Every morning I wake up, and the first thing in my head is a Disney Princess song, or some ridiculous Minecraft-themed spoof of a popular song. This is what my kids force us to listen to in the car, and my brain uses these songs as morning motivation.
I scan Google News and the local newspaper sites. Hit the restroom and throw on a shirt and socks.
Then I sit cross-legged against the wall of my bedroom. I plug in headphones, open an app, and spend the next 10-20 minutes quietly grappling with the kids’ tunes – and everything else that my brain wants to chase around.
As a result, I’m learning a lot about myself. That I’m capable of focus, of calm, of being present and choosing how I feel across the various moments each day offers.
I learned that I can shut off the catchy tune sung by the animated teapot and candelabra, if I want. But I also learned that I can keep it around as a reminder about my devotion to my family.
That’s right, I’m about two months into a meditation routine. Here’s my story.
From Skeptic to Believer
Consider me to be both a meditation fan and skeptic. A fan because I’ve known about the benefits of meditation for years.
Science has known for a while. Studies show that just quietly concentrating on positive things that happen each day for just 15 minutes spurs measurable chemical changes in the brain. For those keeping score at home, quiet concentration is meditation.
But I was a skeptic, in the sense that I can’t meditate. I don’t have 15 quiet minutes in the day. I can’t stay awake if I close my eyes for 15 minutes. I don’t want to reach some higher sense of enlightenment, or meet Buddha.
I spent about six years saying that. Because that was comfortable.
So when I started doing things that made me uncomfortable, I naturally decided to give meditation a try. Since I’m all about sharing good stuff now, I want to chronicle how it’s going.
Top line: Meditation is fantastic, and I’m learning a ton. Give it a try.
But it isn’t a total panacea. It takes work and discipline, like most valuable things. And I’ve experienced a shitload of frustration.
It’s worth it, because the work of becoming disciplined within meditation teaches discipline itself. Meditation requires focus, but it also guides you toward being focused.
How I Meditate
I heard a reference to Headspace on the Writing Excuses podcast. One of the hosts said she uses the app to meditate. It helps her clear her mind out of the clutter so she can focus on what she needs to write.
That made sense to me, as someone who can take days to write a blog post due to distraction. Distraction and lack of direction are what have kept me from really pursuing the novels I dream of creating.
Combine that with my own desire to pursue more gratitude and mindfulness, I tried Headspace.
It works like this: When you download the app you get 10 free guided meditation sessions of 10 minutes each. After those you’re offered a subscription that unlocks all the other Headspace tracks, which include specific areas around health and relationships. They fire off some discounts to sweeten the pot.
I take ten minutes in the morning after I wake up, before I walk out and interact with my family.
I plug in headphones, sit cross-legged against a wall, and I just do what Andy (the co-founder and voice of Headspace) tells me.
It’s not complicated stuff – it’s about breathing, then intentionally focusing your mind on yourself, your breath, the feeling of your feet on the floor and your back on the chair or wall.
When you find your mind wandering off, which it will, you gently pull it back.
Ten minutes goes quickly, but you recognize a calm, clear direction once it’s over. I don’t get sleepy because I’m exercising my brain.
I did my first ten sessions across 25 days. It’s hard to build a habit, and I found plenty of excuses to skip some mornings. But for the first time in my life I had actively practiced trying to master mindfulness, of having a greater say in how I choose to be in each moment and how it affects others.
So I bought the annual subscription. I worked through another foundational series, and am now in “happiness.” I’m heading to “focus” next, naturally.
What I Expect from Meditation
Over time, my expectation is I’ll be able to identify – not suppress – the thoughts racing through my mind, and decide which ones I want to linger on. Over time, I hope to be able to create more of the thoughts I want to have.
In real terms, that means I want to show more gratitude, have more confidence, improve my focus and extract the most I can from each moment.
Life is short. We get older quickly, and I want to spend my time being how I want to be, doing what I want to do. That means getting some level of control over what my brain wants to do.
Is it realistic that meditation can help me do all these things? I actually think it is.
Will it happen? I’ll keep you updated.