Work email, personal email, Skype (it’s how we communicate at work), phone ringing, text message, Facebook message, Instagram notification, FaceTime, G-chat, and a little something I like to call human voices.
That’s a minimum of 10 different sounds I can hear at any point during the day that each mean something different; that each command a certain response from my mind.
Check later, answer now, respond by end of day, give me a dopamine fix. Take your pick – I have them all.
And if you’re like me, you probably do too.
It wasn’t too long ago that I noticed watching TV was not enough. I’d find myself reaching for my phone, opening Instagram or Facebook, scrolling through, watching two screens instead of one. Not really paying attention to either.
Somehow, I needed more… while actually taking in less.
This is part of the reason I took on a 30-day meditation challenge with help from lululemon’s Mindfulness Manager, Danielle Mika Nagel. Two weeks ago I outlined everything I would be doing this month during this challenge. I promised myself I wouldn’t be bringing my phone into my bedroom, that I’d gradually be building up a meditation practice from two five-minute stretches a day to two 20-minute periods by the end of the month.
If you’re anything like me, and you’re honest with yourself, you know this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park – which is also something I should probably do more of.
But as I’ve been doing it, one thing has become clear – whoever said silence is golden sure must have had this meditation thing down.
‘Cause here’s the thing: silence is very hard to come by.
There was no silence the first day I sat down to ‘meditate’. There was the sound of a neighbour opening their gate. There was my fiancé tossing and turning in the bedroom next door after working a 12-hour night shift. There was the tiny roar of the morning wind hitting itself against the house in restless fits. Somewhere a dog was barking. An old car started up loudly out on the street.
Every noise, when you listen, when you sit still long enough to hear it, can take over. And this is just the outside world; it’s what’s happening inside your own head that’s the hardest to tune out…
Remember to follow up with X about Y. What should I eat for breakfast? I love breakfast. Mmm, I’m going to have a coffee after this. What’s that smell? Shut up, barking dog. Okay, concentrate. Breathe. That’s it, in and out. Huh, this is kind of relaxing. I could fall asleep pretty easily. Isn’t it funny that coffee and sleep are so great and they really don’t go together? Okay, shut up, mind. Back to it. Breathe… SHUT UP, DOG.
Suffice to say, the first five minutes I spent meditating were, as Hobbes might have suggested, rather brutish and short.
But it gets better. In fact, every time it gets better. Not like clockwork, exactly – more like two steps forward, one step back. But it’s there. The changes are happening. I feel less manic, less pressured. I’m calmer and have more patience for people and things. I check my phone much less often, no longer feel the “phantom ring” or the need to pull it out of my pocket unprovoked to see what I’m missing. I breathe more – or, at least, I’m aware that I breathe more. And it’s amazing how much power there is in that.
It hasn’t been easy to maintain. In a world filled with urges for instant gratification, meditation is not for the double-tapping at heart. It’s slow and hard work (yes, work – at least in the beginning), but like all work it eventually starts to pay off.
After 10 days I’m up to 20 minutes per day of meditation. I haven’t done it yet. I haven’t meditated. Well, not in the I’m-here-but-I’m-not-here, cross-legged, completely zenned-out way Hollywood would have you believe it happens.
But I do go somewhere. And it’s pleasant there.
I look forward to going even further in the days and weeks to come, and to telling you all about it.