation. 3 hour car rides often seem like 6 hours to me. But over the last 30 days, I’ve gone on 2 weekend trips. The car rides were 3.5 hours and 2 hours long respectively. These car rides were by the far the chillest in recent memory. I read a little bit, talked with the people I was riding with, and sometimes just looked out the window and enjoyed the scenery. Did I want to keep sitting in the car when we got to the destination? Hell no, but I wasn’t crawling out of my skin for the last hour or so.
This kind of patience and ability to try and be in the present moment showed up in a few different scenarios. Standing in line, sitting in meetings, going to job interviews, going on dates, and much more. I’m not going to say that meditation made all of these things easy breezy, but they did give me a new approach to them. Whenever I noticed myself getting sucked into a super vortex of anxious thought, I would note it and try to pull myself back from it. It was a temporary solution that I had to do hundreds of times over, but it worked to make these situations a little more manageable for me.
All in all, this 30 day challenge had a pretty dang huge impact on my life. I noticed its effects in many different areas of my life. I realized just how powerful my thinking can be and learned some simple tips to not get too involved with them. I finally committed to a habit that I’ve been trying to commit to for 3 years.
Am I going to keep meditating? You bet your ass. I’m so excited to deepen my relationship with my mind and with the present moment through meditation.
Should you meditate? Yes! You should at least try it for 30 days to see if it’s for you. I’m guessing it will be.