Here we are, the final week. From this point forward, I’ll be accountable to only me for my meditation. I won’t have an article to write about my ups and downs. I won’t have the silent but attendant pressure of sticking to a schedule. I won’t have the hope of helping other readers find their way to a pillow or chair or bed to discover this simple (but never easy!) practice via an ongoing mini-column. Bah, but how I’ll miss it! Because of this beautiful challenge, I finally mustered up the wherewithal to go all in with meditation. Not to just try it here and there, but to dedicate a full 30 days to the practice, write about it, and see where it would lead.
At the risk of sounding a bit melodramatic, these 30 days have been life-shifting.
I have discovered three brilliant meditation teachers in Sharon Salzberg, Belleruth Naparstek, and Andy Puddicombe (Headspace). These are my gateway mentors, and I’ll be on the hunt for more and different gurus in the future, thanks to their gentle yet informative instruction and imagery. (If this were an Academy Awards speech, I’d make sure to also give my meditation hero Priscilla Warner a shout-out for her powerful yet vulnerable book, Learning to Breathe, which officially planted the meditative seed in my brain. Her honesty about her journey through varied contemplative processes, courtesy of crippling anxiety, is second to none.)
I have hit upon countless guided meditations on CDs and online. Check out www.dharmaseed.org for more free guided meditations and talks and information.
I found three awesome (and awesomely free) iPhone apps to help me along. Guided meditations and guided imagery are two very different, but equally powerful, tools and there are times and places for each.
And, no conclusion would be complete without a few important lessons, right? So here are my major takeaways, breakthroughs, and ah-has:
1. Meditation is Simple But Not Easy
I know, I know—you’ve heard me say this before. But it’s the truth, and I bet I’ll feel this way in another 30 days and 30 days after that.
2. Using Meditation Tools is Not Hoodwinking the Process
I can be a bit of a purist. I’m not one to practice yoga mixed in with Tae-Bo or Zumba, and I figured I didn’t want to muck up my meditation practice with guided imagery. But I stand corrected. Guided CDs, some even backed with music, are a really lovely alternative to going at it 100% alone.
3. I Can Meditate Anywhere, Anytime
The grocery store, a dull meeting, while I’m in bed, falling asleep. All of these situations are ripe for a few minutes of turning inward, which I was surprised to find out. Although a cozy pillow settled next to a yummy candle while the house is quiet can be wonderful, it’s not a requirement for fruitful meditation. Don’t make perfect the enemy of good—when a few minutes present themselves, take them and use them for a meditation quickie.
4. I Still Have to Convince Myself to Take the Time to Meditate
Even after my 30 “life-shifting” days, meditation is still something I have to make time and space in my calendar for. A couple of days during the challenge, I found myself trying to weasel out of my dedicated 10 minutes at the end of the day because of whatever excuse I found handy. But, as I’ve found is true of eating well, practicing yoga, and basically anything else good and healthy, I never felt worse after I meditated. I may have dragged my feet, but once it was over, I was always grateful I carved out the necessary time.
5. Meditation Works, Plain and Simple
And don’t take my word for it! The research is overwhelming, the studies are comprehensive, and the results are damn near impossible to refute. This is a powerful practice. Whether you’re a busy yuppie, a stressed-out mama, someone fighting disease, or a complete skeptic, the brain scans are in. Meditation is something that is becoming mainstream, more scientifically supported, and, I hope, more practiced.
I gave it a shot, and it paid off. Won’t you give it a go?