Towards the end of this past summer, I finally mustered up the courage to start meditating. I use the word courage because for a long time meditation terrified me. The idea of sitting with my thoughts seemed like the last thing I wanted to do and after reading an article about a study where participants opted for self-inflicted electrical shocks rather than 30 minutes of meditation, I didn’t feel any more motivated to begin my own daily practice. But I had heard so much about the benefits, and I found myself getting more and more curious. One day, I decided to go for it. I set my alarm for five minutes, closed my eyes, and sat. I tip-toed my way into a daily practice, gradually extending the time to 15 minutes every morning. I fought through the days where I really didn’t want to meditate, and quickly realized those were the days I benefited from meditation the most.
I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be such an advocate of meditation, but I also realize now that I had no clue what meditation actually was before I started doing it. Even though I conceptually understood the central tenet of mindfulness, that we are always “doing” and not setting aside time for “being”, I was (and often still am) “trying” to “be” while I practiced. But over time it has gotten easier. Meditation has re-enforced the common sport psychology notion that your mind is a muscle and needs regular exercise just like your body. I’ve learned that focus is a skill. I’ve learned attention is a skill. I’ve learned that boredom means you’re just not paying enough attention. But maybe the most valuable lesson of all has been that faster is not always better. Sometimes, we can actually speed ourselves up by slowing ourselves down.
Interested in trying meditation? Check out www.headspace.com! Andy will guide you through your first ten meditations, and give you a great sense whether or not meditation is right for you. And the app is free to download so you can take it on the go!