Let’s start with some brutal honesty. When I pitched this article to my editor, the wonderful Jeana Anderson Cohen, I envisioned the piece as a glowing meditation (pun intended) on the many benefits of meditation. Had I actually tried meditating yet? Nope. But I was so confident of its ability to work wonders that I figured it was only a matter of time before I was zoning out on the morning commute, finding my inner peace during stressful moments at work and elevating my shavasana game to a whole new level.
Spoiler alert: None of that happened. And it’s not meditation’s fault. It’s my own. Look, I had been eager to try meditating for quite a while. I watched a moving segment on CBS Sunday Morning in which a man named Allan Lokos stated that he stayed calm during a terrifying plane crash – which left him severely burned – thanks to two decades of meditation. I read a fascinating article in the New Yorker about a meditation-inducing app called HeadSpace. I chatted with an acquaintance who has used that app since last April and stated unequivocally that it has changed her life. I perused fellow aSweatLife writer Kelly Magnus’ post on daily meditation practice.
So maybe I built it up too much. Or maybe, and this is embarrassing but more likely, I didn’t give it enough time. After all, HeadSpace asks that you meditate just 10 minutes a day for 10 consecutive days. I made it only five days, and they weren’t even consecutive. What did those five days look like? Check it out below.
App downloaded? Check. Phone charged? Check. Headphones in? Check. As the app’s founder, Andy Puddicombe, began speaking in his mellifluous voice, I felt strangely nervous, like this was a test I might not pass. His soft honeyed voice told me to count my breaths up to 10 and then start over again – I was at 17 before I realized my error. Strangely, the voice seemed to have an uncanny knack for knowing that I wouldn’t do it right. At breath 17, it gently reminded me to just go back to one and start over if I went beyond 10.
The 10-minute session went faster than I expected, and by the end, my mood paralleled the way I feel at the end of a good yoga class. So far, so good.
I was restless and antsy on day two, possibly because I had just gotten home from work and decided to get in a quick meditation before the gym. (Already breaking the rule of doing HeadSpace at the same time every day – whoops.) Lingering anxiety over a dispute at work made it incredibly difficult to focus, as did an itch behind my ear, and the sound of dogs barking in the condo next door … I know, excuses excuses.
The soft voice asked if I felt different at the end of the session. To myself, I answered, “I’m not sure. Maybe more languid?” I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep, but I’d already committed to a spinning class, so I left those loose-limbed feelings behind and tried to summon back my zapped energy.
Technically, this should have been day four, but I went to happy hour after work on Friday and meditation post-wine consumption just didn’t happen. I started in a calmer place than I had on Thursday, so that was a big help. I almost felt hypnotized by Puddicombe’s gentle commands to listen and breathe and let my mind go where it wanted to go. By the end, my eyelids were drooping heavily, and I was heading toward sleep. The whole process seemed a bit more natural this time. Not bad for only my third try.
Anxiety was back as Sunday came to an end and the work week loomed. I felt okay during this session, but I could hear my husband on the phone in the background and then a neighbor was hammering something. In theory, I should have been able to tune out those noises, but I don’t think I’m at that advanced level yet. By the end of the 10 minutes, various worries were still nagging at me, though at a slightly less frantic tenor.
I skipped Monday’s session due to a work event. On Tuesday, I felt extremely anxious about various things in my life, and my evenly spaced breaths quickly dissolved into more of a hyperventilating situation. I shed a tear or two. I tried (and failed) to focus on counting breaths. When the app’s disembodied voice asked how I felt at the end, I answered silently that my heart was beating quickly and I still felt anxious.
Okay, so that’s as far as I got. Reviewing this now from a more objective perspective, I want to say that things were going well for the first three days, and if I hadn’t given up so easily, I may have continued to progress. But the cynic in me is skeptical. Tune in to part two on April 26 to find out my five overall takeaways from this experience.