I’ve always had trouble with my breathing, whether from asthma as a kid or just stress-related things that cause me to breathe a little heavier. I read some articles about meditation and their was enough evidence out there for me to convince myself meditating would solve all my breath-related issues.
It’s amazing how meditation has become such a wide-spread norm nowadays. It seems like everyone is talking about it. It’s definitely not easy, but I think in the last few years it has really taken off and it’s something I even talk about now with family or friends. Five or ten years ago, I think it would have seemed very strange for a family at dinner to be talking about their meditation habits, but now, it’s commonplace.
I’ve always been a calm person and never had a temper or anger issues, but I have always been a daydreamer. I don’t have A.D.D. (nor am I self-diagnosed like 90% of people seem to think they are), but I do have a tough time focusing when in conversations or meetings. My mind is always off somewhere else, thinking about Seinfeld-ien things in everyday life like why that person is such a close-talker, or who came up with the idea for socks.
From the things I read, it sounded like meditation’s idea was to silence those thoughts. Even if just for 5-10 minutes, it gave you the time to think about absolutely nothing. That sounded amazing to me. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of “nothing.” But then I read that Jerry Seinfeld himself is actually a very big meditator. He meditates twice a day and credits his ability to write and think to his daily meditation habit. Once you are able to quiet the mind and control the thoughts that are coming in and out, you can control everything else in life. Your ideas, your creativity, your emotions, and your temper.
I 20 years old when I made it a habit to try and meditate every morning. I would wake up, sit on the edge of my bed, close my eyes and start. I began by taking long slow breaths; counting to four on the in-breath, holding, and counting to four on the out-breath. It definitely calmed me down, but the effects were only temporary. My mind immediately lept from thought to thought, worry to worry. It was insane. The thoughts and dreams were literally dancing in my head back and forth. But the coolest thing was that I started to actually notice my thoughts. I would see when a thought came in my head, and I would see when it left. The more I meditated, the more I was able to look at each thought individually and label it. I could think about something at work and just say “Work”, and it would go away. Then I’d think about going to a tropical island and I’d label it “Vacation” and it would go away. After several weeks of meditating, the thoughts started to slow down. It is like a conveyor belt, with thought after thought whizzing by at lightning speed. But as you meditate more, and you start to build your mental stamina, the conveyor belt slows down. And you start to see the individual boxes being loaded on. Little by little, with more and more practice, the conveyor belt starts to have less things on it. Eventually, you are able to clear the converoy belt and even stop it altogether.
It wasn’t until after college when I started working full-time and developed a steady morning routine that I really tried to implement meditation in to my daily life. I heard about the app Headspace through an ad, or maybe a podcast and gave it a try. The first thing I noticed was the guy’s voice. The 10-minute meditations are narrated by the smoothest British accent you’ve ever heard. He could be describing himself taking a shit and it would still put me in to a meditative state. Such a calm, tranquil voice. I ended up using it 5-7x a week and got into it but fell off once I got bored with the same sequence of meditations over and over again.
After a couple of months I tried a new meditation app called Calm. The lady’s voice isn’t nearly as calming as the British dude from Headspace, but I seemed to like the quick 5 minute themed guides more, so I bought a year package for about $80. I liked Calm because it kept track of how many days in a row you meditated for. My longest streak was 39 days in a row. I always tend to miss days, mostly on the weekends when I’m with people and don’t get the opportunity for alone time. But Monday through Friday is an absolute must for me.
I’m not a meditation expert. Some people are able to meditate for 20 or more minutes, but I find that my sweet spot is somewhere between 5-7 minutes.
Overall, my meditation practice has been on and off for about 5 years now. I’ve weened myself off the meditation apps and videos and have developed my own personal routine that suits me best.
Here’s my routine:
- Wake up early (6am)
- Down a glass of water
- Make my bed, open my blinds to let sunlight in
- Sit on the edge of my bed, hands on lap, both feet on the ground, good posture
- Breath in and out, exaggerated and loud for one minute
- Box breathing (four seconds in, four second hold at the top, four seconds out, four second hold at the bottom – 4x)
- Let thoughts roll in for 30-60 seconds
- Push the thoughts aside and focus on the breath coming in your nostrils and out of your mouth for the next four minutes
After time, the last part will get much easier. If I miss a day or two of meditating, I find it takes a few days to get back in to my rhythm again. Similar to working out or eating healthy. It’s all about momentum.
The best part about meditating is finding your “flow.” What I mean when I say that is you literally feel nothing. You think nothing, you feel nothing, you hear nothing, and you see nothing. It is difficult to stay in this state for over 1 or 2 minutes, but when you do, you finally reap all of the benefits of meditation. It’s like all of your senses dull and you just have a clear mind. All the months of struggling, getting antsy, trying to sit still, trying to clear your god damn thoughts. It’s worth it.
When I first heard about meditating, I knew it was going to be difficult. It took me about 2 full years of meditating regularly to finally be able to do it on my own – without the help of an app, a song, or a podcast. And even now, there are some days where I can’t clear the monkey mind. But it’s ok. I don’t try and force it. If I have a lot on my mind, so be it. But those ten minutes of silence, not looking at your phone, not worrying about what show is on, not trying to rush out of the house, it’s the only true alone time with just you and your thoughts where you’re really focusing.
I don’t try to push meditation on people, but I know for a fact it helps. Tim Ferriss, an author, entrepreneur, and host of one of the most popular podcasts in the world The Tim Ferriss Show” has interviewed hundreds of the most successful people in every industry (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scott Adams, Wim Hof, Glenn Beck, etc.) and over the course of interviewing these people, he learned that roughly 70% of the guests on his show – the most successful people on planet – do some form of meditation or mindfulness practice. That is un-freaking beliavable. Seventy percent! If that stat doesn’t push you to at least look in to it, I don’t know what will.
Everyone is different. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. Transcendental Meditation (TM) is meditating by saying a phrase, or mantra, over and over again. I could never do that. For me, focusing on my breaths in and out is perfect for putting me in the right mental state in the morning and sometimes before bed.
If you have a similar practice or do something radically different, post it in the comments. I’m curious to hear about other people’s meditation habits and would love to discuss.