The Better Me Project—Day 2 (Meditate)
Of all the information I gathered from the books and articles I read, the biggest takeaway that I got was that in order to become more positive and calm, I needed to get in touch with my inner self and meditate daily. Meditation, meaning sitting perfectly still and thinking about nothing.
I see you rolling your eyes. Believe me, I rolled my eyes big time at this revelation. I’ve been going to yoga for several years and I love the stretching and the balancing and aerobic aspect of the practice, but I’ve never been very good at the “relaxing” or meditating part of it. I’m the one who’s peeking when the teacher tells you to close your eyes, listen to your breath, clear your mind and yada yada yada. I’m sure a therapist would have a field day picking apart why I’m untrusting and can’t relax in a room full of strangers, but at any rate, I find it very difficult.
Needless to say, I was not looking forward to meditating daily. Still, I really wanted to become a calmer and more chill person, so I was willing to at least give it a try. According to the experts, 15-20 minutes was optimal. I knew there was no way in hell I could sit still for that long. And think about nothing? How does one do that exactly? The book I read suggested repeating a mantra in my head like, “Clear your mind” or “mashed potatoes”. Something that would prevent me from running through my mental to do list or obsessing about what I should be doing instead of sitting perfectly still for 15 minutes. And 15 minutes??? Are they nuts? But still, I had to give it a try before dismissing it.
I started off with 10 minutes the first day and I. Just. Could. Not. Do. It. I sat there for the first minute, trying to calm my racing heart and banish any thoughts from my mind. About one minute and seven seconds in, I had an itch on my nose that I tried to ignore until I couldn’t take it anymore. After I finally scratched it, I tried to repeat the “mashed potatoes” mantra in my mind but that just made me think about food, which made me think about what I was making for dinner, which made me realize I needed to stop at the store, which made me start a grocery list in my head. I shook that thought off when I realized how counterproductive it was and tried to go back to clearing my mind. I started the mantra in my head “clear my mind”, “clear my mind”. Then I remembered the papers on my desk that I needed to clear. And crap, I needed to run to the post office. Would I have time to do that and go to the grocery store?
Forget it, my mind would not clear. But no matter, my ten minutes had to almost be up anyway. I sighed and checked the timer…four minutes and fifty-three seconds. That was it. I couldn’t even sit still for five freaking minutes in a row.
Disgusted with myself, I was going to give up altogether. Forget a better me…I couldn’t even make it through day two. If I wasn’t even able to sit still, how did I think I was going to make the changes in my attitude necessary for this “better me”? How was I supposed to remain calm and less anxious if I couldn’t even remain still???
Then I realized my overreaction was exactly why I needed to meditate to begin with. So what if I couldn’t do it right the first time? This was not the right attitude and precisely what I was trying to work on.
The next day, I slapped on a set of headphones and googled “meditation music”. A few choices came up and without overthinking it (like I normally would do), I clicked on one and set the timer to 5 minutes. Baby steps…
I decided instead of trying to clear my mind, I should just try to let the music relax me and let my mind be the boss…as long as it didn’t want to make grocery lists, that is. Surprisingly, the music did the trick…I easily imagined my body floating on a cloud, weightless and carefree. I actually felt totally relaxed. I was doing it! The timer buzzed and I thought it was a mistake. How could five minutes go by so quickly?
The next day, I tried to meditate for six minutes. That too went by in a blink of an eye. Each subsequent day I added another minute until before I knew it, I was at 15 minutes. I actually began to look forward to starting my day off with meditating—it was the only time of day where I could actually allow myself to NOT do anything. I discovered that when I first woke up in the morning was the best time to do it—I was still relaxed from sleep and my mental to do list hadn’t started running yet. Plus, no one else was usually awake so I didn’t have to worry about extraneous noises to distract me, like kids running up and down the stairs, and the dog barking his dumb head off at leaves blowing by. I also wasn’t nervous that someone would walk in on me meditating, either. Not that they didn’t know that I was doing it every morning, but they would love to mock me if they caught me in the middle of it. And that would annoy me and defeat the whole purpose.
In fact, one Saturday the fellow residents of my insane asylum had gotten up in the middle of my daily meditation and proceeded to argue with each other ten feet from where I was try to meditate. Needless to say, that day didn’t go as smoothly as planned. Yes, because I noticed that meditating put me in a much better frame of mind for the day. If I didn’t do it, or it didn’t go well, my mindset was off for the whole day. If I did, I could handle the day much better. Even as things flew at me left and right—who had to be driven where, why was the dog’s ear bleeding, why the heck did it seem like all the kids at school in my office today—everything seemed much more manageable after a morning mind clearing sesh.
You should try it. I know, I know…it seems silly, but it’s a really easy way to make yourself happier and calm. I can’t claim that meditating will make all your problems go away…in fact, I noticed, just as the author of “You Are a Badass” promised, it seemed like the universe was actually throwing more $hit my way than usual. Allegedly, it’s testing me. Maybe. I don’t know. What I do know is that I definitely do feel calmer and less anxious during the day, even when it seems like everything is crumbling around me. It’s a habit that has been easy to keep…one I look forward to so much I might even break it up into two 10 minute sessions a day. We’ll see. Until then, keep calm and meditate on.