What I learned over 30 days of practice.
I have meditated on and off for the good part of 20 years but failed to ever develop a regular practice. Aware of the profound benefits for the mind and body, such as mental clarity, reduced stress levels and improved mood that come with consistent practice, I wanted to try again to make it stick. This time, I spoke with a couple of meditation experts for their advice. Here’s what they said and what I discovered over 30 days.
There are tons of different meditation types.
From a guided voice or sound-bowl music on an app to quiet breathing and repeating a mantra (a statement or sound), there are many kinds of meditation. Jessica Calderon, yoga and meditation teacher at Springs Yoga in Sandy Springs and energy alignment coach at The J Way, suggests going with whatever you’re gravitating towards. I chose to alternate between quiet, deep breathing and silently repeating a mantra to focus when my mind was particularly all over the place. I always start with a body scan and breathe into any areas of tension.
Research has shown that even five minutes of meditation per day is beneficial. Sandy Springs-based transcendental meditation expert John Pappas recommended two sets of 20-minutes meditations daily (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). Honestly, this felt impossible between my work, mom and social schedule, so with Calderon’s more flexible feedback, I modified his advice to make my goal one 20-minute session each day.
Meditation is called a practice for a reason.
Just like any other wellness routine, be it going to the gym or preparing a healthy meal, discipline and devotion to yourself are required to see it through. In the beginning, I felt like my mind was just ping-ponging from topic to topic, and the meditation wasn’t “working.” On some days, it caused anxiety to simply sit down for a full 20 minutes with a milelong to-do list awaiting me for the day. But every now and then, something clicked, and the time flew by. I was observing thoughts in cloudlike fashion as they drifted in and out without my engaging in them.
“You are training your mind just like a movement practice is training your body. Until you’re feeling results, it can feel task-y. You’re also training yourself to say, ‘I don’t get up at the first thought of discomfort,’” says Calderon.
Finding the right time is a challenge but key.
At first, I bounced around between meditating first thing before getting out of bed (which felt too sleepy) and at various times in the afternoon, which felt forced in between work tasks. The inconsistency in times also led me to skip days here and there. I found the most success after dropping my daughter at school prior to starting the workday or settling into a quiet space after a shower and cup of coffee on the weekends. “The more you do it at the same time and in the same place every day, the more you’ll get into the state faster,” Calderon says.
The results of meditating for 30 days are in.
I’m noticeably calmer and feel more connected to my body. The everyday stresses haven’t been getting me riled up. I have come to a place where I really enjoy meditating and will continue to see what other shifts happen over time.
1. Quiet place: Go in your closet if you have to. Put your phone on silent.
2. Seated position: This can be in a chair, up against a wall or sitting crisscross. Just make sure your back is straight to help with breathing and energy flow.
3. Timer: This is a good tool at first so you don’t keep wondering how many minutes you’ve been meditating.
THE J WAY
PHOTO: Joann Vitelli
Managing Editor and Wellness Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Blogger at Badass + Healthy.