The Ascent team just finished a 30 day meditation challenge. Most of the team participated to some degree and it was interesting to see how people made it their own and to notice where the challenges arose for people. For me (Ricki), I ended up missing every single Saturday in the month. It wasn’t intentional, I just could not seem to remember to do the practice on Saturdays. Veronica listened to guided meditations on her vacation, including several hours in a row while on the plane – needless to say she was in a great state by the time she landed in Mexico! Roger meditated during his runs and Gordon has been meditating every day for a year and half. That’s the beauty of meditation; it can be a unique experience for each person. However there are some helpful strategies to get started if you are unfamiliar with the practice of meditation. Here is how we (loosely) structured our challenge…
Mar 1-10: Meditate for 5 minutes a day
Mar 11-20: Meditate for 7 minutes a day
March 21-30: Meditate for 10 minutes a day
March 31: Bonus day – try to meditate for a longer period like 30 minutes.
Individuals with experience meditating were invited to extend the times set aside each day. The purpose of the challenge was to introduce those who have no experience with meditation to the practice and to encourage those who were comfortable with meditative practices to make it a regular part of their day for one month.
1. Meditation de-stresses you. One of the most often-cited benefits of meditation is that it reduces stress and cortisol levels in the body. By sitting quietly for several minutes, you encourage your brain to slow down and your body to be still and recover. Meditation has also been shown to improve your health. Several studies have shown that regular meditation (even as little as five minutes a day) helps your immune system function better and can even reduce pain in some cases.
2. Mediation boosts your productivity. It might sound crazy, but doing nothing can actually help you during the times when you are doing something. Meditation improves your focus, attention and memory as well as your ability to think creatively. One study even found that you could increase your attention span in as little as four days of meditation training.
3. Meditation makes you happier. You’ll boost positive emotions while decreasing depression and anxiety. Meditation can also make you more compassionate and less lonely.
How to Meditate:
You don’t have to do anything to meditate – that’s the whole point. It’s perfectly acceptable to just sit and do and think and be… nothing. It’s also perfectly normal to have stray thoughts come flying into your brain. Just acknowledge them and allow yourself to let them go. Some good tips are to find a distraction free area, sit upright in a chair or on the floor cross-legged, and set a timer so you aren’t constantly checking the time.
However if this feels a bit daunting or if you think you would like some guidance there are a number of resources you can use. Many find a guided meditation helps them as they are learning to mediate. Some of our personal favourite resources are two apps you can download to your phone:
- Headspace gives you 10 days of meditations for free and teaches you some tools for meditating. These can be used over and over and are great for beginners. If you pay for the extended version it offers even more resources to deepen your meditation experience.
- Insight Timer is another app that has a timer portion as well as thousands of really great guided meditations. This app is free and was rated in the top 50 apps for 2016.
There is an abundance of non-app resources as well. You can search online for something that appeals to you. One suggestion would be The Chopra centre. http://www.chopra.com/articles/guided-meditations#sm.00001xubv8e18lerstttzqcdsuz6c
After this challenge many of us are looking to make it a part of each day – or to at least increase the frequency of our meditations. We highly recommend you try to incorporate mediation into your daily rhythm. Maybe these tips will give you the motivation you’ve been waiting for to start meditating and experience its many benefits.