When I first tried meditation a little over two years ago it was among my dirty little secrets. I didn't like to talk about it because it seemed a bit trendy and I hadn't quite figured out whether it would remain an important part of my routine. It's fair to say that meditation has become an important part of my life and thought I'd share a bit about my experience so far.
The motivation to try meditation was rooted in my struggle with stress. At the time my stress level was affecting all aspects of my life, cropping up in all kinds of ways that I don't like. My breaking point was when I realized that I was getting tunnel vision any time I tried to solve a problem, blocking out any and all other things in my life, no matter how important. For bigger problems, especially ones without complete solutions, tunnel vision has a serious issue.
Sam Elmore, who I had worked with in a variety of company and individual settings, recommended that I try meditation and coached me through a few sessions to get me started. The first few felt almost useless - I had a hard time sitting quietly for 30 seconds, let alone the 20 minutes or so that I've build up to today. If you're giving meditation a try, start with whatever you can manage and build on it.
I also struggled with meditating regularly, and eventually learned to build up to a daily(ish) routine in the same way that I built up from 30 seconds to 20 minutes for a given session. I've started thinking of habits as footpaths, which can be established even if they're not walked every single day. Don't give up if you have a hard time squeezing it into your schedule. If you find it to be a valuable practice it will make it's way into your routine eventually. With some practice I've found that I can meditate on the bus ride into work when I can't manage it earlier in the day.
Two years later I've found that I appreciate meditation for a few reasons:
- It's become "me time" that I carve out for myself, which helps balance the time I spend taking care of family, friends, clients, and other community members the rest of my day.
- I'm able to notice when I'm getting stressed out, which gives me the opportunity to do something about it before it gets worse. Tension in my face, neck, or shoulders and shallow breathing have become warning signs that I'm stressed. When that happens I know I should get up and walk, have something to eat, or meditate to take a step back before I start to get tunnel vision.
- I feel physically healthier. Lowering my overall stress level has helped with discomfort I've had in my lower back for years, has me out sick less often, and has made it easier to maintain my weight.
- I'm much more productive. I'm able to focus on the task at hand without spending too much energy thinking about other things that need to get done. They're still there, but I'm able to keep them in my peripheral vision instead of getting in the way of what I'm trying to accomplish in the moment.
Thanks Laura Harrison and Galvanize for organizing a visit to the Boulder Shambhala Center this morning. She arranged for guided meditation for me and several other Galvanize mentors, which was a great perk and way to start off my day. It was also the inspiration for this post!