Meditation. Presence. Mindfulness. Living in the moment. These terms are becoming more popular with the rise and rise of Apps like Headspace and Calm. But what is meditation and why should you try it?
Like most people, I used to think of meditation as some esoteric, witch doctor stuff that only monks or those residing in hippy towns like Byron Bay performed (presumably with a bit of herbal assistance). In fact, the first image I conjured up upon hearing its rise in popularity was Ace Ventura.
Eventually, after listening to enough episodes of The Tim Ferriss show where he ‘deconstructs world class performers to tease out their habits and routines’, I realised that almost all of his guests spoke about having a meditative practice. Ahhhhhhhhhh-hhhhhhhhh-llllllllllllll-rrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiightttyyyyyyyy-thennnnnnnnnnnnn. If it’s good enough for the best of the best, then it must surely be suitable for a baby giraffe like me.
So I downloaded the Headspace App and signed up for their “Take 10” introduction pack, which challenges you to meditate for 10min per day, 10 days in a row. Upon hearing the dulcet tones of Andy Puddicombe (the founder of Headspace) I immediately cross my legs and sit up straight. “Yes, Andy” I whisper to myself, “I’m ready to be present and bring more happiness into my life”. And so for 10 days, I sat at the end of my bed each morning listening to my breath and trying not to fall back asleep.
I know what you’re wondering. Did I experience an out of body experience like Ace Ventura and discover what it is that the Whachati possess, that is of great value to other men? Not quite. Did I successfully shut off my incessant internal dialogue for 10min each day? No way. In fact, two years on and my mind still wanders when I meditate (I’ve continued the practice each morning).
In these 10min periods, I still catch my myself wondering when the sweet potato shortage will end, or whether Elon Musk is going to save us from our own demise. But there’s something about it that keeps me going. Without a doubt, stopping and reflecting for at least 10 minutes improves your mood. It gives you time to relax and calms you down. It makes you realise just how much internal chatter there is in that beautiful brain of yours (yeah you big guy). It has also been during this time that I’ve come up with creative ideas, like this blog. Plus I’m a sucker for placebo and meditating has been linked to increasing cognitive function, so I figure 12 more months and I’ll basically be a member of Mensa.
The other good news is mindfulness meditation can take all sorts of forms. For me, using the Headspace app has worked a treat. But, you could try listening to your favourite song as you focus on your breath, counting your steps while running or your breaths while swimming, or go all out, don the robe and live the #monklyfe.
And as for your excuse. Yes, you. I can hear you from up here! “All well and good for you 2metretweeter, but unlike you, I just don’t have time, I’m really busy”. Really? You don’t have 10min spare in your day? 10min that you are willing to dedicate to yourself to sit in silence and relax? 10min to spend checking in with yourself to make sure all’s well? Well then, I point you to this old Zen proverb;
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”