What 3,000 minutes of guided meditation taught me
It’s not just about focus, but learning to find that place of calm even if it tends to get cloudy
Dec 23, 2019
My relationship with meditation has been on and off for the past two years now. In line with my annual holiday social media detox, I downloaded the famous meditation app—Headspace back in 2017. But while this introduced a whole new realm to my concept of peace of mind, I found myself not being able to keep up with it when the next chaotic semester started.
After all the stress and burnout from earning a degree took its toll on me this year, however, I decided to fully commit to meditating by subscribing and even paying for the apps’ monthly fee. This isn’t sponsored but in these restless times, paying P149 a month alongside dedicating 10 mins a day is a small price to pay for a process that could really teach you a thing or two about appreciating the present and holding it down for yourself.
It’s been six months since I started making an effort to show up to each session (almost) every day. In fact, recently I just reached a milestone of 3000 minutes of meditating (the app keeps track of it). This being said, I would like to share what I have learned and am still learning about the continuous journey towards peace of mind through meditation.
It’s not about stopping thoughts
When we hear the word “meditation”, most of us may have in mind an activity that requires extreme focus on something and that this is usually achieved by blocking out unnecessary thoughts. From the very start, however, the app makes it a point to creatively depict that meditation isn’t about clearing the mind by stopping thoughts. Rather, it’s about taking a step back from the busy road that our mind is subject to becoming and simply positioning ourselves at the side of it to observe its traffic each time.
Practicing this brings into light that like everything else, our ideas come and go so we shouldn’t be quick to dwell on each one. And for a person like me who’s always been told that she was in too deep, learning this was a paradigm shift, to say the least. Instead of fixating on these storylines of the mind, day by day, I found myself constantly being reminded to approach each thought from a new perspective and this allows me to avoid taking things too seriously—something that I badly needed.
In my first sessions, I would always be annoyed when people came barging in my room whenever I was in the middle of meditating just because it was so hard to keep my focus on the exercise. To be completely honest, there has been a number of outbursts that came from me because of this and I would always feel bad afterward because it would also dawn on me that I could’ve taken a deep breath first and thought about the most rational way to tell them about it or maybe I could’ve acknowledged that I should’ve locked the door if I didn’t want to be disturbed in the first place.
In short, I could’ve responded better instead of being carried away by my emotions and reacting in such a hostile manner. But needless to say, learning to continuously take some time out of my busy day to put things into perspective has taught me that being quick on our toes about something may sacrifice the quality of our actions.
Resistance only adds up tension
It’s quite normal and sometimes, even necessary to form a resistance towards certain things we don’t agree with. This is in the sense that we probably wouldn’t be celebrating Independence Day every year if the Katipuneros didn’t decide to form KKK in retaliation to our colonizers. Although, the paradoxical struggle in needing to be at ease whenever I’m meditating made me realize that our tendency to unconsciously put up a resistance with certain situations or even people is what makes it hard for us to do so.
Cases in point are when I grit my teeth or hold my breath whenever I find myself in unpleasant situations—hence making me feel more tense. Or maybe those times, wherein I just couldn’t let myself be happy for my achievements. The thing is, these acts of resistance are self-sabotage in its finest and we would do better if we just approached things with a little more openness and acceptance in mind. But of course, this is easier said than done and that’s why we continuously need to train our minds to acknowledge resistance that’s building up.
Underneath all the clouds is the blue sky
The bad news from all of these guided meditation exercises is that they don’t promise to conjure up or even give you a state of calm. What they do assure you is that this is because such a widely sought out state of mind has always been there in the first place. It is what they call the ‘blue sky’ and it may as well be the good being able to outweigh the bad nevertheless.
There is comfort in knowing that even though the sky may seem cloudy at times, underneath all of it is that default blue sky that’ll eventually peak through. This means that even if there will be times when we feel like our peace of mind is irretrievably lost due to certain circumstances, a resilient will along with proper help and guidance can lead us back to it.
It’s completely normal to lose your focus
Throughout the 250 sessions of 10-15 minutes guided meditations, I have to admit that there wasn’t a single one in which I can say that my mind didn’t drift off somewhere else. Nonetheless, in the middle of each one, Andy Puddicombe (the founder and the voice behind it) will remind you that this is completely normal. The key, however, is to recognize when the mind’s wandered then to acknowledge it, and simply to come back to the exercise by anchoring it on the movement of the breath.
At first, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with myself for being distracted but the way someone constantly reassured me that it was okay fosters this compassion for oneself, the process and even others. It’s a gentle reminder that you just have to catch yourself whenever you’re slipping away and I think the beauty of all that this process implies can be applied to a lot of aspects in our life.
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