What One Year Of Meditation Has Done For Me
The impact and what I’ve learned this past year.
It began with a simple app I found called Buddhify. It consists of five to ten minute guided meditations for wherever you are. There are meditations for just waking up, some for at work, surfing the internet, can’t sleep, and others. It’s a great tool for taking a few minutes throughout the day if you need to recharge. It was also something my wife and I would listened to together first thing in the morning while we were still in bed which started the day in a relaxed, positive way. After learning a little more about meditation I started to listen to longer guided meditations on Insight Timer. My favourites included Kristopher Carter, Sharon Salzberg, Sam Harris, Jonathan Lehmann and Glenn Harrold. I decided to make it a part of my morning routine and it the practice persists to this day.
I quickly noticed a difference in the my daily life. I was calmer, kinder to people and better able to handle stressful situations. This feeling grew and it improved many facets of my life and I wanted to learn more. My wife and I decided to take a course in Transcendental Meditation (TM) which teaches a Vedic meditation practice meaning that the meditator would repeat a meaningless word given to us, a mantra, over and over again to keep our mind focused. The introduction to it was kind of hokey, but the practice was invaluable. TM recommends two twenty minute sessions every day. One in the morning and one before dinner/after work. The morning session was easy as it was already a part of my routine, but finding time in the afternoon was tricky. I stuck with the morning one and I do another if I have time or feel I need to.
I’ve since discovered other types of practices such as Loving-Kindness, Sympathetic Joy, intention mantras, and the simplest yet most difficult, Vapassana. Vapassana, also known as mindfulness (although I think all meditation is known as mindfulness now), is focusing on the sensation of the breath (or something else specific like your feet while walking) and when your mind wanders bringing it back to the sensation of the breath. Like I said simple, not easy. I learned a few ways to help this practice like labeling the thought I had wandered to or thinking of the words “in” and “out” with the breath or the word “nothing” to help clear the mind. It’s a challenging thing to do. The monkey mind is real and I, like many others, thought my mind was crazier than most which made it far more difficult to focus. It turns out we’re all like this. Even the masters are still just bringing the awareness back to the breath. They are just much better at it and better still at forgiving themselves for their wandering mind. And that is what meditating is. It’s being kind to yourself above anything else. It’s not about clearing your mind it’s about forgiving yourself when your mind wanders. And it will. And ultimately if you are kind to yourself you are kind to others.
What I’ve Learned
I have truly come to appreciate the discipline of sticking to a routine. I credit my morning routine for dramatically improving my life in many areas. I’ve lost 40 pounds this year, I’ve improved my blood and heart health with my diet, I am consistently improving my athletic performance in running, cycling, weight training, and thanks to meditation I have enriched the relationships in my life. It doesn’t have to be anything too difficult. It’s just about the discipline to do it every day.
I attribute a great deal of my self-respect and self-love to meditation. I know the importance of my purpose and core values now more than I ever have in my life and I live by them. I remind myself of them every day.
Meditation has stimulated my thirst to learn more about people and myself.
Meditation has taught me how to be present with the people right in front of me. I make an effort to ignore my devices when with people be it my family, friends or a clerk at a store. Life is much richer this way. “Boredom comes from a lack of attention,” as Sharon Salzberg puts it.
Although I have improved my diet, somewhat indirectly related, and have ramped up my exercise I feel that meditation has improved my physical health in my ability to remove most stresses from my life as well as being able to handle challenging events and people directly and honestly.
Meditation has helped in dealing with everyone from the guy who cuts me off in traffic to business colleagues to friends to people who are just plain difficult. Surprisingly, I wish them all to be safe, happy, healthy and to live with ease. It still blows my mind how much this helps.
I have learned how to experience joy in other’s successes through Sympathetic Joy meditation. Comparing ourselves to others is a lose-lose activity. Be happy for everyone’s, including your own, successes.
The practice has improved my focus, sharpened my clarity and inspired creativity which as a product designer enhances all aspects of my work.
Meditation is an unmissable part of my life. I can forego my morning shake, skip my delicious breakfast, and lazily avoid my morning exercise, but I won’t skip the meditation. It means too much. Even while my wife was in labour I took a few minutes here and there which ultimately helped me support her better throughout the experience.
Life this past year has brought with it health scares, losing a friend, making major lifestyle changes and the blessing of our first child, a daughter. I found that meditation has enriched the feeling of joy in joyous moments while strengthening the ability to overcome challenges. It has improved my life in every way I can think of.
Not bad for 20 minutes of breathing.
My Meditation Resources
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer
Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection by Sharon Salzberg
The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn Dr. Elissa Epel
10% Happier by Dan Harris
The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
The Inner Workout by Light Watkins
Tao Te Ching by Laozi
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Rich Roll Podcast
Tim Ferris Podcast
I’m also open for any more suggestions!