Wow! It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole month since this project began. Meditating an hour each day, once in the morning and once at night, has had incredible impact on my life. I thought today would be a good day to recapitulate.
Extending to an hour, I realized early on, makes the commitment real. I have to be intentional about making sure I’m in bed early enough the night before (having already meditated) to wake early enough the next day to begin the day with an hour-long sit. Meditation has long been a priority in my mind, and now it has priority in my life.
An hour also gives me time to sink deeply into the meditation. I discussed this previously and it remains true. It takes about 15 minutes to become present (shaking off the day’s effects), 15 more to observe what wants attention, 15 more validating it, and 15 more in a deeper inquiry about it. In practice, it’s more of a loose internal calculus, but you get my drift.
Overall, I’m just calmer and happier. This is interesting, given that the practice began with a week of metta. (May you be happy; may you be peaceful and content.) Around week 2, I realized I was suddenly laughing so easily, from my gut at how much fun life is. Did my life suddenly become more fun in two weeks? More likely my perspective has shifted.
Apparently I am now pretty. Weeks two and three, three separate people (a friend and two strangers) suddenly remarked, “You’re really pretty.” This may not seem like much to a fit 20-something, but for an overweight 47-year old (morbidly by medical standards), it is out of the ordinary. Times three. My sense is they detected I was present, and there’s something attractive about that.
I’ve become less tolerant of making choices that do not match my true values. This seems cyclical—as I sit and digest each day or prepare to start it, what I hold dear becomes clear. As I sit, I am aware of the discomfort caused by compromises to what I hold dear. In some key areas, I’ve been making new choices. Some have been effortless (I’m hungry; I think I’ll have a vegetable smoothie); others have required more intention (giving up television).
I’ve begun walking for an hour a day, four to five days per week. And I love it. Many of the pictures appearing recently at the tops of the blogs come from these walks. They were also great times to listen to studying tapes for the now-thankfully-forgone licensure exam. I can start listening to music now!
I’m more at ease around new people and events. Re-reading the past month’s posts, I’m quite surprised at how many groups I’ve joined and outings I’ve gone on. They looked interesting, so I did them. I forgot to give a thought to my story of being highly introverted. I just went out and did them. In part, the regular longer practice must be soothing my nervous system. In part, sitting with the mind helps loosen its grip on my reality, allowing false sense of self (am I highly introverted?) to gently fall away.
“Mindfulness helps us get better at seeing the difference between what’s happening and the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happening, stories that get in the way of direct experience. Often such stories treat a fleeting state of mind as if it were our entire and permanent self.”
~ Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness
Moving into the last two months of this experiment, I am considering adding 30-60 minutes midday. Maybe 30, which I can add to eating during a lunch hour. I’ve found there’s something about a formal sit that naturally initiates a slower, more mindful pace throughout the day. But the stretch between morning and evening leaves me wanting a more formal pause halfway through the day. It could be a time to check in about how the day is going and be more intentional about how I want to approach the afternoon and evening (which I sometimes feel like I’m just trying to make it through). I won’t decide to add more meditation time just yet, though. I’m still sitting with the decision. Maybe after a second month. We’ll see.
In all, it’s been a great four weeks, and I’m excited for what the next eight hold!