For a long time I didn’t understand the point of meditation. I had a vague idea that it could help other people but it seemed so… supernatural and so far from my regular life, which was very earthly and very real.
You see, I was very busy being an entrepreneur: servicing my clients, keeping up with deadlines, overseeing accounts, running from one meeting to the next. You get the idea.
I had no time to sit on the floor and hum away for an hour but I know I needed to do something – to slow down, calm down and cut down on everything. Eventually, I did just sit down to do nothing and that’s when everything changed.
WHY did I start meditating?
Not too long ago, I thought that people who sat down to meditate were not ‘normal’ people like me but eccentric-freakish-vegans who spent their days reflecting on God-knows-what while sitting cross legged on a hard floor with their eyes shut tight to the rest of the world.
I had so many questions about the whole idea of meditating:
- Do I really have to do it every day? Don’t I already have enough commitments?
- If I skip a few days or stop altogether, would I go back to feeling like crap?
- Will I need to cross over to the ‘other side’ with a spiritual journey to visit a group of monks in the Himalayas?
I stopped asking questions about meditation around the same time I was reading the autobiographies of highly successful entrepreneurs. You see, I was always curious about the decisions these winners made to become who they eventually became. Yes, they all had the usual habits of waking, working and weighing pros and cons of their decisions, but they also had something else in common: they meditated. Every. Single. Day.
After reading that for the umpteenth time, I started to think
“There might be something in it…”
Since I had absolutely no idea where to start, my first step was to look for an app (of course), which led me to calm.com. The first time I put on my headphones to listen to the launched app, I just sat there listening to stirring leaves and chirping birds… was this meditation?
I had no idea what I was doing.
Turns out, there were guided meditations and non-guided meditations so I just sat there and waited for something to happen. Believe it or not, this became my daily routine: sit down for 10 minutes in this “virtual” nature of birds and leaves while my brain whirled around and around.
It went on like this for a couple of days when I read about another interesting thing called Headspace.
Headspace instead of meditation music
From the first moment, Headspace felt as if every single element of it was made for a total beginner like me. Just as their motto says: “meditation demystified,” without forcing any kind of spirituality on you. Instead, it offers a different perspective on everything around you. This clever video will give you a better idea of what it’s all about. Take a look.
I admit it. I totally fell in love with Headspace! The way it communicates all these really complicated things in a simple, easy-to-digest way. Genius!
Practically speaking, Headspace offers different collections of guided meditations. For example, some will help you practice focusing while others help you better understand anxiety or even improve your relationships with other people.
The whole thing is about observing ourselves (how we feel, how we identify, how we dream) and adjusting our perspectives. The basic principle is so obvious: if we change our mindsets, we change how we think – and only then can we experience different results.
On a personal level, I learned that getting rid of bad feelings is not really a smart thing to do. Why? Because all feelings, even the ‘bad’ ones, are parts of the whole wide and colourful spectrum of human feelings. By trying to understand and accept this, my attitude towards negative thoughts has changed and they don’t affect me the way they used to.
It goes without saying that meditation didn’t change my life from one second to the next.
In the beginning, I just decided that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, I would do it for 30 days. After the first few days I didn’t feel any change at all but I was still curious about what might happen and it was enough for me to keep going.
At around the twelfth day or so, it felt like the universe just slapped me across the head.
Just like a light sweet home being turned on, I suddenly started noticing my body during the meditation: my breathing felt different, I could feel every toe on each foot one by one, my thoughts were completely joyful and I could see myself from the outside, as if I were watching this very relaxing movie in which I was the star.
I don’t get paid for being so enthusiastic about Headspace but I just wanted to tell you what worked for me and about my results. I like the fact that it’s easily accessible and I can use it whenever and wherever I need it so if you want to check it out, sign up for a free 10-day trial.
Here’s something else I know: you will experience amazing changes in your life if you spend just 15 minutes a day meditating. Of course you need to stick with it but the positive effects will be evident in all areas of life.
Here are the 3 most important ways that Headspace and meditation helped me:
1. No matter what’s happening in my life, I can always bring myself to the present moment.
Did you ever get to your destination but you couldn’t remember how you got there? Me, too! All the time. It’s because we get so lost in our own thoughts, trying to find answers to questions, which leads to more questions and fewer answers. I was never living in the NOW because my mind was always on overdrive.
Meditation taught me how to consciously return to the present. Now, when I catch myself spinning over an issue, I can identify whether this issue is actually a thought or a feeling and then I focus my attention on something else: my breathing, the breeze in the air, the weight of my body with each step I take. This instantly gets me out of the head spiral….
- “Did I make the right decision?”
- “What would have happened if I had done it differently?”
- “Should I say, ‘yes’ to this project or will it be too overwhelming?”
- “What’s wrong with my relationship that things are moving so slowly?”
In general, it’s perfectly natural to think, but thoughts like these create different pictures in our heads, which in turn lead to unrealistic fears and anxiety.
If we spend 80 percent of our time in an imaginary world we miss out on a lot of things in the real world. Plus – and this is perhaps the most important factor here – we can only act in the present.
So go ahead and get lost in your thoughts, but find your way back to the present as soon as your head starts spinning. Having said that, I find myself time-travelling on a daily basis even after 260 hours of meditation. But now, I’m able to come back to NOW and it makes me feel better – like I’m in control and on the right track.
2. I don’t get tangled up in negative feelings for very long.
When negative feelings pop up, I don’t get swept away in wave after wave of bad emotions for days or sometimes weeks at a time the way I used to. Now, I can truly separate them from myself.
Meditation taught me that “nervousness” is not ME but simply a feeling that I can actually release.
Previously I often didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin and I couldn’t tell what was wrong with me. I was being controlled by that terrible emotion, which then “mutated” and made me feel even worse…
Now I have the skills to fix it.
One of the things that distinguishes us from animals is that we have the power of our consciousness. I’ve learned that my feelings are not me and this is how I handle them now:
- I notice when I’m getting entangled (by worries, insecurity, nervousness, etc.)
- I make myself aware that these are just feelings
- I accept that having all sorts of feelings is part of human nature
- I separate this negativity from myself because these feelings just come and go and come and go
- I do something that fully relaxes me, like taking a walk, watching something online, calling a family member, or writing down my thoughts in a notebook.
I make very good use of being able to get out of these situations and observe myself from the outside in many areas of my life. For example, when I notice that I’m not treating my girlfriend the way I really want to (an important part of my VISION is to become the person I would like to be as a partner), I make myself aware of it ASAP. I know that I can change my behavior in a positive way at any moment and focus on the big picture, which is for both of us to feel good together.
3. My focus is getting stronger and stronger
When it comes to productivity, losing focus is a recurring problem for most of us. I get emails about issues like this on a daily basis and this topic is pretty popular in the Facebook group, too.
- “I know I could do a lot more than this. Most of the time I lose my focus and I am also a notorious back-to-square-one person.”
- “As I am interested in many people, I tend to lose focus a lot, even though I have a great deal of ideas and plans. I need to put this aside to be able to be able to go through with my plans.”
- “I have just realized that I’m trying to concentrate on too many things simultaneously. This is inefficient because it pisses my energy away.”
I am very familiar with the issue as losing focus because it used to be part of my everyday life. When I would sit at my desk to get something done, I suddenly realize that I had been scrolling through Tumblr for half an hour. And of course I had no idea how it happened.
I’ve tried different tricks and even though some of them do work, I had to face the fact that nothing will solve the real problem, namely that I couldn’t stay focused on one thing for an extended period of time.
One of my most astonishing moments with Headspace happened when I was listening to the “focus” pack. The task was to move the focus of my attention from one part of my body to another, scanning myself from bottom to top.
I started from the space between my ankles and finished with my forehead. Then the instruction was to focus on the space 10-15 cm above my head.
“What the hell?” I thought to myself.
This part seemed weird to me but then I started to concentrate and then visualize my focus as sun rays coming out of my body. When I managed to do it…
It felt amazing!
It was like a brand new section of my mind just opened up so I experimented with this technique and started using the same approach to focus on different objects – first was when I sat at my computer and then when I had to do something difficult. Whenever I felt I was losing my focus, I recognized it and managed to return to the present.
I also became more accepting of myself and I now consider losing focus as an opportunity to practice rather than as a problem, which is my own fault.
It was my curiosity (and desperation) that first made me try meditation but now it’s all about the results that keep me motivated. I am calmer inside, more accepting of myself and situations and I really feel a lot better in my own skin, which has had a tremendously positive effect on the people around me.
Many people say, “I am not really a meditating kind of person because I find it difficult to focus my attention.” But I challenge you to ask yourself this: “How can I become the kind of person who can meditate?”
If you speak a little English, Headspace is as excellent way to get you through the first 100 hours. After using the app for 18 months for my daily 15-20-minute practice at home, I’ve decided to look for some advice from a mindfulness expert. (No, not a monk in the Himalayas…).
For a little more inspiration, check out this TED talk by Andy, the founder of Headspace, about the effects of 10 conscious minutes a day.