I mentioned before that I resisted the idea of meditation. I’m a logical, practical-minded person, so when the new-ageys start talking about projecting energies and connecting with the inner self, I’m gone. Tuned out, be back after these outlandish messages.
However, I started coming across practical, measurable mental and physical health benefits to meditation that extended well beyond improved concentration. When the accounts started to come from actual scientific researchers, my ears perked up. I figured there was no harm in giving it a try.
Week One. Two minutes. My first time meditating felt like an eternity. Quiet room, oh, hello crazy thought! Where the flarp did you come from, thought? Stop making thoughts, brain. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat…it just wasn’t something I was accustomed to doing. The sitting still part was easy. As a mom of three, I’d say the sitting still part was delightful. But I felt like my brain was chatty and I needed to shut it up – as if I were doing meditation “wrong” because I had this steady stream (firehose?) of thoughts.
Week Two. Five to seven minutes. I felt much more controlled after I had a few sessions under my belt. My brain’s chatter slowed, and thoughts became more like passing acquaintances on the sidewalk. I just gave them a friendly nod and stepped aside, allowing them to stroll past me while I maintained my own course.
Week Three. Ten minutes. Not much change from Week Two, except that I had increased my time. However, this week I felt a bit of a change in my day-to-day. We’ll get to that later.
Week Four. Timer set to 15 minutes, but usually quit around the 12-13 mark. Toward the end of my experimental month, I recognized that there was a brief time when I was able to achieve a deep state in which my brain felt like it was taking a true-blue break. For a few minutes, each time, I was in my little bubble with no thoughts, no stimuli distracting me from the nothingness. It’s a surreal sensation – rather, a non-sensation. You realize just how noisy life is, even during the calm. Do experienced meditators get to spend extended periods of time in “off” mode?
So that’s beginning meditation in action. Now, let’s talk about the tangible benefits of meditation – what’s happening in the gray matter, at least how I perceive it.
The first two weeks, there wasn’t much to report. I think I had to work out the bugs and get some momentum going. But by week three, I noticed some changes in my thinking. For example, I read an entire biography without having to page backward to re-learn names. (I’m awful with names in books.)
Additionally, I felt some changes in my focus. Moms of little kids get distracted, sure. Some days, I feel like I haven’t had a complete thought in 24 hours. Something I struggle with is that sometimes I’m too focused, and I give my full attention to every passing butterfly, which leads to piles of unfinished projects.
During my experiment, I felt more able to return to a task or a thought after the inevitable distractions. Meditating gave me a chance to practice acknowledging distractions, in the form of my own thoughts, and return to the task at hand. There is no perfect, but practice makes better.
I also noticed a welcome change in my memory. I felt that I was less forgetful in general, but more remarkably, I felt compelled to put some systems in place for everyday tasks, whether with Google calendar or a notepad in the kitchen. It seemed as if my brain was in the process of re-organizing itself. Coincidence?
As much as I would like to comment on the effects of meditation on stress, I can’t really do that. It’s not that I’ve had no stress in the last month. What makes it difficult to assess is that I don’t think I experience stress like most people do. I suppose when you’re 11 years old doing the family’s laundry because your mom just had chemo, you learn what’s worth getting worked up over and what’s not. My stress response is pretty well under control.
Anyway, I’m going to try to continue my experiment and see just how efficient I can make my brain.
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