I embarked on my meditation journey after my Spring flight back to Bali. I recalled boarding the bustling aircraft, traversing its corridor along with the sea of passengers, their eyes jolting back and forth from their boarding passes and the seat number signs on the plafond. In the midst of this chaos, my mind was far adrift in an alternate reality. I sat at 22D, rolled my luggage into the overheard compartment, placed my backpack on the floor before me, and secured my AirPods on my ears. I was set for the flight, or so I thought.
A man came up from nowhere. He was smiling at my direction, and asked me where I was supposed to be seated, adding that he’d sit there no problem and I could keep my place. I was confused. As I looked down at my boarding pass, it hit me. Apparently, I had sat on his designated chair, silly on my part, but I was surprised at his air of calmness in dealing with the issue. After the congenial apologies and subsequent switch of chairs, we continued to converse and coincidentally transitioned into the topic of professions, in which we struck on a common thread, and that lead to the topic of healthcare burnout and meditation. I learnt that his name was Joe, and that he had just returned from a 10-day meditation camp in the West Javan city of Bogor (I noted that he said it was ten days of non-stop meditation, freaky I know). Naturally, I inferred that Joe must have been quite the experienced meditator. I on the other hand, have never meditated a second of my life. Having immersed myself in the sphere of self development for the past year, a common uncharted thread that stuck out was meditation and its life-altering benefits — and so crossing paths with a meditation guru could only be explained by an idyllic amalgam of sheer luck and fate. I inquired for tips for initiating a trial run in my meditation ventures. He introduced me to an iPhone app called Headspace, which he said was the perfect app for beginners like me, and I have been using it on a daily basis ever since.
I downloaded the app that very night, and I went on my first date with meditation, or as the app calls it, mindfulness, the next morning. I started with 3 minute sessions, then bumped it up to 5 after a week, and then to 10 after another, and kept it at that for the next 90 days. I’ve tried many of the different meditational courses offered by the app but I’ve so far noticed a concept that strings all these courses together. They utilise simple thought-tracking methods such as noting, visualisation, and focused attention — everyday exercises that practically anyone can learn and follow.
After 100 days and over 1000 minutes of mindfulness, here’s a short snippet of the insights I’ve received from this spiritual endeavor.
I keep a consistent sleep-wake schedule
During my pre-meditation days, I often find myself keep an erratic circadian rhythm. I take major priority at completing the task I have at hand, forcing what ever time I have left for my slumber. Even though I do have an alarm to wake me up in the early hours of the day, I find myself pressing the snooze button multiple times to squeeze in that extra bit of sleep until I barely have enough time to prepare for my morning classes. Even then, I often feel exhausted and unproductive during the day, repeating the vicious cycle for months on end.
Since I started meditating, I keep a strict 6.30 wake up call which I religiously adhere to every single day in order to get that precious 10 minutes of serene mindfulness. As a result from feeling the boost of morning productivity, I feel a mental push to really seize the day. At night, I stop all my proceedings and make sure I reach the warm confines of my bed by 11, otherwise the app reminds me to sleep at exactly midnight.
I feel more productive
This is partly down to my stricter sleep-wake schedule, which allows me to explore the productivity levels during the earlier hours. This led me to discover that my creative side flourishes better in the morning. Added with the fact that I personalise my sleeping hours correspondingly to my productive necessities, I make sure I’m always at peak energy levels to accomplish my work.
Overall, I feel a heightened sense of focus to push me through the day’s hectic and hefty work during the hours that I do allow myself to work. In that sense, I keep a mindset that sees sleep as something that fosters productivity — thus associating sleep as something productive.
I can better handle my anger
The art of meditation, to put it as simple as possible to those who are still foreign to the concept, is the practice of gaining comfort in complete silence, solitude, and stillness. The final product will (hopefully) be someone who’s more mindful about their day-to-day.
I’ve personally felt this impact most in my managing of day to day irritations. You can imagine my pre-meditation self to be a more impulsive and rash individual, while my current self as a more calm, collected individual. My secret sauce to dealing with anger is a practice called the Five-Minute Freakout, an abstraction I came across with while reading The Miracle Equation by Hal Elrod.
Getting back on track
How many times a day do you find yourself stray away from your supposed chores and end up deep into your Instagram timeline for hours on end? Worse still, how often do you end up detesting yourself for your inability to complete the task at hand — completely distracted, your focus scrambling in and out of your mental dwelling like a hungry rat in a cage.
In these instances, it is imperative for you to break the cycle and realign yourself with the errand. The proverbial beauty queen can be very hard to get your eyes off of, seemingly able to lock you in a spell of distracted productivity. Meditation seemed to be able to cure this for me, temporarily placing your mind in a sea of calmness, rebooting your brain like the restart feature of an overheated device.
An improved sense of self-control
This one is a bit harder to articulate and prove physically because of its inherently subjective nature, but I know this very idea resonates with a large portion of meditation practitioners — so much in fact that I’ve known people who began their meditation endeavours on the basis of refining this idea.
“You are your worst enemy”
This extremely popular quote highlights the fact that controlling oneself is a feat of utmost difficulty. Naturally, it is easier for one to acknowledge an enemy as something that is exogenous, a foreign entity. In reality, the opposite is mostly true. Conceding to the idea of an internal enemy forces us to unearth the very fabric of our own skin. The best part about this practice is the ensuing empowerment that one feels after some time. The main difference between exogenous and endogenous issues are after all, the fact that the former is unchangeable and that the latter is well, changeable. Wherein there is really no use in haggling over an exogenous problem, it is indispensably useful to reshape your processing of an internal problem — something you have the power of completely fixing and obliterating.
It may be too early to tell at 3 months, but the benefits I’ve received on the back end of 10 minutes of morning mindfulness have proven its value in leaps and bounds. Naturally, my love story with meditation is one that I plan to keep to eternity. Like fairy-tales that end with the prince and princess ‘living happily ever after’, I hope my affair with meditation goes the same distance, snug close to me as we traverse the crests and troughs of life.