One day Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?”
In response he said, “Nothing! However, let me tell you what I lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death.”
That’s how the story goes, at least.
I’ve heard a lot about mediation in the past, but only recently did I dive into its’ concept.. Buddha advocated it, the Dalai Lama taught it and even David in the Bible mentions that he meditated on all God’s work and mused on His deeds. (Psalm 77:12)
I guess I figured all of these significant historical figures must be onto something if they incorporated it into their daily lives..
After a bit of research, I jumped right in, and I have to say, it was much more difficult than I anticipated.
For one thing, I didn’t realize how often I let my mind think until I wasn’t supposed to. I never before considered myself an anxious person, but after sitting for the first time with legs crossed, eyes closed and palms open, my mind was anything but still and present.
Honestly, I felt like a rookie cowboy trying to lasso my thoughts into a pen, but I accidentally kept letting go of the lasso after throwing it. That was probably the most frustrating part.
Well, that on top of the fact that what I thought was at least 20 minutes of meditating was really only a little over four. Time may fly when you’re having fun, but it does not when you’re meditating.
Regardless, I didn’t want to give up. I prevailed. And I’m glad I did.
By the start of the second week, it became much easier to silence my thoughts. I had learned to appreciate every moment I was given, every breath I breathed, every joint and muscle that was relaxed in my body.
I learned that when you meditate, it’s not that you don’t let yourself think, but rather you learn to filter your thoughts. The thoughts I allowed into my mind were those of gratitude, tranquility and humility, resulting in an optimistic outcome upon the resolution of the practice.
Mindfulness has always been something I wanted to achieve, but I never before pursued it. It wasn’t until this two week meditation extravaganza that I felt remotely close to my goal, and it felt great.
I have to admit that it is quite a process. Fits of frustration ensue in the beginning, and excuses of “I’m too busy” start to surface, grandiose expectations are set and disappointment becomes common.
As much as I want to say I loyally practiced every day for 15 minutes,which was my goal, that would be a lie. This process of trial and error is all part of the practice, however, each and every day is different.
What’s most important is not the length of the meditation or even the quality, but rather it is the improvement you find from day one to day 14 and beyond.
I have included clips from my meditation journal that I kept throughout the course of the two weeks to give you a glimpse of what a newbie meditator like myself endured.
I urge you to give it a try, if you are feeling even the slightest bit inclined. The reward is certainly worth the challenge.
❂ Day 1 ❂
I woke up this morning with the intention of bringing peace to my mind to start off my day. I sat cross legged, closed my eyes, placed one hand in the other and consciously began to focus on my breathing. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. In again. Out again. I struggled with traveling thoughts and tried my best to bring them back to center; the core focus being my breath. From what I’ve read, this is normal for first timers. Surprisingly though, I felt much at peace with my first try. I think I successfully spent a solid four minutes mediating. Not very much in the long run, but a decent start for a beginner.
Consciousness. Focus. Attention.
❂ Day 2 ❂
I thought I would see how differently a night time meditation would feel in comparison to daytime. And honestly, I kind of put it off today. It’s really easy to feel like you’re too busy for personal time with yourself, but it’s never too late to regain clarity and get in tune with your soul. Again, it was difficult to lasso my wandering thoughts to a single focus. I began counting my breaths, which helped considerably. I took note of the environment around me—the softness of the blanket on which I was sitting, the lulling sound of the fan in the corner of my room. Eventually, I found myself forgetting where I was and just focusing on the intangible moment, a feeling I lacked previously. I lasted seven minutes in my practice. I don’t exactly know how to seamlessly conclude it, though, so that’ll be something to work on.
Reflection. Rejuvenation. Relaxation.
❂ Day 3 ❂
With it being a Friday morning, I felt a morning meditation practice would be best to finish off a week of hard work. Initially—I’m estimating during the first ten minutes—I struggled very much with wandering thoughts. I couldn’t help myself from thinking about yesterday and tomorrow, rather than thinking in the moment. Counting my breath wasn’t even helping me today. Thoughts of giving up came to mind, but I considered the opportunity as more of a reason to prevail; if I were getting anxious already this morning, then I needed a quiet moment to regain energy and clarity more than ever. I softened the expression on my face, opened my palms face up to vulnerability, straightened my back and took numerous deep breaths. It was here I began thinking about how often we take these breathes for granted. Hold breath. It happens millions of times everyday to the point in which we are insensitive to it, but without it, life would be no longer possible. Exhale. I began inhaling my anxious thoughts and then discarding them with every exhale. My body began to feel paralyzed and still; my thoughts ceased. I finally reached an equilibrium of peace for myself. This practice lasted me 15 whole minutes, a vast accomplishment to kick off my Friday.
Accomplishment. Peace. Renewal.
❂ Day 4 ❂
Better late than never, right? I had a decently busy Saturday, so I thought that the best way to unwind was to practice my meditation before bed. I noticed it was much easier to wind down—probably because I was already tired—but my mind kept wandering on reflections of my day. One technique I began to use was running calming images through my mind during my practices. Thinking of the most beautiful places I have been—like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, Bryce Canyon, etc—helped me humble myself enough to bring my mind to peace. Thirteen minutes today.
Relax. Unwind. Innovation.
❂ Day 6 ❂
What better way to start your Monday morning than to take the practice outside and be engulfed in the peace of the sunrise? It was undoubtedly challenging for me to stay focused despite the elements—it was roughly 30 degrees outside, the chilling wind froze my face and my hands were slowly going numb. Regardless, it felt incredibly pleasant to be at peace in nature, and to really experience the world I live in. I think the little things like the sun rising, the crispness of the wind and the icy dew on the grass are things that are often taken for granted, however are all little miracles in and of themselves.
Challenge. Appreciation. Oneness.
❂ Day 7 ❂
Definitely one of the more difficult practices I’ve experienced thus far. As much as I tried to silence my thoughts, I could not help but think about yesterday, today and tomorrow rather than appreciating the moment. I did however, account for the different parts of my body—the stiffness in my neck, the sleepiness of my eyes, the flexibility of my back—and I also shook my head just a bit as a physical way of shaking out the negative thoughts. I do still feel relieved, and I am grateful for the practice, however I wish it would have been more effortless, and I can’t wait to get to that point. Fourteen minutes.
Discouraging. Effortful. Relieved.
❂ Day 10 ❂
It has been difficult finding time to meditate the past few days, but rather than giving up, I pushed on. It’s never too late to get back in the practice. Optimism has primarily been my theme this time around. Today has been a tiring, dismal day physically and mentally—the weather outside hadn’t helped matters any, having been cloudy and rainy all afternoon. I found myself in a funk of sorts and feeling lethargic, but my 10 minute practice, though it was relatively short, was just enough to boost my mood and energy.
Hope. Tranquility. Optimism.
❂ Day 11 ❂
This practice was devoted to easing anxieties about leaving my family tomorrow. I wanted to set a point of reflection and rejuvenation for the day ahead, and gratitude for the three day vacation. With every inhale, I absorbed any nervousness that I had, and with every exhale I released them—expelling any power they had over me. I left the practice feeling ready to take on the next day, while also enjoying what my present moment had to offer.
Relief. Gratitude. Ease.
❂ Day 13 ❂
The tranquility of this practice came effortlessly and easily. My mind quieted unruly thoughts, and focused rather on thoughts of gratitude, peacefulness and humility. As I accounted for my body, I physically felt the weight lift off of my shoulders—what an amazing feeling! With the stress of finals week slowly approaching, I think this practice of mindfulness will help me to stay grounded and calm. Ten minutes.
Success. Achievement. Release.
Featured photo credit: Bloc reporter, Jordan Stovka, demonstrates her meditation routine on McKeldin Mall. Jordan spent two dedicated weeks meditating, learning to find her inner peace and relax. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Jordan Stovka is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.