Last summer, I made a personal promise, a commitment to myself to meditate every day for a year. I’m currently on Day 290. To coincide with World Meditation Day (31st May) let me take you through my experience so far and the benefits of meditating.
I’ve meditated on and off for years. I knew it benefited me, but somehow it was an item on my ‘to do’ list, something I knew I should be doing more frequently. By not giving myself the time for a regular meditation practice, I was placing greater value on my commitments to others rather than a commitment to myself and my wellbeing. Last summer I decided to change that.
I knew I would need an anchor, a tool to help me meditate daily and I found it in the fantastic app Insight Timer. The organiser in me loves measuring my progress, the milestones reached, my cumulative total of meditation minutes (currently 146.6 hours and counting!) Insight Timer is a free app with a wealth of guided meditations (my favourites) talks and ambient music.
Plugging in and parking myself on a sofa facing the garden sets me up for my quiet time, for tuning out the noise of the world and tuning into myself. Some days it might be for just 5 minutes, I’m happy with 20, but if I can manage it, I’ll give myself the gift of 40 minutes.
There is the phrase practice makes perfect, but with meditation, it will always be a practice. There are plenty of days when I have the monkey mind when the voice in my head is overactive. In the past, on those days I would have skipped meditation, now I know these are the days when I benefit most from it.
At the start of the Covid 19 crisis I was so thankful that I had a few months of meditation practice behind me, because it was my go-to ritual for ejecting the fearful movies in my head, for managing my state and for controlling what is within my control, namely my response to the uncontrollable.
Here are four of the key benefits I’ve accrued from my daily meditation practice. Or to put it another way, how meditation has changed me.
This is often mentioned as a benefit of meditation and you know what, it’s true. Whilst there are still times when I feel frantic and frustrated, they’re far less frequent and severe. And when I’m consumed by worry and anxiousness, I’ll get to the witness position more quickly, I’ll observe my pattern and find some space between my stress-inducing thoughts.
Because I meditate as part of my morning routine, it helps me set the tone and pace for the day ahead. How I engage with others now derives from the inside, my emotional intention for the day, as opposed to reacting to other people and external events. To put it simply, I’m calmer. And it might be coincidental, but over the last nine months, I’ve also been sleeping better.
The Ancient Greek aphorism states ‘know thyself.’ For me, meditation is route one for self-enquiry and the expansion of self-awareness. It also helps secure the ‘self’ in self-confidence and self-esteem. I’ve got a deeper understanding of my motivations, my foibles and those parts of me that run the pattern of fear.
Meditation has brought to the surface issues for me to heal, and whilst this can be scary, it’s happened in a gentle, timely and liberating way. Feel, deal, heal and reveal is how I describe it. And what is revealed? A new perspective, a nugget of wisdom, another stroke on the canvas of my evolving consciousness.
Like many people, I was a fully paid-up member of the tough on myself club. I used to think that it was indulgent to sit still in a chair for 20 minutes when there was always so much to be done. Strive until you arrive is the great dictum of the western world. It’s deemed to be the path to success, the way to fulfil potential and to feel worthy.
I know now that there is an easier, more gentle way to feel all those qualities and all I have to do is make sure I arrive into my meditation space every morning.
I once thought that being still was somehow being passive. I’ve come to realise that it’s actually the opposite. It’s about instilling presence into my life, being mindful and being open to receiving. Over the last nine months, I’m more connected with my creativity. When I’m still, I’m able to receive those inspired ideas, the prompts to take action.
As a spiritual person, I view this as being aligned with the pulse of the universe, in the frequency of the Divine. I’d heard the phrase prayer is asking, meditation is listening. I’ve found this has been true for me.
There are many different types of meditation, I’ve not studied it as a discipline, but over the course of the last 290 days, I know what works for me. Sitting quietly for maybe 20 minutes, eyes closed, listening to some gentle music, or a soft voice as I follow my breath to a place of inner stillness. I’m proud of myself for keeping the promise I made last August to meditate every day. Reaching day 365 will be a milestone for sure, but meditation is no longer something I do, it is part of who I am. In fact, it has allowed me to be more of who I am.
I hope you enjoyed this post and you may also be interested in this post I did on the Power of Journaling.
If you like podcasts then check out this led meditation on my podcast Your Time With James Sweetman and don’t forget to join my community below so that you can keep up to date with all my latest news.