1 year (365 days) of daily meditation

Where did that other Jeep come from? I was doing a U-turn and I’m certain it wasn’t there a second ago.

Ah my horse is about to run out of the open gate! Oh crap, I don’t have time to close it fully. Abort! Abort! Too late, my wrist is now throbbing with pain and bleeding.

Because of these two events I made the decision to meditate, for at least 20 minutes, every morning for 365 straight days. One whole year.

I had been stressed and my monkey mind took over in a way that just wasn’t sustainable. First, I caused a fender bender because I didn’t notice when a parked car started to move in my direction.   Then, a week or so later, I smashed my wrist between my horse’s hip and a metal gate. This happened because I was distracted and my horse took advantage of the opportunity to leave his pen (don’t worry, the horse is fine). But both of these events were completely avoidable!

Because I was stressed and distracted I was creating unnecessary obstacles in my life and I needed a change.

So on January 14, 2019 I made the decision to meditate at 5 am every morning for one year. I officially completed this promise to myself exactly 365 days later. Most days my meditations lasted 20 to 30 minutes, but a few lasted as long as 1 hour and 30 minutes.   This year of meditation was the longest experiment I had ever given to myself.

So, what did I learn from my year of meditation?

I learned that I can exert tremendous control over my internal world, and that control can be extended to my external world as well. Would you like to try this also? OK! Here is the progression that my practice took over the course of the year.

Just do it

 The funniest thing about meditation is that it’s super simple and crazy hard at the same time. pexels-photo-695644.jpeg

Get up at 5am and sit for 20+ minutes.   That’s it. Just sit…

When I started I didn’t guide the experience. The goal was to get up and sit. That’s it. No special breathing or guided meditations, just sit and do it every morning.

In the beginning, this simple act was really hard. I won’t lie. I would wake up and think of all of the reasons why this was stupid.

  • I would think about how I need my sleep.
  • I would think about how it will disrupt my family because I’ll be grouchy if I don’t get my sleep.
  • I would think about how sitting for 20 minutes isn’t going to change anything.

Then I would sit and as my mind wandered I would become aware of the things that were stressing me out. I would think about my work or something happening in my relationships or how my wrist would never heal. With nothing to distract me from these thoughts I had to deal with them and it wasn’t comfortable.

20 minutes of rumination would be so uncomfortable, in fact, that when the meditation was finished I would take action on the thing that I was ruminating on just to get it out of the way. My meditation was like a stress alarm sounding on what needed to be done and I was acting on it.

I used my meditation in this way for about a month. Then one day when I woke up a strange thing happened. I heard my thoughts saying “This sucks, we’ve been doing this for a month or more. That’s good enough!” and then I noticed another thought and it authoritatively said “Quiet! This is what we are doing.” I felt like I was outside looking in. I had broken through a wall and the thoughts in my head were no longer me.

Breaking the 4th wall

Ok, try to follow me here….. and if necessary re-read it.

When I started hearing my thoughts, instead of them being my thoughts I felt like I had joined an audience and was now watching a play in my head. I no longer believed the reality of the thoughts anymore. They were options, not truths. I started to see the conversations in my head as a story; one I was watching. I could see my mental characters, each with its own personality that I did not have control over. I couldn’t tell the characters to be different than they were, but I didn’t have to believe the story they were presenting either. I could sit back, watch and enjoy.

adj-18phexipfx-whiteThe 4th wall is a term used in theater that refers to the invisible wall that separates the actors on stage from the audience. The audience can see through this wall but the actors pretend they cannot. This is how they stay contained in the story. When a character in the play acknowledges the audience it’s called breaking the 4th wall.

During meditation I had become a member of the audience. However, after the meditation was over I was back to being an actor in this play called Life. For a while my mediation wasn’t overlapping into my day-to-day life. Then, at some point I recognized the play I was in. Sometimes during a discussion with someone I would feel as if I were in a play, and I could feel something just past the stage I was on. I felt the 4th wall.

Everything became much more interesting as I started to become aware of this 4th wall in my day-to-day life. I could see the play happening and I was in it.   I was starting to realize that I had the opportunity to choose my part, my action, and my feelings along the way. It felt like, if I chose to, I could pause the play and talk to an audience sitting just off stage.

That’s when I started to feel like one of those movie characters that talks to the audience. Only I was speaking out to the universe, or consciousness… or… I don’t know, maybe something bigger. I was a character in the circumstance and I was seeing the play for what it was. That changed everything.

Trigger opportunities!

A “trigger” is a small device or release spring that sets off a mechanism, for example the trigger on a gun. A trigger, when used in reference to people, is an event that sets off a chain reaction of emotions and thoughts that recreate an emotional event. This can be extreme trauma in cases of PTSD, or something milder in the case of daily interactions. Events trigger past memories all the time. Whenever I smell cherry tobacco I am taken back to all of the fun I use to have with my grandpa when I was a kid. So triggers can be warm and fuzzy or sad and defensive. A trigger is a trigger, even though most people only use the word for instances that they perceive as negative. For this particular article I will be talking about the milder meaning of trigger for myself.

As my meditation continued, I started to get more in tune, not only with my thoughts, but also with the physical sensations in my body. If I was stressed I could feel where the stress lived. I would notice subtle tension in my shoulders, a tightening in my throat, or an almost imperceptible twitch in my upper lip. I started to notice these reactnewparadigmions in my life too. For example, if my husband said something that I perceived had a judgmental tone, it would trigger my shoulders to clench and my mind to shut down. It was like I was putting up defensive walls in preparation for battle. I was still reacting and shutting down, but I was noticing my body and also noticing that what he was saying actually wasn’t something judgmental.

During my morning meditation I would excavate my psyche to reach the root of those feelings, and by doing so; I unearthed my own inner struggles and personal judgments.

A trigger, I learned, was a dormant/subconscious story inside me that would be activated when certain events happened. I found that if I paid attention to my reaction and the event that triggered it I could bring the story to my conscious awareness. Once I was able to engage the story with my conscious mind the trigger evaporated. The story would still be there but not the trigger.

This is when I started getting really interested in my triggers. I told my husband to not change any of his language that would typically trigger me. I realized the trigger was an opportunity for me to see something I needed to address. It was a neon sign pointing to an unconscious story that I needed to look at and clean up.

Through meditation I have gained insight into my mind and how it reacts through the prism of subconscious stories I’ve created throughout my life. Then beyond just insight, I now have the ability to take charge of the narrative and disarm the triggers that result from these stories. This experiment has been powerful and life changing. I feel that I’m becoming the master of my mind rather than it’s slave and this inspires me to continue meditating and discover what comes next.

Time for a Disclaimer:
Meditation is an interesting practice. People want the peace and calm that meditation can bring. What most people don’t realize is that the sitting brings up all of our wounds and trauma. Getting to the peace and calm is often on the other side of the pain. I would caution people to be mindful of this before taking up a meditation practice and you may want to consider professional support.
End of Disclaimer

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