Five things I learned from 100 days of meditation
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
If you think you can’t meditate, you’re wrong! That was my mindset for a long time – I’d pretty much decided it wasn’t for me, I just wasn’t a 'meditator' like some zen monk on the side of a mountain. And I was sceptical when people said “it’ll change your life” or “I can’t get through the day without it”. Groan!
But - drumroll - I’ve just hit 100 days of meditation! Who’d have thought it?! While I’ve missed a couple of days since March, it’s basically been a daily, first thing in the morning practice. I’m actually amazed … and proud of myself! And, in all honesty, I can say it has made these days and weeks better. It’s still early days, but it might just change my life after all! Hey, a girl’s allowed to change her mind!
I've spent a long time avoiding meditation. I knew it was part of a full reiki practice, but I’d gotten pretty good at not actually doing it. Then before signing up for yoga teacher training this year, I had a conversation with the lead teacher who asked me straight out whether I meditated. I squirmed for a bit, then (not wanting to lie but not wanting to look like a dope either!) I hedged my bets – “well, I really like guided mediation and healing processes”, “I see yin yoga as meditation by stealth”, “doing self-reiki is a kind of like meditation” … all true statements, but she politely yet firmly called me out and literally said – “yeah ok, but that’s not what I’m talking about; and not what you’ll be doing during the training.”
Yikes! Had I made the wrong decision launching into teacher training? Could I become a reiki master and not meditate? Was I ready for this? Did I really want to go forward if it meant meditating every day?
As it turns out, it was just what I needed. Not just because my yoga and reiki teachers told me to. Not just because I had left my comfort zone job in the midst of a pandemic. Not just because starting a business is challenging on every level.
It actually does make a difference to how my body and mind feels, my level of focus, my mood, my sleep … all the things! Meditation is becoming an anchor in my day – and if I can do that, in a pretty short space of time, you can too. I just needed the right attitude and approach, so I could experience the benefits for myself.
So here’s what I’ve learned from 100 days of meditation, shared in the hope that it might inspire you to dip your toe into meditation too:
Every day is different, don’t judge or label any of it
Some days feel easy, other days are hard. Some days I’m physically uncomfortable, other days my thoughts run wild. Some days I feel like that monk on a mountain, at one with the universe, a supremely divine being! But I’m learning to not see any of that as good or bad, amazing or frustrating. It is what it is, and what will be will be … a notion that starts to translate into other areas of life as you realise the power in this type of surrender. Simply expressing gratitude for the practice is the best way I've found to end a session and transition into the rest of the day.
Progress is perfection
Research has shown that one of the most motivating things in life is a meaningful sense of progress – so let’s focus on that, rather than trying to be perfect meditators. Even with decades of practice that's a lofty goal. Don’t expect to do an hour of meditation right off the bat. Start with 3 minutes. Start with 3 deep, slow breaths if that’s where you’re at and build from there. Over these last months I’ve gradually gone from 10 (fidgety) minutes to 28 (enjoyable) minutes in the morning. Set yourself a goal and feel the positive effects of achieving it!
During each meditation session, using interval bells has been a really helpful progress-tracker for me. It feels like a little high five encouraging me on; and sometimes a prod to reset my body or mind. I use the fantastic Insight Timer meditation app, which allows you to set up your own timings and bell sounds (there are also hundreds of guided meditations to explore!). Currently I've set four x seven minute interval bells, and want to reduce that number over time until I don't need them.
Most importantly though in terms of progress – forgive yourself if you miss a day. Life happens, moods fluctuate, winter mornings are the worst. Just see a missed session as a rest stop on your journey, and get back on the meditation train the next day.
Silence is golden
How often do you just sit in silence? Or cook or read in silence? Having lived alone most of my adult life, a quiet house can be a tough place to be – just you and your thoughts, argh! And it was one of the reasons I avoided pure meditation I think, in favour of guided or activity-based practices. But pretty quickly, sitting in stillness and silence has become strangely nourishing. With no outside stimulation, it’s literally just you and your body, your mind, your energy – and in those few minutes out of the day, it feels like everything slows down, things become clearer and you can set or reset yourself for whatever else the day might hold. Find the position that works for you
This seems obvious and simple, yet it’s one of the excuses I’ve used to not meditate – that it’s uncomfortable to sit for that long. What I now know is that you just need to find the position that suits your body! And here’s the tip – there’s no one way of sitting for meditation. Ignore all those Insta-yogis so seemly calm in their lotus position. That might be fine for you; but if not, experiment until you find a way of placing your body that you can hold it still for the length of your meditation. Aim to be sitting up not lying down, with a fairly straight spine, where you can breathe deeply and evenly, and relax your shoulders.
Cross-legged on the floor is almost impossible for me for more than a few minutes – my tight hips and arthritic knees reaalllly hate it. So my position is a supported kneeling one, a variation of ‘seiza’ – basically riding a yoga bolster propped up on two blocks! Wrapped in a blankie with my hands in my lap, it feels supportive and balanced, so I can relax yet stay gently alert. Try with a few positions on the floor or in a chair, and use yoga props or other cushions/pillows/books you might have around the house to help support your body. Talk to a yoga or meditation teacher (or email me!) if you’re struggling to find your perfect possie. Expect thoughts and distractions
Whether it’s construction or traffic noise, others in the house, thoughts about yesterday, running through your to do list or (like me) planning upcoming conversations in your head, there will always be distractions during meditation. Your brain will forever be ticking over – it’s what it does no matter what you try to do to control it. Don't fight it. The key is to not get caught up in it all, to not actually be distracted by the distractions! Always gently bring yourself back to your intention and your your breath, releasing the thoughts into the Universe (knowing that if they're important, they'll return at a better time!).
Reading this observation by Thich Nhat Hanh recently was like a light switch going on for me about this – “meditation is not passive sitting in silence. It is sitting in awareness, free from distraction and realising the clear understanding that arises from concentration”.
So onward into continuing to build my meditation practice … will you join me to experiment and explore some more?