I fidget a lot and though I’ve always been low-key fascinated by meditation, there has always been a part of me that felt that time spent awake should be time spent active.
At least, until I saw this add on Instagram and kept hearing it interrupt my music on Pandora. The advertisement was for this app called Headspace, they were offering a free Take 10 challenge where you’re supposed to dedicate ten minutes a day for ten days to meditation.
I’m a true believer in Albert Einstein's definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results”. And having recently watched the Laura Vanderkam TED Talk on “How to Gain Control of Your Free Time”, I realized that my ritual of wine and Netflix was not enough to rid me of my everyday stress and anxiety.
With nothing to lose, except perhaps my tendency to hold onto stress, I thought I’d give it a shot.
The first few days I found it hard to focus (the fidget was fidgety, who knew?) and set aside time. But the app has this built-in reminder to “get some headspace” and app founder Andy Puddicombe’s calming voice reminds the listener of the benefits of repetition and makes helpful suggestions about location and the importance of posture so that your body can feel relaxed, but aware. I had no real excuses not to stick to it and It was surprisingly easy to turn into a habit to put make my self care a priority in this new way.
Puddicombe focuses on the senses, the movement of the body with each breathe, the feel of the weight of your body on the chair and feet on the floor and the sounds and smells around you. It seems silly, but it’s about mindfulness and being present. Some things I desperately needed a reminder of.
By day three I felt a change. I found myself focusing on breathing instead of worry. I was slowly allowing myself to live on the present, even when stressful situations came my way.
Day five, I started understanding Puddicombe’s point that we, as individuals, judge ourselves too harshly. We add judgement to everything. Our appearance, intelligence, capacity for empathy and countless other things. We even judge ourselves for that initial judgement. And for me at least, if I mentally hold onto some of that judgement, my body also holds onto that judgement.
It’s amazing what our bodies remember, that our minds may choose to ignore, and it’s amazing how we can hold onto negative feelings without noticing. I hold tension in my shoulders and no matter how many stretches or exercises I do, it’s always there as a reminder that I am not doing 100 percent right by me. A factor that I had thought I grew out of, but by taking time to check in with my physical and emotional self I was able to reconnect with how stress affects far more than my mood.
Every so often the app plays short animations to demonstrate the positive effect of meditation. Perhaps a little cutesy, but visualizing your busy mind as a sky with clouds that represent thoughts, might make letting go of negative or unproductive thoughts a little easier.
Day ten came and I found myself wanting to commit more. I’m someone with an absurdly busy mind and a majority of the clouds occupying this sky aren’t productive or positive lately, so, taking a moment to breathe and feel without judgement was liberating.
I understand that I am in no way cured of my every day stressors, but something I am starting to realize is that the mind and body need constant maintenance.
There is no quick and easy cure and you cannot start meditation expecting immediate results. It’s about checking in with yourself and distancing from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Like with anything worth having, stress and anxiety relief is an investment and while you may not want to pay money past the free trial of this app, there are plenty of books and Youtube videos that offer similar options.
Meditation may not be for everyone but even this skeptic is sold.