February was my month of meditation focus. I have known for a long time that there are a lot of reasons to meditate, proven by history and science. It’s good for you. I should do it. But I didn’t…for a very, very long time. I was resistant because I have trouble sitting still. I think that’s it. Maybe I just wasn’t ready.
Then, sometime in fall of 2017, I started slowly. I began with the free version of the Headspace app. You can download it and get 10 days of meditation for free, starting with just 3 minutes a day. It was a good entry point for me. When I was done with the 10 days, I was at a point where I was limiting my spending so I didn’t pay for continued use of the app. But I did continue on my own, building up to 5 minutes most mornings. Not quite a robust meditation practice, but something.
After New Years this year, I took advantage of a discount for a year of Headspace and signed up. (It is not particularly expensive, I just had really been trying to limit all spending. With the discount I think it was about $40/year. The current rate is about $96/year).
The Headspace app provides guided meditations up to 20 minutes. And you have some leeway to choose each day whether you want 10, 15, or 20 minutes. The guided meditations come in different packages, each with a different focus, and using different mindfulness techniques. For example, I did a 30 day group of meditations focused on techniques for dealing with anxiety. There are numerous other categories with grouped meditations from sports performance, work performance, dealing with grief, to generosity. There are also sets of single meditations.
During my month of meditation, my goal was to make this a priority, to extend my time spent meditating, and to explore different techniques. At first I just continued with the headspace app, increasing a number of days from 10 to 15 minutes. I wanted to take a class that was recommended to me, but it didn’t start until February 24th. From there it lasted 15 days and this is what I have continued with now.
The course I took is online and it is through Ziva. The owner/teacher is Emily Fletcher. The 15 day training is actually fairly time consuming (though you can go your own pace because you purchase access for at least 6 months). There is a 15-30 minute video each day, but often other homework – consisting of other talks or guided meditation. And by the end we are meditating 15 minutes twice per day (the first built into the 30 minute video). There are also hour long calls every few days that you can call in to ask questions, or listen to later.
The technique taught at Ziva is mantra-based, and this was my first experience with a mantra. Emily also teaches a three pronged approach. 1. Mindfulness. We foster this through breathing techniques and focusing on all 5 senses, and do this at the beginning of a meditation. 2. Meditation. Focusing on a mantra, very gently. Thoughts that come in are okay, but when we realize we are thinking, we go back to the mantra – again, very gently. 3. Manifestation. At the end of the meditation, we drop the mantra but remain with eyes closed for a couple of minutes as we come out of the meditation. This time can be used for gratitude as well as manifestation. For manifestation, we think about what our goals are and envision that we already have what we want. We think of the people who will be involved and how it will feel. The idea is that no matter what, we are manifesting things in the world, but it is important to know what we want and have direction, and then to imagine it, and throughout our life actually to take steps towards it.
Since ending the class with Ziva, I have continued that practice of two 17 minute sessions per day. I liked the training with Ziva and adore the teacher. She seems like a great leader and I am willing to surrender to her teaching and try it out for a good long time. Many people in our class have had some pretty interesting experiences and seen changes. I don’t know that I have, but I feel something good is brewing – which is positive enough that I will stick with it! There are numerous types of meditation out there, but I am content following this version. I think the important part is to do it; whatever type of meditation one chooses, and if it doesn’t seem to be working, or if you are not doing it, then one might try a different type. I may go back to some of the focused packages with Headspace as well, and I think it is a great tool for anyone looking to try out meditation.
It’s a long way that I have come from being so against meditating at all, to now having twice a day meditation as a non-negotiable part of my day. It feels good, and I am excited for what’s to come. I am glad that my month of meditation led me to Ziva and the practice that I now have.
If you haven’t heard of the benefits of meditation, here are just a couple of people talking about those benefits: Scientific American blog post; Huffington Post article; and Psychology Today blog post.
Also, Tim Ferriss recently interviewed Jack Kornfield who has trained as a Buddhist Monk and has spent his life sharing Buddhist mindfulness practice with others. I highly recommend the whole 3 hour long interview, but in particular they have an interesting discussion about loving kindness meditation at about 1:28:27 (according to the timing in the show notes). And here is a link to online classes from Jack’s website.