I Meditated Everyday for a Week to See If It Would Change My Life
Could daily meditation be the key to living your dream life?
I started being interested in meditation a few years back, when my 9–5 job was stressful and I was trying to build my blog on the side. At the time, I was seeking calmness, peace of mind, and mindfulness, at least a few times during my week. I wanted a few moments where I could let it go, sit still, and do nothing.
The one book that had the most impact on my practice of meditation and my relationship with the outside world (events, people, letting go of control…) was The Art of Happiness by Howard C. Cutler and The Dalai Lama. For me, it laid the foundation of a very long journey of change I’m still going through. I always will be.
I’ve meditated for around 2 years and half now, and although there was a period of time I would wake up and meditate every morning for 5 minutes, I’ve never been very consistent in my practice, either in frequency or duration. I wanted to change that and see how it would influence my everyday well being.
The idea was to meditate everyday for a much longer period of time than what I was used to. I wanted to both get out of my comfort zone and see if duration affected how I lived my everyday life.
I have a friend who meditates a lot, and he does it in sessions of 30 minutes. That seemed like a very long time to me. I’ve also talked about meditation with my CEO, and I know he once went on a 10-day silent Vipassana retreat, which is something I’m definitely not ready for. I considered my options, and decided to 4x what I was used to (5 minutes). I’d go with 20-minute sessions.
I clarified the rules around my challenge:
- Look at your thoughts. The primary goal of mediation is to be able to look at your thoughts without actually partaking in them. It’s what freaks a lot of people out, and it’s what makes it really hard too. I knew what to expect because I had already done it, but it was important to be prepared for it nonetheless.
- 20-minute sessions. I had to sit still with my legs crossed, my arms rested on my knees (classic meditation position) and my eyes closed for 20 minutes, no matter what. I would use a timer.
- No help. I wasn’t allowed to use any meditation soundtrack, playlist, or anything like that. Just me, myself, and silence. More on that later.
- Do it whenever. I’ve done other challenges before where consistency and regularity were key, like waking up at 5am everyday, or running at the same time everyday. For this challenge, I decided to not have a daily check-in time. It was all about being present in the moment, and that moment could be whenever.
- Same position everyday. classic meditation position, the one I’ve always used. Crossed legs, arms rested on knees, eyes closed, long and slow breathing in and out.
- Journaling. I would log my experience in my journal right after meditating, everyday.
- The challenge was effective from Monday to Friday, a normal workweek.
A few notes
Meditating every day is hard. I had already tried this challenge one time, a few weeks prior to my second attempt. I had done all right from Monday to Wednesday, but I forgot to sit down and do nothing on Thursday, and I was too tired on Friday. It’s kind of crazy to think that I failed at something so basic: sitting still and doing nothing for 20 minutes. I think this is a very good example of how our society has become this crazy ever-going machine where we, the subjects, can’t seem to stop and do nothing.
I mentioned earlier that I used to meditate every morning. I did that for over a year, right after my stretching session. I would wake up at 6am, stretch for 15–20 minutes, and meditate for 5 minutes. These days, I’ve stopped the meditation and kept only the stretching. I’ve been consistent with it for years, but I realised that morning meditation for me was a lot of dozing off. Especially in the early hours of winter, I would focus more on fighting the urge to go back to sleep than on watching my thoughts and being at peace. So for this challenge, all my meditation sessions were done towards the end of the afternoon, after a long day of work. That’s what seemed to work best for me.
One last thing. This meditation challenge actually took place during a very stressful week at work, so it was the perfect test. We had been working on a a big online event and the week of my challenge was when we were going live with it. 6 hours of live stream in total, with many guests, lecturers, and a small team to keep the whole thing from falling apart. It was a great experience, but everyday after going back home from work, I definitely needed a big breather. I found it in this daily challenge.
The day-by-day breakdown
Here is what I wrote in my journal following my meditation session on Monday:
- D-1 before going live with the event, total chaos at work, really needed this relaxing session.
- Feels good to breathe slowly
- It felt longer than I thought, I got pack pain
- Still calming, aware of a lot of sounds around me
- This feeling that everything is going to be alright
- Mindfulness score: 4/5. Only because today was so stressful, and my mind is a lot calmer now.
One notable thing here: the back pain. Many people will experience all sorts of itches, cramps, and pains when they start meditating. This is completely normal, and it tends to go away with time. It’s also very important to start with a right position initially.
- First day of going live with the event, and it went amazing. Still stressed
- Accept the situation
- Let go of what you can’t control
- I set the wrong alarm sound on my timer and it startled me out of my session (big buzzing sound instead of ocean waves)
- Mindfulness score: 3/5
Throughout the whole meditation experiment, I only used my phone as an alarm to time the 20 minutes. I didn’t want to use any meditation app (I never have). The irony is that it startled me when I set the wrong alarm sound that day. More on meditation and technology further down below.
- No anger, no resentment
- Very hard to only look at thoughts today, because I’m really tired from the event
- I was too active in my thoughts, I was actually thinking
- Still happy that I was able to commit, because I’m tired
- I had to yawn a lot on the beginning, but eventually managed to focus on my breathing
- Looking forward to tomorrow
- Mindfulness score: 4/5
- Got a crazy itch in my moustache at some point
- I ignored it, but it kept coming and going
- I got way too many ideas during this session
- Pretty sore legs because I ran too
- Good session, but again focused on thoughts too much instead of just watching them
- Mindfulness score: 3/5
- Not the best session, maybe the buzz of the end of the week
- Again, at least I committed, and I managed to do it
- Once I’m sat down, I’m not opening my eyes for 20 mins
- Doing this helps no matter what
- Mindfulness score: 2.5/5
I wrote down the learnings I got from this experiment at the end of the week, after reading my daily meditation log in my journal.
It’s really hard to sit still in the 21st century
Nobody sits still with their thoughts anymore. We live in a world where even if you’re lying in your couch “doing nothing”, you’re still watching TV, or checking your phone. Even people who try meditation tend to do it with an app. It’s like we need technology to help us do anything nowadays, even nothing.
I think it’s great that apps like Calm or Headspace promote mindfulness and meditation, but we also need to keep in mind that these apps don’t have a business without users. At the end of the day, they still need us to use our phone. These solutions should be seen as a first step into the world of mediation, but definitely not as an end in itself.
Moreover, sitting still with a nice soundtrack and a voice telling you what to think of and how to relax is a completely different experience than doing it all on your own. In the real world, you can create your own soundtrack, and you can know exactly what to do. It takes a lot more commitment, dedication, and time, but it works too. In the real world, there’s no shortcut.
The more you do it, the easier it gets
I found it hard to sit still and think of nothing some days, because I was stressed, had a lot going through my mind, and a lot of things to do. Depending on your own level of stress and addiction to technology, you might find it impossible to sit still with your own thoughts and do nothing for 20 minutes, or half an hour. Mark my words, it might actually feel impossible. But as with everything in life, it starts with one thing: trying.
The same day I talked about this Vipassana retreat with my CEO, one of our colleagues mentioned how it was impossible for her to sit still with her eyes closed for more than 5 minutes. “I get itches, cramps, I need to touch my nose, my legs feel weird…” she said. But she probably didn’t try more than a few times.
I meditated for only 5 minutes a day for around a year. Then I stopped. I switched to meditative walks, or I would sit in the couch and try to do nothing, with my eyes open. I’d focus on my breathing. Recently, I felt more ready to try longer meditation sessions, and so I switched to that.
There’s no rule that says you need to do a full-on meditation right away. If you’re curious about it but might be scared of what you’ll find inside, start very easy. It always gets easier with time, and before you know it, you’ll be able to meditate for 10, 20, 30 minutes at a time.
No matter what, it works
No matter your level of “hyper-activity”, your level of anger, of negativity, of pessimism… Meditation works. I once watched an interview of Aubrey Marcus by Tim Ferris. They were talking about meditation, and Aubrey mentioned this one time some employee at his company (he’s the CEO of Onnit) did a major blunder, something very bad.
He was about to flip at the guy and get super mad. But then, he decided to try and just take 5 deep breaths. It didn’t even take him one minute, but that allowed him to completely change his state of mind, and handle the situation in a totally different way.
I truly believe that meditation works for everyone, at any level. You don’t need any sort of prior experience, or to know any fundamentals. You just need to sit still, breathe, and try to watch your thoughts without partaking in them.
Watch your thoughts, don’t partake
As I mentioned earlier, this is the core concept of meditation and it’s also very complex. In order to think of nothing, you need to watch your thoughts instead of partaking in them. You need to not show interest in those thoughts, and to watch them pass by instead of grabbing them and processing them.
As I documented in my journal, my mind still gets tangled up in my thoughts more often than I’d like. The tempting thing to do when you fail to only watch your thoughts will be to fight them, in the hope that they will go away. But that’s not the solution either, because it will only make your mind more active, more focused, thinking of one thing: getting rid of those thoughts.
One of the things that helped me the most with watching my thoughts is to realise that I am not my thoughts. I also knew this before starting this challenge, and it’s one of the core concepts of meditation. Your thoughts are independent from you. No matter what they are, where they take you, how they make you fell, know that there is a way out. It is your decision to not let them influence the person you are, or want to become. The more you practice watching them, the better you’ll become at mastering your mind. You are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are not you.
Picture the ocean
Something that works really well for me is to picture the ocean tide going up and down on a nice, white-sand beach. It’s a bit tricky because if I go too far and start picturing myself sitting on that beach, with the sun on the horizon, the blue skies, the sounds… then I create a little world in my mind, and I’m having way too many thoughts. So I try to only stay on the waves visual.
When the wave slowly builds up and comes crashing on the sand, I inhale. When it’s done and removes itself, disappearing into the ocean, I exhale. I repeat this cycle over and over again.
Although I don’t think I’ll stick to a daily practice of meditation, this challenge definitely made me want to do it more often. It reignited my longing for calmness and relaxation, because we live in a fast world all day, everyday.
I meditated every morning at 6:00am for a year, before switching to a more spontaneous/irregular practice. However, I’ve never stopped doing a few things consistently, which I consider to be part of an overall meditative practice:
- Stretching every morning while slowly waking up
- Going for a walk out in nature
- Sitting in the couch or outside on the terrace doing nothing (maybe just drinking coffee or tea).
Meditation has changed my life because it’s opened the doors of introspection, self-awareness, and compassion. I truly believe it can have the same effect for anyone willing to give it a true shot. My advice for people who would like to start is:
- To start by trying to sit still, in silence, 5 minutes at a time.
- Always remember to watch your thoughts. They are not you, you are not them.
- The more you practice, the easier it will get.
Thanks a lot for reading, and enjoy the journey.
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