I first discovered the Headspace app back in February of last year. I can’t remember what was going on at the time, but a friend of mine recommended it over coffee one day, so I thought I would give it try. I immediately loved it. It is guided meditation, and Andy’s voice is so soothing, he could probably relieve someone’s stress by reading the phone book to them! I kept it up for a few days and could feel the benefit, however, like with a lot of things, I missed a day or two and before long I had kinda forgotten about it.
Over the next year and a half, whenever life got hectic, as it invariably does, I would dip back into Headspace. I would come away from each short session feeling better and the cumulative effect was brilliant. However, it always ended up the same way. After a few days I would give up, and often not return to it for several months.
At the beginning of the summer, I knew that there were going to be big changes happening. I was about to start a new job and I was well aware of the stress that would cause me. Even if everything was working out perfectly, the upheaval would still create anxiety for someone who struggles with change as much as I do. I decided to revisit Headspace again, but this time I committed to it fully. I made a promise to myself that no matter what happened, I would complete 100 days in a row. I announced this publicly to help me stay accountable.
Initially, I did find it difficult. I found myself saying things like “I have to go do my meditation now.” I had to make a concerted effort to find the 15 minute window of peace in the day in which to get it done. This alone speaks volumes as to how frenetic I had allowed my life to become, but that’s a post in itself. As the days and weeks went by, I began to get into it. I loved how grounded and peaceful I felt after each session. I found myself hiding in empty offices during the day to sneak in an extra mini session, especially if the day was really crazy. I was amazed that no matter how stressed and even panicked I felt going into that room, I left feeling ready for anything.
During the past 100 days there have been so many times when in the middle of the meditation I have thought to myself “this isn’t working,” or “I’m not doing it right,” or even “I’m not getting anything out of this.” Regardless of how often these negative thoughts popped up during the session, at the end of it, when the guide told me to pause and reflect on how I felt, I always felt better than I had at the start. Magic!
I am not good at homework. The app often recommends little exercises to do throughout the day so that you get more bang for your buck as it were. 90% of the time I completely forget. They always sound like great ideas, but the only way I am going to remember to do it is if I write it down or set a reminder. I might try to be better at that for the next 100 days! In spite of my lack of conscientiousness, I am convinced that this experiment has had a lasting effect on me. I am certain that I would not have been able to survive all the drama in my professional life as well as I have without meditation. In fact, I think I would have become a complete basket case.
The effects seem to be noticeable to others as well. A couple of weeks ago I was out for a meal with some girlfriends I hadn’t seen in forever. I was giving one of them a lift home when, unprompted, she said to me “Arwen, you seem very chill!” What you need to understand is that this is definitely not how people would usually describe me. Uptight, highly strung, control freak, anxious, would all be closer to the mark. The thing is, I feel very chill. For the first time in my life I feel in control. Not in control of my life or anything going on around me, in control of myself.
Being educated in a Catholic school, spirituality was spoken about daily and meditation would often come up as part of that. As such, I have been aware of it and it’s advantages for as long as I can remember. Certainly long before it started being mentioned in the same articles as kale and goji berries. I never really thought of meditation as a way to improve health or increase productivity. When you think about it, these very modern concerns were not around when meditation was first recorded. The Taoists and Buddhists weren’t overly concerned with “personal effectiveness.”
I always thought of meditation as promoting stillness and awareness, and having committed to a daily practice for a mere 100 days, I am beginning to understand what that really means. I feel grounded and centered and like nothing can rock me. I cannot recommend mediation highly enough and with so many apps available bringing it right into the palm of your hand, it has never been more accessible. My advice to anyone, whether you feel stressed or not, is to give it a try. Most apps offer a free trial period, some are free forever. Commit to it for a period of time, even just a week and see how much better you will feel. Be well xxx