I’m a wannabe yogi. I’m working on myself as a human being, and yoga calls to me more than anything else ever has. I love yoga, I practice yoga at minimum three times a week, I teach yoga a few times a week and I read all the yoga books.
In my few years of consistent practice, I’ve noticed long-standing benefits, not only physically but mentally. I’m less anxious; I’m more mellowed out; I’m more patient … the list goes on and on.
But I’m nowhere near perfect. And this past year alone is testing the very limits of my already extensive practice. So after a lot of reading and enjoying my brief meditations in savasana (corpse pose) at the end of my yoga classes, I decided to take the next obvious step in this journey: daily meditations.
And boy, do I use the word “daily” loosely.
I took my first stab at meditation a few months back and quickly learned that unguided, the just-me-sitting-down-and-meditating type of vibe wasn’t going to work, at least not just yet. My mind would not settle for the life of me. I just ended up creating to-do lists in my brain for the remainder of the day or daydreaming or something or other.
It didn’t work out. I gave up for a while but then came crawling back because 2017 is a flaming dump truck of trash.
And because this is 2017, the year of the smartphone and all the apps, I Googled a few meditation options and gave them a shot. They were all right. But nothing really held my attention or spoke to me until a little earlier this month, when a yogi co-worker told me about Insight Timer (not sponsored, I promise). I really enjoyed how all-encompassing it was, and it being a free app didn’t hurt, either. Whatever your interests were, whatever type of guided meditation or music you were looking for, you could search by religion, by topic, by feelings, by the time of day.
So far, using this app, I’ve managed to meditate for the past 11 consecutive days. Sometimes it’s once a day. Sometimes I manage twice per day, right when I get up and right when I’m about to go to bed.
In the span of those 11 days, I’ve learned a lot about myself.
The first thing that struck me was: Holy shit am I a fidgeter.
I’ve never thought of myself as someone who has tics or can’t sit still for extended periods of time. After 11 days of meditation, I have now learned that this is simply not true. I cannot sit still for the life of me. The longest I’ve ever managed to meditate (guided, mind you) is 15 minutes, and even then, every few minutes I have to scratch something or adjust my seat or wiggle my fingers or my toes or roll out my neck. It’s almost comical. But like I said, work in progress. And would you know, since observing this in myself through meditation, I’ve been more aware of my fidgets when I’m working at my day job?
The second thing I noticed was how well I was sleeping at night.
This probably surprised me the most.
I’m nowhere near a good or efficient sleeper. My sleep schedule is crap and inconsistent (I can sleep anywhere between four and seven hours, depending), which is a recipe for disaster for anyone’s circadian rhythm. And so even when I do sleep for a good amount of time, it never feels restful.
I’m also one of the many people on this planet who is bombarded by their brain when they’re trying to fall asleep. So there I would be, lying in bed, thinking of a thousand different scenarios where “x” and “y” equal “z” while plotting out the rest of my week or thinking of things that happened in high school.
And then I started doing these meditations, and one of two things started happening. Either a) I fall asleep mid meditation, missing out on the whole experience, but that’s fine because I’m out like a light; or b) I’m not that tired, so I make it through a fidgety session but then drop right off and sleep peacefully throughout the night.
It has seriously been magical. I can’t tell the last time I’ve felt this well-rested in my life. Part of me would like to think that through meditation, I compartmentalize and start to let go of the thoughts that plague me during the day. I start to disassociate myself from what has happened or will happen (cue hippie, yoga voice here), draw my attention inward, and by the time I’m ready for bed, I’m soothed and settled and my mind isn’t racing at 500 mph, making it easier not only to fall asleep but also to stay that way.
Turns out for me, meditating and sorting through my head is better than ZzzQuil. Who’d have thunk?
That being said, some people may find meditation absolutely boring. And I get that. I’ve been there. Done that. For others, it may not be their cup of tea for varying reasons. I also get that.
To be quite honest, I’m skeptical myself as to how long I’ll be able to keep it up, even with my trusty app to help guide my thoughts to some semblance of peace and equanimity. But for now, I’m gonna enjoy my extra hours of restful sleep and watch my skin flourish, particularly in my under-eye region, without them bags they were carrying, while I also watch my mood prosper because I’m actually resting.
Do any of you folks happen to meditate? What are some of the benefits you’ve noticed? Sound off and be a hippie with me.