“I’m nervous about this. Sitting still in silence for one hour seems like an excruciatingly long time. Even more so when I am stuck with my own thoughts and the constant chatter of my mind.”
These were the thoughts I wrote down in my journal in May before my first meditation. Well, I say first, but I have been trying to meditate every now and then during the past years, but I never really gave it my best effort. That is why I decided to challenge myself and meditate for one hour every day for one week.
I thought if I can manage to meditate for an hour, then surely 10 or 20 minutes would seem more achievable going forward.
Over the years I have read about meditation and mindfulness, and how these practices have helped some individuals with their mental well-being. Meditation is said to help with anxiety and depression by teaching you to become more self-aware of your thoughts and train your mind to become still – at least momentarily.
For the challenge I decided to jot down my thoughts before and after each meditation just to have something to look over at the end of the week. In short, I found this experience to be eye-opening in how much we actually have power over our minds, and whether we allow our thoughts to affect us or not.
Before I dwell more into my experience with mediating an hour a day, it might be helpful to share the “set-up” I used for this challenge.
The How and Where of Meditating
You can meditate pretty much anywhere you usually feel more relaxed and calm. Also, meditating doesn’t always mean that you have to be sitting cross-legged on the floor. You can meditate lying down, or by going for a walk in nature, painting, or really whilst you’re doing something that doesn’t require you to actively use your mind.
However, I like to sit on the floor cross-legged usually with the window open so that I can hear the gentle breeze of the wind and the birds chirping as I find this calms me down. Alternatively, there are an abundance of (guided) meditation playlists on YouTube that are also really helpful. I love the ones where you meditate to the sound of the sea and waves.
For the first session I actually played an hour long mediation video so that I knew when the hour was up. For the other 6 times I simply set my alarm to ring after an hour, however the sound of it makes for quite an abrupt transition out of your meditation. Also, it’s useful to turn your phone on silent, so that you won’t be disturbed by any messages or social media notifications popping up. That is all you really need, oh and, you’ll need comfy clothes (or just meditate naked) and an open-mind.
The idea behind meditating is to become aware of the whole momentum of your thinking. You take on the observer role who observes the thoughts in your mind with curiosity and without judgement. You are not trying to control your thoughts or suppress them by thinking more. Simply, observe the internal chatter of your mind and let the thoughts pass through without attaching to any of them.
My experience and What I learned
It’s funny to see how your mind will do anything and play tricks when you’re taking away its power. For example, during my first 1 hour meditation already from the start my thoughts were on overdrive. I kept recalling moments from an argument I had earlier in the day, which stirred up a lot of emotions in me. Out of habit, I asked myself “Why are you thinking about this right now?” after which all of those thoughts disappeared. It was an interesting observation and really showed me that your thoughts are just that – thoughts, and they don’t have any real meaning.
A thought becomes real the moment you give it attention or assign a meaning to it in relation to a physical object or person. However, if we do not give attention to a thought, answer it, try and change it, or identify with it, that thought ceases to exist. If we don’t give a thought any power, it will remain just as that… as nothing.
Overall, meditating for an hour actually goes by really quickly. Some days it was more difficult to just be and not get involved with any of the thoughts in my mind. What helped me during those moments was to focus on breathing deeply, and then the excessive thoughts would become more quiet. Meditating is not easy, but I believe the more you practice it, the more you learn to master your mind.
Since May I have continued to meditate regularly, but of course not for an hour as that is a bit extreme. I’ve noticed that, if a few days go by without meditating, I almost begin to crave it, which makes me more motivated to keep up with it. Even in situations where I used to experience a lot of (social) anxiety, I’ve found that meditating has helped me to learn how to relax my mind and not let the excessive thoughts hijack the steering wheel.
Since meditation has become part of my routine, I have found that my thoughts are less dominating and I don’t become as attached to them anymore. Realising that your thoughts aren’t real and only exist in your mind is so freeing. You are not your thoughts, and your thoughts aren’t you, which shows that you really have the power to shape your mind and the way you choose to see the world around you.
What is your experience with meditation? Have you found it helpful?