Meditating for a year. Was it worth it?
Has meditating on and off for a year had any affect on me?
Around a year ago I started meditating after considering it for a while and finally trying it after I heard Yuval Noah Harari sing its praises in his book '21 Lessons for the 21st Century'. Since then I have been meditating on and off for about a year. I'll attempt to convey my experience with the practice, the benefits I get from it in this article.
First off, before I started mindful meditation, I had the wrong idea about what it actually was. I thought the practice was some airy-fairy exercise that took hours each day and you needed to be taught it by some guru in a temple where you would make ohm sounds until you reached a state of enlightenment. While I'm sure that kind of thing does exist, it's not what I tried.
I started out watching a Sam Harris workshop on mindful meditation. He states that the idea of mindful meditation is that if you are conscious of your thoughts you can have far more influence on how your emotions affect your life. He also goes through a meditation exercise where you focus on noticing your breathing and other sensations. I think the actual mediation in the workshop was around 20 or 30 minutes. I landed up doing this a few days in a row. The experience I had in these few days was that:
- I can make time to meditate
- Meditation is not easy. The mind easily wanders off and bringing it back to the point of just noticing takes time and effort.
- There may possibly be some real benefit to this.
After my fair share of youtube runs, I decided to check the app store for some meditation apps and went with the free version of Headspace. It has a selection of between 5 to 20-minute mediations and at that point in my life I was waking up at about 5/5:30am, so I decided to do the longest mediations every morning, before eating and working. After finishing the free meditations on the app I decided to leave it. The novelty of the exercise the time it took all became a bit much and I stopped doing it for a while.
But a few weeks later, I saw a mediation course on audible that was kind of different, it focused on breathing exercises and seemed more like a destresser exercise and I decided to start doing that, after work every day. I have to say, I enjoyed it, but when the sessions started running nearly 30minutes, I couldn't make time for it any more. But rather than giving up, I restarted my Headspace journey with my new after-work meditation time slot.
At this point, I started finding the practice of taking time to sit still, focus, breath and think about thinking become beneficial. I could far more easily concentrate during conversations, think more clearly and rationalise my emotions.
Waking up so early was probably why I didn't enjoy it the first time, mediation became a chore and not something that I wanted to do. Doing it when I had time made me appreciate it more and I was more aware while practising it.
After weeks of continual practice, I switched to the 'Waking Up' app created by Sam Harris and eventually purchased it. The mediations are all 10 minutes and I enjoy the guidance more than what Headspace offered.
So as of writing this, I try to have a meditation session every day after work for 10 minutes, but some days it just doesn't happen. Still, it's become something that I enjoy doing, and something that I would highly recommend to anyone who hasn't tried it. If you think about how much of the day is spent doing something, watching something or just thinking and worrying, wouldn't you want to just try to settle down and notice your consciousness at work? Your consciousness is, in essence, your whole life and it stands to reason, the more you know about it the more you can understand your self. If you think of meditation in terms of a time/benefit analysis, mediation is fantastic bang for your buck!
In summary, I feel, that practising mindful meditation has made me
less stressed and more understanding of my mind and more sensitive to others and has promoted more rational behaviour in general.
It's also not as easy as I thought it was going to be. I don't often manage to get more than a four-day streak of meditations, but every time I finish a session, I'm glad I did it. It also serves as a fantastic method of splitting the day between work and home. By making meditation an after work habit, you can more easily shift the mindset between the home and work space.
Was it worth it?
For me, the answer is definitely.