41 days ago, I had the thought that I'd like to try a simple, short practice - 20-25 minutes of meditation every day for 40 days. I have to say, before this point, I was not a big fan of "40 days of" practices. I have this strong rebel part of me that doesn't like to be told what to do, doesn't like to conform to much, and doesn't like to have to commit to a long period of anything. Maybe because I think I'll fail, maybe because I push back at anything that feels dogmatic or prescribed. Who knows.
But this time, I felt the easy inspiration rise up to do it, and knew that I would and could and felt quite excited about it. I was just coming out of a tricky time of anxiety and spinning mind and continual ruminations and despair about being in that place. And I thought, I want to try an experiment. I've meditated for years, I've read so much about meditation and mental health; I want to see what happens if I take this time every day to calm my mind and sit in quiet.
So I embarked on my own personal journey, my own personal experiment with regular meditation. Not for any spiritual or discipline reasons, but as an exploration about mental health and wellness. To see if it would soothe my racing mind. Partly for me, partly because I want to learn all about what can soothe and heal and help anyone with mental health struggles.
Today is Day 40. I've done it. Every day. Most days I sat at about 6 or 6:30am for 20-25 minutes. In my living room. The early-rising sun was a wonderful support in this, as I know it's much easier for me to rise when it's light out. Some mornings I had a trickier time getting out of bed, and would meditate in the evenings. A few weekend mornings I wandered over to the park across the street from my place and sat on the grass under a tree and soaked up that beautiful earth energy while I meditated. One day I sat in the gentle rain.
Each time was surprisingly sweet. I say surprisingly, because I've had meditation times where it felt like an effort to just show up. But something about this experiment, this adventure of 40 days, made it feel really fun and delicious.
Here's what I noticed. Many times when I sat, my mind was busy. For sure, my thoughts jump around a lot. There is planning. There is daydreaming. There is worrying. There is question-asking. But each time I caught my mind wandering off to a new place, I would notice the thought, occasionally labeling it as "worry" "plan" "thought" "emotion", and then come back to my meditation. Occasionally I would know that the thought or emotion needed a little attention, and I would sit with it and say, do we need to think on this now, or can we think on this after our meditation? Almost always, the thought would simply fade and I would come back to my meditation. A few times the emotion came up and I wept for a minute or two, and I would watch but not get engaged in it, and come back to my meditation. Sometimes I knew what that emotion was about. More often I had no idea where the weeping was coming from, and I felt very calm about that. At this point in my journey, I trust that when I weep, something is being released or healed, and I don't need to know what it's about. Sometimes I knew the weeping was about a sadness, while at other times I knew the weeping was rooted in deep joy and pleasure and delight.
The most delightful part of this journey has been the effects I've noticed in my day-to-day life. So, yes, while in meditation, while actually sitting, my mind is moving, it's busy, there are thoughts and feelings and all manner of movement in there. But outside of my sitting, I've noticed a calming and quieting of my mind. In the last 40 days, I have experienced times of anxiety and worry. But it feels really different. I am aware of the spinning starting, but I am aware that I don't have any despair or dread about it. See, when I am not meditating regularly and the anxiety hits, I despair. It feels very overwhelming, like it is me, and will always be me, and I'm trapped and smothered by it. But for the last 40 days, I've noticed that I can notice my anxiety rising, and it feels real and not great, but there is not the attachment of despair and of being traumatized by it. Regular meditation has definitely changed my experience of my spinning mind. There is more of a sense of watching it. More compassion and love toward it. An ability to notice and acknowledge it more quickly, and a sense of it quieting much more quickly than previously.
I feel really grounded. I feel really confidant. I experience emotions strongly, but seem to be able to sit with them and not attach to them quite as dramatically as I often do.
There is a quietness, a steadiness underneath everything that I'm not aware of when I don't sit regularly. There is still much thought and strong emotions, but somehow it all seems to be injected with a calmness, a deep joy, a feeling of wellbeing. I can come out of the spins and negative spirals pretty quickly now.
I can't say for certain that this is a direct result of the regular meditation. I'm aware that this is also the season of sunshine and lightness and long bright days, and that makes a huge difference in my mental health as well. Maybe I'll have to plan this experiment next February to see if it's valid and reliable when the days are short and dark:)
Or, maybe, I'll keep up this experiment and keep sitting every day.
Because I've loved the experience. I've seen a real difference in how I see the world and cope with life and live it a little more fully and less anxiously. Also, it's giving me precious time with myself, time to sit and be still and feel connected to something very deep and beautiful and larger than the thoughts that race around in my mind. And all of those are very delightful gifts.
There is my little story of my 40 days:) I like this meditation thing. I dig it. It's sweet and beautiful and deep and healing and lovely and grounding. It is something very spiritual for me, which for me is a private thing to explore and enjoy, but it is also a very pragmatic, helpful, rational way to heal and soothe and quiet my mind. I am grateful for it:)
Thanks for reading. I share these thoughts partly because I love exploring and writing about my experiences, but mostly because I hope that by my sharing, some of you might be inspired, or find some comfort or tools that help you, or simply recognize yourself in my stories, which sometimes brings great soothing and peace if you ever feel alone in your experiences or struggles. I'd love to hear your stories or questions about meditation if you want to share!!