41 Days Until 2014: 10/50!


Like many people, I used to think meditation wasn’t for me, because ‘I couldn’t do it’. Like many people I used arguments against meditation and mindfulness like “But I just can’t stop thinking!!” and “I can’t shut off my brain!”

Well, guess what, poptart?

You should only stop thinking if you’re OVER-thinking. And if you shut off your brain, YOU WILL DIE. So let’s not.

But you CAN be mindful and you CAN meditate. It is really something anyone can do. Because it’s easier than you think it is.

I had very little meditation experience before yoga. But when I started doing Bikram Yoga, the heat and postures basically FORCED me to get out of my own head and into the moment. If I don’t stop giving all my attention to my thoughts and start paying attention to my breath and my body, I can’t handle doing the class. I wrote about that here.

And so, I learnt to meditate basically through yoga: Yoga is active meditation (as in, you do a thing and you focus entirely on the thing you do.) After that, I also did a meditation class once and liked that too. I find it easier now to be in the moment no matter what I’m doing: That is mindfulness.

I learnt that meditation is not really about being quiet in the head.  Instead it’s just about not making your thoughts the most important thing that’s going on at that time.

It’s about not passing judgment on what you think, not attaching a lot of emotion (often stress) to the content of your thoughts and being where you are now.

To this day, I am restless and not easily put down on a pillow to meditate. I’m much better suited for active or guided meditation. Give me all the yoga, give me a meditation class, give me a tape that tells me to walk through a field of rainbow-glitter-couch…But if I want to meditate comfortable, I need something to do while I’m being in the present moment.

My brain needs to have something to do on top of (not) doing something. I need to hear a teacher give me instructions when I’m doing yoga, I need to have music when I am working, I need to doodle when I’m on the phone. Which is exactly why I should do passive meditation too.

Which is why this morning, I wrote without putting on music. I didn’t put on a TV show while I was cleaning the kitchen. I focused completely on the task in front of me. And when I did put on music, I tried to really listen to it while I was writing.

And tonight before going to bed, I’m going to sit on my meditation pillow* and focus on my breath for 5 minutes without any external stimulation. I can do passive meditation for 5 minutes, even if it’s a little harder than active or guided meditation.

50T2014 1050

Your assignment is to be mindful too.

That translates to something way simpler than you think it does: Focus on being where you are right now, right this minute. Focus on being here now.

Don’t go over what happened yesterday (or that embarrassing middle school recital) or what is going to happen tomorrow (or what you should really take in your purse for when the Zombie Apocalypse hits 20 years from now). Just focus on here, now.

Be in the present moment, and observe what is going on now. How you feel, what you’re doing and what is going on around you. Your butt on the chair as you’re reading this, the people murmuring two cubicles over. The smell of the cooking you might do tonight, the taste of food as you’re eating it.

Try to multitask a little less today. Really focus on what you’re doing.

And when you have a spare 5-1o minutes**, sit or lie down somewhere and be in the present moment some more. Just breathe. Feel your body against the mattress or in the chair. Observe sensations in and out of your body. Whenever you notice you went on some sort of thought-spiral (it happens, and it’s okay!) gently bring yourself back to breathing and being here.

If you need a little help with this, use your favorite own meditation technique or find a guided meditation on-line somewhere that you like. Lin told me the 21-day meditation App by Deepak Chopra is pretty good.

Optional extra assignment: Have a cookie. I said you could.

Ok, I’m going to make myself look less sick more presentable so that Manfriend will still want to come home with me after I pick him up at Schiphol Airport. Have a lovely Thursday and we’ll meet back here tomorrow. MOVE OUT, TEAM!

*Read: the big black pillow that’s usually on the couch. 

**Especially before going to bed, the whole being-in-the-moment-thing can really help you fall asleep.

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  1. Wow, what a coincidence! Inspired by your blog series about ringing out the year on a positive note, I decided to do something like your yoga challenge: the 21 day meditation challenge by Oprah and Deepak. Perhaps it was meant to be, the Universe and all that (no offense, but I find that kind of thinking a bit cooky) but right when I was looking for information about Oprah’s past challenge just to get some inspiration, I found out a new one had just started…

    So anyway, since a few days I have been listening to a recording of Oprah and Deepak’s spiritual voices (very deep and meaningful, she normally really does not talk like that…), I have to read a message about the topic of the day and answer questions in a journal. I am a bit skeptical about the spiritual nature of this challenge, but I think it might be a useful way to start.

    If anybody’s interested, I think you can still join: https://chopracentermeditation.com/ When you log in, you get to this page which has the recordings of the last five days; on that calender it says that the first days are no longer available. I found out that’s not entirely true: if you go to Journal you can find and access the meditations from the first days – this is how I started doing them.

  2. I love that you have started writing every single day!

    Mediation was something I never thought I could do. My mind is all over the f*cking place. Always. But last summer I tried giving it a go nevertheless.

    One of my biggest downfalls in staying concentrated is accepting that I don’t have to do stuff immediately as they pop into my mind. (Like, while writing this I am wondering whether it will rain tonight, but I can surely manage to finish writing this comment before checking the weather report…?) Instead of trying to be completely ‘in the moment’ for 5 minutes (which felt like too much to handle) I opted to start with longer periods of time and instead focus on simply remaining still. No moving, no twitching.

    It’s still challenging, but I make it work. And those 20 minutes of stillness do help me a lot during the rest of my day. Plus, every now and then I now do seem to be able to empty my mind.

    1. Ahhhh, going with every thought and being distracted easily. I feel you there, sister. Good for you you’re working on it. The world doesn’t end if you don’t immediately act on your hunches. <3

  3. Woman, can you read my mind?

    De afgelopen dagen (zo niet weken) zeg ik steeds tegen mezelf: ga nou weer eens mediteren! Ik heb een mindfulness cursus gedaan waarbij ik elke dag 3 kwartier ‘moest’ mediteren. Elke dag lukte niet, maar als het wel lukte was het zó fijn. Het waren op een gegeven moment niet meer alleen die 45 minuten waarin ik ‘in het moment’ kon zijn; dat lukte ook steeds beter gedurende de dag.
    Ik blijf me erover verbazen wat een enorme drempel het soms is om iets te doen waarvan je wéét dat het goed voor je is. Deze blog helpt me over die drempel heen. Vanavond mediteer ik. Danku!

  4. it made me really happy that you added that you need to do passive mediation too, because while reading it i thought ‘but.. but..’ and then you added the ‘but’ yourself. i mean, what the hell do i know, but it’s just what i was thinking. (and haha, i should listen to my thoughts, because i never do anything meditation-like anymore. and i should.)
    anyway, tonight before bedtime i’m getting out a lovely hour long guided meditation by deepak chopra, and i’m doing it. and maybe i’ll even try 5 minutes when i wake up tomorrow morning. oh, and thanks for saying something about reiki a few posts ago, i never used it anymore, like i forgot, and after reading about it i started putting my hands on me again. (wink, wink.) which is great, especially for relaxing in bed. (more winks.)

    1. Hahaha Sabienne :’) – No worries, I’m very able to call myself out on my own shit. How did your meditation go? And yay all the winking and all the reiki. Maybe we should exchange treatments one day!