Saturday, 31 December 2016

A year of daily meditation

Photo by Chris Ensey
I first started dabbling with meditation after an overwhelming bout of anxiety over college exams. However, I admit that I gave up on it pretty soon as I found it just such hard work. Fast forward to 1998 and I decided to give it another proper try after reading a book from the library. For quite some time, my meditation practise consisted of the following:
  • Get myself settled down on the floor on cushions in our spare room
  • Be interrupted by our cat meowing outside the door to be let in
  • Try to ignore the scratching and licking noises now coming from cat
  • Try not to follow the many thoughts that are already chasing around my head, “Did I get anything out for dinner?” "Oh, I forgot to call my Dad"etc., etc.  
  • Be disturbed at the slightest noise from downstairs or cars going by outside
  • Feel grateful for the tiny amount of meditation I may have actually done, but come away feeling generally unsatisfied.  
Over time, it did get better but the turning point was when I managed to find a local introductory course some years later. We were introduced to different types of meditation, but for me the most useful aspect was having an experienced teacher leading a guided meditation each week. It was helpful having someone there that would say things like, "If you've got an itch, don't worry, just scratch it and settle back in" or "You don't need to follow that thought, just imagine it carrying on past you into the distance". She answered all our questions and reassured us that any difficulties were quite normal and basically to keep at it.

Whilst my practise has definitely improved over the years, I still find it difficult to make it one of my regular habits. I have done Oprah and Deepak Chopra's 21-day meditation experience multiple times, and each time I promise that this will be the one where I continue meditating once it's finished. And somehow it never sticks! Therefore, I've decided that I need to make a more serious commitment and as from 28th November, I will be meditating each day for a whole year. I've scribbled down some dates and tick boxes in my Filofax to help keep track, and I'm considering giving myself some kind of treat when I reach certain points as encouragement. The only rules are 1) I'm not allowed to miss a day and 2) I will meditate for 5 minutes at least.

Month 1
I've just checked and today is day 34, so I thought I'd include a quick update on how my first month has gone. I'm very glad that I haven't been too prescriptive with the rules as I'm finding that my practise can vary greatly day by day. For example, on one day I can mediate for 30 minutes, but on the next one, I feel quite agitated when I sit down and barely manage my minimum. On the tougher days, I set a timer on my iPod and those 5 minutes feel much longer... The good news is that I'm finding it easier to settle in and I'm delighted that I've managed to complete the month.

Wishing you a happy New Year :)  

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