This morning I hit 200 days in a row of meditation. The habit started with doing the Headspace app after reading the founder Andi Puddicombe’s book, which I discovered on Bill Gates’ blog. After using the app for some weeks I had the routine memorized and started doing it on my own.
So what effect has it had?
I can’t say that I’m more enlightened. Or more calm. Or even more mindful. I do sometimes think about things more mindfully during the day. But does “being more mindful” help me? How has it helped me specifically? I can only offer a few examples, sadly.
The first example was me out for a run. I had a song stuck in my head. While I waited for the light to change, I decided to focus on the sounds around me and not the one in my head. I did this. The song vanished and did not come back. It was miraculous.
The second example is that I can see the sorts of thoughts going around in my head while meditating. On particularly stressful days the meditating is near impossible. But just knowing that I’ve got a lot on my mind has made me relax my schedule because I know I’m probably near the burnout point.
But that doesn’t happen often.
I have been able to pay more attention to my body thanks to the body scanning part of the mediation. It’s been interesting to try to “check in” and feel parts of my body that are more challenging. I can easily sense the bottom of my feet. But trying to feel the side of my neck or my ears? That’s more difficult. Strangely I am able to do this after a lot of practice. Is this helpful? I can’t see how. (Yet?)
On the other hand, I have no way of knowing what a mess I’d be during the pandemic if I hadn’t been meditating. Perhaps I would be depressed, anxious, upset, like a lot of people I know. I guess I could stop meditating and see if I start to freak out.
I’ve wondered if I’m “doing it right” and have started trying other meditations and done it at other times of day. This is newer and I’ll need some time to see what impact the changes have.
Long before meditation, the pandemic, and even adulthood, I’ve been in the habit of spending a lot of time reflecting and observing things. I love a quiet room where I can just sit and think. So maybe in some way I was already getting a lot of the benefits of mediation and that’s why I haven’t noticed much effect.
It’s disappointing. I was expecting more serenity or more something but I still get worked up about things. Noticing “oh there is that thought, let it pass” doesn’t seem to do much. The thoughts keep coming and I don’t think any less frequently than before. How is this helping? What can I do to make it start helping?
The best thing that ever happens during meditation is when I realize I need to take a break from working so much. Which is a big thing to notice. But that’s not exactly what they sell you on when you look into meditation: “When you practice mediation you will learn that you should take breaks when you are stressed out!” I could do that just by setting an alarm to check in every hour.
There is, however, one thing that I can say that meditating has helped me with, beyond any doubt: Seeing the power of how little routines add up. And add up very quickly. After the meditation habit stuck, I added some more stuff, little by little. Like this blog. Which hit 100,000 words this weekend. That has been a daily routine for months. Also my morning walk. And morning reading/learning. And (failed) guitar practice. And now spanish. It’s amazing to watch things add up to something significant quickly.
Meditation was a super easy thing to start learning how to routinize habits. I can’t think of a simpler thing than sitting there and doing nothing. Once I got that down, I just tacked on more and more things (this is known as chaining habits).
What now? I’m going to experiment some more with my practice as I continue it. Even if I don’t get much out of it as advertised, the value of it being the lynchpin of my morning routine is immense.