TRY: Month of Meditation
It's April! New month, new experiment. This month, I am learning how to meditate and I am very excited to see how this helps me with focus, stress, and anxiety.
I am generally an anxious person. I feel a lot of things all the time and sometimes it gets overwhelming. I also tend to stress myself out more than is needed because of unreasonable expectations or trying to accomplish too many things at once. Sitting still is a challenge for me. I spend one day a week where I try not to do anything except enjoy the day with my boyfriend. Usually we will sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast at home, and then go for a walk along the harbour or stop in a second hand book shop. Some days we don't leave his apartment and spend the day watching movies and reading on the couch. It is a wonderful day of rest but I have been craving some stillness throughout the week especially as I move into a busy spring and summer.
Therefore, April is the Month of Meditation. When planning this month I got a few different app recommendations for guided meditations that I am working with. My counsellor suggested Hello Mind which is actually a hypnotherapy app that helps with things like sleep or feeling anxious about something. It is a paid app, but they have 30 days for free. At the moment I am using Calm the most which is also a paid app, but they have a number of features for free such as white noise or nature sounds, and some of the guided meditations. I have used Headspace before but at the time I couldn't get into it, so for now I am going to stick with Hello Mind and Calm and see how that goes. My boyfriend recently purchased a book called The Mind Illuminated which is essentially a textbook for how to meditate. I would describe my boyfriend as rational. He is not exactly into the mystical stuff like I am with tarot and astrology. But he does appreciate mindfulness, greater awareness, and stillness. This book is a practical guide that integrates Buddhist wisdom and brain science into a step by step process for establishing a practice and learning how to meditate. I have read the first few chapters and so far it is great. It is easy to understand and offers excellent techniques for calming the body and focussing the mind.
How to Plan Your Own Month of Meditation:
- Establish a minimum amount of time that you are willing to focus on meditation each day. I am planning to meditate for a minimum of 10 minutes. Usually I aim for 15 to 20 minutes of stillness, but some of the guided meditations I have done are only 12 minutes. You can choose any amount of time. If you are new to meditation, I recommend 20 minutes or less so that you don't set yourself up for failure. Be gentle with yourself as this is a new skill that you are learning. Challenge yourself, but don't get too carried away.
- Create a space for meditation. When I am at my boyfriend's, we sit on the floor on a blanket and meditate in front of huge wall to ceiling windows that overlook the city. He lives on the 10th floor so it almost feels like we are leaving the city below and just surrounded by sky and clouds. At home I meditate on my bed. I live with a lot of roommates, so my safe quiet space is my room. I will sit on my bed in a cross-legged position surrounded by blankets and pillows, dim lighting, and might also have my diffuser going with some lavender essential oil. Wherever you choose to meditate, make sure that it is comfortable, quiet, and will allow you to close your eyes, let go of the world around you, and bring on the stillness.
- Meditate every day. Whether you use an app or sit in silence and focus on your breath or your body, it is important to establish a routine where you spend a bit of time every day to focus on stillness. This will help you build a new habit that will become part of your life. You will also get the best benefits in stress and anxiety reduction if you consistently make space for stillness every day.
- Find an accountability partner. You do not have to do this alone. My boyfriend and I are accountability partners for each other throughout the month of April. I text him every day after my meditation and ask if he has also meditated. We are honest with each other and encouraging. Sometimes we meditate together, and other times on our own. Get you partner, your friend, your family and make a point of telling them that you are practicing meditation and looking for encouragement through your practice. Your accountability partner doesn't need to meditate also, they just need to support you through your journey. Another option is to reach out to a mediation club. I know that there is a meditation club at the interfaith chapel at the university I attended and it is open to the community not just students. Do some googling and find your tribe!
- Allow mistakes. Not every day will be a perfect 20 minute meditation of stillness that leaves you feeling blissed out. Be realistic and allow yourself to make mistakes and fumble around until you find a method that works for you. Some days I can sit still for 20 minutes, other days I can barely sit for 2 minutes. You might feel like you need to move your body around and that it is stiff, so do it. Eventually you will become accustomed to sitting still for 20 minutes a day with or without a guided meditation. Allow yourself the time to adjust, and honour yourself through this new experience.
Meditation is a practice. It is not something that we are able to do perfect right away. In this world of distractions, finding space for stillness is so important. I have known this since I was a kid, but I always prioritized my To Do List before making time for stillness. No more! It is time for some more stillness in my life, more focus, and more mindfulness. Stay tuned for a mid-month update on how it is all going!
Be kind with yourself.