Lately, my mind seems to have been going 100 mph with no sign of slowing.
Because of this, I was unable to concentrate, give my full attention to others, or get things done. This has affected my emotional and physical health and even made it difficult to sleep.
As my situation worsened, I knew I had to change something.
During the Christmas break, I came across a 21-day meditation challenge that piqued my interest. When we hear the world of “meditation,” we usually imagine someone sitting cross-legged, arms outstretched to one side, fingers in the “OK” position, palms up to the sky, while we utter unrecognizable chants .
However, this is not the true meditation. In fact, you may be surprised to learn (as I did) that true meditation is the practice of calming the mind, rather than sitting cross-legged on the floor and singing.
While it sounds simple enough, it is actually more difficult to calm the mind than you can imagine. Meditation is called an “exercise” because it must be done regularly in order to improve and take advantage of the benefits it can bring.
During the challenge I took part in, we started with short meditations that were around 5-10 minutes long. The instructions were to sit in a comfortable position and, following an audio recording, focus on our breathing. Easy right? Not correct. So wrong.
It was amazing to me how quickly my brain would jump from focusing on my breath to revisiting something that had happened earlier that day. Sometimes a random memory would pop up and I would go down a rabbit hole to think about it.
As part of the guided instruction, once you realize that you have not focused on your breath, focus on your breathing again. So I forced my mind to catch my breath. However, within seconds I would be worried about what had to be done at work or what I had to do that day.
Meditation became a kind of back and forth game. I would focus on my breathing, get distracted, focus on my breathing again, get distracted and refocus. I went through this cycle repeatedly until the meditation was over.
I’ve been playing this game for what seemed like an eternity. This “eternity” only lasted 6 minutes. Yikes I had a lot to do.
As I continued this challenge, I realized that meditation is really a “practice”. But with every workout I got a little better. I found that I could shut out the world and shut off the racing thoughts in my head more easily than at the beginning of this challenge.
Over time, I found that it was more natural for me to turn off distracting thoughts. I didn’t have to think about it that much or try so hard to stay focused.
Over the 21 days I noticed small positive changes in my life as I continued my practiced meditation. Although I was nowhere near perfect with my meditations, I felt better – mentally, emotionally, and physically.
As I’ve done more research on the benefits of meditation, research has shown that it can have positive effects in a number of ways. According to research, meditation can help:
- Reduce stress
- Control the fear
- Promote emotional health
- improve self-confidence
- Extend attention span
- Reduce age-related memory loss
- Help fight addiction
- Improve sleep
- Help control the pain
- Lower blood pressure
One of the greatest advantages of meditation is that anyone can do it, and can do it anytime, anywhere. No special equipment is required, it’s free, and there are unlimited resources to help you find the type of meditation that’s right for you.
Again, meditation is an exercise and it takes time to get used to it and get better. When deciding on something that could be beneficial to you, start small. Start with a few minutes a day.
Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and focus on your breath. When a thought occurs to you, let go of it, focus on your breathing again, and repeat this process until the timer runs out. Gradually build up your time as you can better focus your thoughts and let go of the distractions that pop into your mind.
I urge you to try this practice and stick to it. Be open and patient with yourself and see what happens.