I am writing this post regarding the semi-secrete meditating I've been doing over the past five months. I haven't been public about it for several reasons, chiefly because my former personae would have ridiculed it, and for the reasons revealed below. Several months passed before my first determined attempt, because it felt like one more thing on my to-do list and what I was after was just some time and space for myself. I was perpetually tired and felt frustrated with feeling so drained. I attributed feeling this way to not sleeping soundly at night. This was partly true, but I knew it could not be the whole story. I have several friends who are devoted meditators, I am also aware of the scientific data regarding its benefits as well as the wealth of anecdotal evidence about it making a real change for those who regularly meditate. So, without any specific expectations, I gave meditation a go.
Headspace was second or third on the iPhone App Store list of meditation apps. I liked the description and downloaded it. I used the free content at first and at night with headphones on, once I was in bed and wanting to fall asleep. It worked, and I used it for over a week and fell asleep every time I used it. I then realised that I didn't want to rely on an app to fall asleep and I didn't want to fall asleep with headphones on (very uncomfortable, especially as I sleep on my side, and when wearing headphones you gotta lie on your back). Most of all I knew that it wasn't really an answer to my discontent, just an easy way to fall asleep. So, feeling a little hesitant, I gave it a go and subscribed to the full benefits of the app and delved in. Additional benefits to the app are that it didn't require me to make a time or location-specific commitment in order to meditate, and - most importantly - could be followed without the meditation involving a devotional dimension.
I am a very cautious person, and when I say that I delved in, I lie. I had an idea of what I was expecting from the meditative state. I expected it to resemble what I experience when I am out on a long low intensity run: a little runner's high, me time, some spacing out (not thinking of anything but what I am doing at the moment), a sense of control over myself and and the kind of training that would allow me to quantify and measure improvement. The low intensity runs I do range from two to three hours and between 18 and 25 km. In a busy schedule this kind of commitment is very demanding, especially as I try to fit in at least 60 km a week, aside from also incorporating some weight training and stretching. I, of course, would become very frustrated if I was unable to meet my (self-imposed) targets.
I needed to find an alternative way to recover the sense of myself that I would usually find through running. Practicing meditation has really helped me find that. By focusing on my breath, freeing up just a little time, 20-30 min per day, I am able to attain the mental and emotional clarity that a long run provides. Most of all, those minutes to myself are much more achievable and so far, have allowed me to be a better person to be around when I can't go out for a few hours on a run. Most importantly, I am less tired and just as happy as I would be after a run. I hope the habit and the results are permanent. I will keep you updated.
I have left the image block empty on purpose :-)