Beginning of My Meditation Journey
I am documenting my initial journey into meditating more. I want this for anyone that wants to learn how I started. Just like when entering a new “level” of anything, it becomes harder to remember the challenges when starting and/or the struggle.
I will share memories I have from meditating, how I started, eventually meditating longer, and how I over came certain hurdles as I encountered them.
If you are starting your meditation journey or want to learn how another person overcame obstacles in their meditation journey.
This article will take you about seven minutes to read.
Meditation has been something that’s been on my To Do list since the early 2000s. At the same time, one cannot just “meditate once” and say you have done it, unlike a bucket list. It’s a practice, routine, habit.
I share how I started from meditating “once”, to meditating randomly, and to now, where I am meditating an hour a day.
I read about meditation in articles and magazines. I never did it, even after reading the benefits of them.
One morning, after staying out all night, instead of crashing in my bed, I thought:
Why not meditate?!
I recalled all the information I read on meditating. I sat down and was still, facing the sun with my eyes closed as long as I could. I believe it was about five minutes or so I believe now.
What made that meditation significant was that a friend saw me and mentioned it the next day:
Wow, you’re really good to meditate after being out all night!
That was good to have the recognition, at the same time, that didn’t make me meditate more. The next time I would meditate would be a long time… a decade?!
Wow - talk about time between sessions!
Random minute here & there
The next time I encountered meditation was through the Apple Watch Breathe app, this was in 2015.
The Breathe app would give periodic reminders to breathe, which is nice and short. “Of course, I can do a minute!”
I enjoyed the reminders and the short duration of only one minute.
One cool thing about the Apple Watch’s Breathe app: it vibrates when you’re supposed to inhale and exhale. Giving an indicator to do those at specified intervals, even with your eyes closed.
This is interesting because of the controlled breathing aspect of meditation.
The Result is the Process
An important shift in my approach in meditation was when I read about meditation in Atomic Habits.
The author of Atomic Habits mention that the benefits of meditation doesn’t come right away. Only after prolonged practice one would even be able to measure their progress.
Understanding this shifted my thinking of approaching meditation. Instead of expecting benefits of meditation right away, I understood the results of meditation is the process itself.
This didn’t cause an immediate shift in my practice. It did change my attitude of: “ugh, OK, let’s get this breathing session done.” whenever my Apple Watch reminded me to meditate to: “OK, here’s another chance to meditate.”
Dedicated Ten minutes
With the Apple Watch Breathe app, it was good to give me a technique: timed breathing on a random basis. I didn’t have in my practice the regularity, randomly whenever the Apple Watch reminded me.
This is where medical treatment for a sty came in.
My doctor said to treat the sty, I had to hold a hot egg on my eye for ten minutes twice a day. Instead of an egg, I got a hot eye mask that covered both eyes.
With both eyes covered for ten minutes twice a day. What was I going to do in that time?
- I definitely can’t read.
- I could listen to a podcast.
- I could use the Apple Watch Breathe app for that time.
With the attitude shift of meditation from Atomic Habits, the last option was more appealing than it would be before.
The sty treatment caused me to dedicating time to meditating. I set aside twenty minutes a day to meditating, ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes at night.
Even with this dedication, I was sometimes off with my schedule. The medical treatment motivated me, I still had to make adjustments.
If I woke up late and had to rush to work. On the weekends, when my son was up before me, I wouldn’t have time.
Whenever I missed, I did my best to compensate, like meditating two sessions in a row in the evenings. Getting a session in when my son took his nap. As it was ten minutes, I would think ahead: would I have ten minutes here to meditate?
I also gave myself a break by skipping a session. Going from random minute here or there to dedicated ten minutes is basically 1000% more time.
One rule I did follow from Atomic Habits: never skip twice in a row. This kept me on track and kind of motivated me to meditate now or in some form. Part of it was momentum, another part was fear: “What if I need to skip again tomorrow?? Better to get it now so I have the skip option tomorrow.”
Eventually, I got into the habit of meditating consistently for twenty minutes a day. Looking back, getting to this point was not as hard as increasing effort by 1000%. (Writing about this now, I do feel there’s some success bias going on here.)
The main hurdles I was overcoming from random minute sessions to dedicated ten minute session was creating the right habits, triggers, setting how to break/bend rules, etc.
It was also creating the identity of meditating. When my wife saw I was meditating for ten minutes instead of just “sneaking off for ten minutes”, she was more accepting of this practice.
Ten to Fifteen Minutes
Once I was meditating twenty minutes a day consistently, I discovered an article that talked about Steve Jobs’ brain being younger than his body when he passed.
The article attributed his brain’s youth because he was meditating thirty minutes a day.
Oh, thirty minutes a day and a younger brain?
Well, I’m doing twenty minutes a day now. Another five minutes in each session isn’t that much. (This is a 50% increase!)
If Steve Jobs could do it, so can I!
From: 30 to 60
Getting from twenty minutes to thirty minutes was not that hard. I had all the habits from before and was able to just add another five minutes. Extending this was easier than expected and didn’t take another 50% more effort. It felt like another 10% more effort with all the previous steps habitualized.
At work, I read an article about a colleague that described his meditation journey: visiting monasteries, doing meditation retreats where he would wake up at 4:30 in the morning, etc.
The key idea from the article that struck me:
From his first meditation class, the instructor’s homework to everyone was to meditate one hour a day, whatever chunks possible.
Well, if the homework after a meditation course is that, I might as well start doing that myself.
I’m already doing a solid thirty minutes now. Going from twenty minutes to thirty minutes wasn’t that hard. How hard would going from thirty minutes to one hour be?!
Looking back, getting to one hour a day is a greater challenge than going from twenty minutes to thirty minutes, while not as hard as going from a minute to ten minutes.
If I were to compare the effort to climbing, going from twenty minutes to thirty minutes was just walking up a hill and thirty minutes to an hour felt like climbing a mountain.
I had to adjust habits. Re-prioritize things. Prioritize meditation higher while de-prioritizing other things, like TV watching, reading, etc.
The current process for me is I am just waking up even earlier and meditating for forty minutes. At the end of the day, meditating another twenty minutes.
One night when I was meditating outside, the weather reminded me of stuff I would do with friends over the summer. I messaged them saying I was meditating and reminisced about our past summers.
Some friends asked questions about meditation, hence it inspired this article.
What do you do [to meditate]?
I sit still in a quiet place. I was trying things with my mind. At first, it was forcing myself to “silence it” - when thoughts creep up, I would shut them down.
Now it is less about shutting them up. Refocusing when I notice I am in another space.
Focusing on: “Be here now” and the breathing sensation.
Also, how do you meditate? Do you use some app or music?
For meditating, I’ve been using my Apple Watch meditation app to just have controlled breathing. My company gave us Headspace app for free and I started using that for guidance now.
Most of the guidance from Headspace is around watching your thoughts and disconnecting from them. Letting them go by like traffic or clouds in the sky.
Have you noticed any changes in how you feel overall?
Yes. Small things, especially around my emotional states being more balanced. I notice I take more time to “react” right away, especially when I’m angry.
Emotional Intelligence Improvement
The emotional intelligence work plays into this. Having more emotional intelligence requires extending the time between stimulus and reaction.
With meditation, I’m constantly practicing on extending this timing.
I’ve noticed when I would be mad before, I would just do things right away to “deal with it”.
Now, I am taking time to breathe, think through the reaction I want.
Just like today, I discovered work my team contributed was wrong. In the past, I take the fury built up and immediately yell at everyone involved.
This time, I contacted everyone involved. Before I did, I wrote out what to say. The feedback to give. Dissected the issue a bit more. Found myself to blame as well. Started to look at different ways to resolve before contacting anyone.
I definitely did the yelling two years ago. I felt I handled things better today, the biggest improvement was because I am able to extend the time between the stimulus and reaction, thanks to meditating.
That’s the journey so far. From single five minute session after being out all night, to a random minute here and there, to a full blown hour a day. Definitely not the most linear path.
It was not a smooth trajectory and in a way, I have to credit having an Apple Watch, reading Atomic Habits, treating a sty, an article on Steve Jobs’ practice, and an article from a colleague to inspire me to this.
Remember: with meditation, the process is the result.
If you have questions about meditating or anything in this article, please contact me.