Inside My 100 Day Meditation Challenge

I was once told I was a seeker. And not in a good way. A seeker in the way that I was always looking for the next best thing to make me happy. Yeesh.

Looking back over my post-grad years, I have to say, that person was right. I was looking for some sort of formula, like a page that fell out of the book of my mind. And, frankly, I was growing weary of the search. I’d heard that meditation was a good way to be more grateful and secure in my life, so I gave myself 100 days and bought a subscription to the Calm app to facilitate.

I was thinking, perhaps, 100 days later I’d be bald, robed and on a silent retreat in India. But nay, I’m still me.

Here’s what I actually discovered during my meditation challenge.

1. Humans (myself included) are complicated AF.

More than ever, I look at myself, other people and society as a whole with a questioning eye. There are a LOT of subtleties to observe in your own mind and the world around you — a lot that goes unnoticed in between your own ears! But, in order to notice more, you have to be fully tuned in to the NOW frequency, not darting from that thing you should’ve said a minute ago to the way someone else is perceiving you to the 15 things on that list you could be doing. Just now.

Meditation forces you to practice noticing your thoughts and, as a result, you notice more of everything.

Post-challenge, if I sense a sour mood coming on, I’m able to notice it, call it what it is, understand its impermanence, find the root, and address it before it spirals me into despair and ruins someone else’s day. That’s the most useful application. Least useful is when a game is on and I’m thinking about the person who chose the font on the scoreboard. I suppose sports never much held my attention anyway.

Body language; word choices; energy—let’s just say I notice.

2. All you can control is your own perception and your actions.

Empathy is one of the strongest gifts I have and, resultantly, I’ve lived my young life taking other folks’ emotions and anxieties on as my own responsibility. Before the challenge, I was doing this mindlessly.

Through guided meditation, I’ve realized where I end and others begin. I’ve learned that words and energy aimed at me are often not about me at all. I’m able to understand and move through situations without taking anyone else’s “stuff” on as my own. As a result, I’m far less affected by pissed off drivers on the 405. I keep right on dancing.

Becoming more aware of the boundaries between myself and others has made me more sure of myself and who I am. The confidence I didn’t even realize I’d lost started to saunter back.

3. Anxiety does not just disappear.

After completing my challenge, I went to Chicago for work and, for whatever reason, I had an immense amount of built up tension in my chest on the way to the airport. Even after 100 days, I still have anxiety and awkwardness in my life. It doesn’t just vanish.

The difference is in my perception of that anxiety. I meet it inquisitively, asking what it is that I need to resolve. And then I meditate. I clear my thoughts, slow my heart rate and simply trust that I will feel a sense of inner peace. More often than not, I do.

4. The freer you are to meditate, the more you discover.

A few nights before completing my 100-day meditation challenge, I had a strange experience.

About 20 minutes into an open-ended non-guided meditation (basically listening to music in headphones), I felt a stirring that resembled anxiety. Subsequently, a warmth washed over my entire body and then my body just disappeared. I was boundless. That bodily presence we feel in our hands even if they’re not touching anything? That was gone. I felt huge in a way, as if my mind’s eye was floating just below the ceiling. The music in my headphones seemed far away. But I understood I could come back whenever I liked.

I don’t know what benefit this experience brought to me physiologically but, psychologically, I know it gave me a sense of lasting peace. It was like I understood that my “self” went beyond my body. Deeply within or wildly beyond.

I don’t think I could’ve gotten there knowing that I had to be somewhere in 15 minutes. My night was open and I was free to explore my inner world.

5. You don’t have to choose between meditation and prayer.

Asking for divine intervention in life is a beautiful part of our path as spiritual beings. It’s a recognition that we do not have ultimate control — that there is something else miraculous beyond ourselves that’s somehow involved in it all. I found myself connecting with this great unknown more deeply in meditation than any other spiritual practice in my life.

I came to appreciate meditation as a form of prayer. Just sitting still and asking for guidance is a note to a higher love that you’re open to change and expansion.

I write about self-actualization, career building and happiness. Currently director of ops & strategy for bad ass creatives @ Wicked+.