Meditation has fascinated me for a long time, partly from admiration of those who engaged in it, and partly due to the beauty of Buddhism in Japan and other cultures. I started dabbling in it years ago, but it never really stuck as a habit until last year. While I’m still a work in progress, I have enough experience now to be able to reflect on what I’ve learned. Here’s what’s true for me.
Consistency is helpful – but not a dealbreaker
If you have the tendency to throw in the towel when things aren’t perfect, then meditation is the thing for you. I don’t lose the lessons I’ve learned from it, even when I feel rusty. After setting an amazing morning practice in place and consistently engaging with that for months, my mornings were disrupted by outside influences. My practice faltered because the conditions weren’t there that I’d come to enjoy, then it stopped completely. Now, though, I’ve realised that I need to make it more robust and get used to conditions not being perfect, which for me is at dawn when the world is just waking up. That’s my ideal, but if I can’t do that, 5 minutes at lunchtime will still make a difference.
Challenge is better for my distracted mind
Yeah I know, no one wants this to be harder than it needs to be. In all honesty though, when I think back to the period I was most engaged and in love with meditating, it’s when I was doing the one thing I disliked about it, which for me was visualisation. I find that so hard that the first time it came up in a session, I nearly stopped and picked another one. After falling off the wagon, though, and relapsing to that monkey mind I worked so hard to improve, I’ve realised that visualisation was the thing that made me progress. My distracted mind needs that extra challenge to stay engaged. So, I’m repeating that course with all it’s bright, glowing, balls of light and relearning all my skills, sans tantrums and metaphoric eyerolls.
When it’s hardest to do it is when I need it most
I guess this builds from my first point, but as a beginning meditator, it’s easy to stop when you really, really need it most. In challenging times, it’s easy to slip into past distracting or soothing behaviours that may very well have their place but shouldn’t override meditation in your schedule. When it’s hardest is when you really need it most, and when you will get the most benefit from it.
I’m better at my work
I started trying this because everything in life felt harder than it needed to and work was a huge component of this. In theory, I love my job, but it was becoming more like wading through wet cement every day. After using meditation for some time, I can see the benefit in my work life clearly. It smooths my brain over, like when you smooth down your hair on a windy day. All the frayed ends go back in line, and thoughts happen from start to finish. That ease gives me space to problem solve and be creative, producing higher quality work. That’s really satisfying.
I’m more content with my life
I remember when I was first starting and the concept of resting in awareness was introduced. Quite simply, it means sitting with your eyes closed, listening to the sounds around you, and engaging your other senses purposefully to notice your world. I realised how much I missed around me that was revealed by simply closing my eyes to listen. Mindfulness has become a bit cliched for some, but that’s for a reason. Those of us that are converted have experienced a deeper appreciation for the everyday, and that’s a gold mine. In this day and age where options have suddenly retracted, it’s incredibly reassuring to know that contentment can be found right now.
Don’t give up
After the tumultuous period that saw me stop meditating altogether, I’m still actively learning this one. The perfectionist in me often results in all-or-nothing behaviour, which doesn’t serve me well. Having had a period without meditation it would have been easy to say I’d failed at that and not bother again. I’m still (always?) working through this pattern so I’m back at it, relinquishing the disappointment I had in myself for stopping. It’s a good lesson for lots of other things in life too.
These things are true for me and I know you’ll find your own if you decide to try. Download one of many apps (I use Headspace) or find a YouTube channel and get started.
2 responses to “After two years meditating, here’s what I’ve learned”
I’m loving your analogies, like wading in wet cement. And yes, meditation has been a great help for me! My main takeaway from this is that I don’t need to react to discomfort and pain. And I can always sit with the pain (my metaphor for life’s challenges) much longer than I think I can. Anyway, thanks for this post!
Thanks Stuart, I always appreciate your kind words. It’s good for physical pain too, I find it helps me cope with migraine. Grateful for it on many levels!