Deep breath in, sit up straight.
Deep breath out, relax every muscle in my body.
Breathe in, clear your mind.
Breathe out, release your thoughts.
“Shoot, I forgot to start the coffee pot before I started meditating. Now I’m gonna have to wait to drink a cup when the timer goes off.
Why did I commit to 20 minutes of meditation this morning? I should be getting into the office early today. I have a lot of appointments.
Focus, Kristen. What the frick? You can’t sit here quietly for even 20 seconds before your mind starts wandering off? Where’s your self-control, girl?”
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
I started meditating every morning back in July. I honestly didn’t think the practice would stick but it has.
At first I could only manage to sit still for 2 minutes. But I’ve since worked myself up to 20 minutes.
I can’t say that my mind doesn’t wander during the practice because as you can see, I have a never-ending stream of consciousness during my time on the cushion.
But, I’ve realized that the point of sitting still during meditation is not to clear my mind completely but rather to begin recognizing my thoughts in the first place and learning to relax and sit still, coming back to focusing on my breath when I realize my mind has wandered off yet again. Classic “monkey mind” behavior.
Once you begin to notice that your mind has wandered and what it’s even thinking about is powerful stuff.
Many of us mistakenly believe that we are permanently stuck with all of the difficult parts of our personality—the fact that we’re shy, hot-tempered, or sad are fixed, immutable traits. However, scientific research is emerging that proves that many of the emotional and mental skills that we deem as beneficial (joy, even-temperedness) are skills that can be trained the same way you build your body in the gym.
Our lives are governed by a voice in our head which engages us in an endless stream of thinking—most of it negative. The voice is constantly judging us and others. To be honest, the voice in my head is often a jerk, talking about me behind my back.
“You’re too fat.”
“You’re not good enough.”
“Who do you think you are?”
So, how am I attempting to tame the voice in my head?
Mindfulness is the art and science of quieting the mind by recognizing one’s thoughts and emotions as they are happening.
Mindfulness is cultivating the ability to recognize what is happening in one’s head at that moment—sadness, anger, jealously, pain, whatever—without getting carried away by it. It is creating space, a pause, between what you are thinking or feeling and how you then respond to that thought or feeling, rather than habitually reacting.
And emerging research shows that a quiet mind is a happy mind.
Although I’m a meditation newbie, I have found that not only is my mind quieter than usual but that I am more focused and less distracted during the day. The spill-over effects of meditation have been positive enough that I hate to miss a morning with my meditation practice.
Another reason I’m stoked about my upcoming silent birthday retreat in the woods is because I want an entire day to meditate as much as I want. I’m curious to see how long I can actually manage to meditate in one sitting.
There are lots of different types of meditation but the kind that I have been practicing is mindfulness meditation.
Some fun, entertaining books on the subject are both by ABC news anchor, Dan Harris: “10% Happier” and “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.” He also created a meditation app that I’ve been using.
Approaching a milestone birthday and realizing that over half of my life is now likely behind me, I realize that life is too short not to actively pursue what makes me happy. Or more accurately, what makes me happier than I already am.
And I’ve discovered that mindfulness meditation does make me at least 10% happier in my day which is a pretty darn good ROI if you ask me.
Kristen “Attempting to Master Her Monkey Mind” Marks
P.S. You can actually hear first-hand how my 24 hour fasting silent retreat goes by attending a free lunch workshop on estate planning and investing I am co-hosting the day after my birthday on Thursday, December 12th at 11am at the Fish House. Space is limited so RSVP now to reserve your free lunch! 850-439-1191