I’ve been experimenting with meditation for more than three years now. Since I came across the idea and read about it a bit, I developed a curiosity for it. So I started doing it myself, but it was always on and off, and I felt like I didn’t really had a clue what I was doing. How can I know if I’m getting there if I’m not sure what I am supposed to experience. My impression of it was mostly of what I read about it. And of course you have some many variations and flavours to it, which may confuse a beginner.
So I decided to just find the most basic and simple way of doing it and thus I reduced my practice to only a few basic principles which I found reflected in most texts. Over time, as I continued doing it, I started feeling some positive effects in my body. I felt a passing feeling of mental clarity and a release of tension in my body. My problem was that I was unable to commit to a daily practice or (not even) a constant one thus I could not feel any actual “progress”.
Before we progress with my story, this is the part where I give you a word before about meditation. A state of meditation happens when one focuses his or hers attention on a particular object, most commonly focusing on one’s breath cycles and the sensory stimuli of the body. Other forms may involve chanting, repeating a mantra or a prayer. Most having a common goal of achieving a clear mental state and calm feeling in the body. Other more higher goals of meditation are seen as a path to awakening or nirvana.
There are also numerous health benefits associated to meditation and many other more spiritual and with less scientific base that evangelise around the subject. It’s one of those subjects that you can spend a lifetime researching and you would still not get to the bottom of it. That’s why, dear reader I prefer to break the circle of evangelists of any kind and let you dive in if your curiosity thirsts for it.
My reasoning for practicing meditation can be contoured in many layers, however curiosity seems to be the most reoccurring theme. So I’ll just pin it to that, curiosity.
As part of my personal development, I do weekly sessions of psychotherapy. I think it’s a good way for me to connect inwards and get to know myself better, ask better questions. Another cool part of my weekly sessions is that we sometimes try out cool stuff, like hypnosis or try to measure that if by practicing meditation I can increase my happiness levels.
The experiment was designed to take six weeks. In these six weeks I was supposed to meditate on a daily basis, or at least try to get close to a daily average (and no, meditating multiple times in a day to make up for last days doesn’t count). Each week, I would have my therapy sessions and at the end I would complete two short questionnaires. The questions were designed to measure my personal happiness level and how I evaluate the therapy session I just took.
The happiness questionnaire would measure happiness metrics related to satisfaction in different interpersonal relations (friends, family, colleagues etc.) as well as general satisfaction with life.
The therapy evaluation questionnaire would ask if I felt understood and listened to, if I feel the advice given is helpful, if I felt the session helped in any way.
Forming a habit is not that easy, at least for me. I managed to get an average of 5 days a week, usually skipping it in the weekends when I have no structure in my schedule and I like to be super lazy. So, six weeks later after I started my meditation experiment, the results looked like this:
*The circles refer to my happiness metric and the squares refer to my satisfaction with the therapy sessions.
A few observations:
- I started a bit depressed as I just ended my six year relationship this summer;
- On the 31st of October it’s probably good to note that I was particularly depressed about something, it’s interesting to see how pleased I was with my therapy session as opposed to my emotional state;
- When I first started the experiment I used to meditate at the end of the day, after my third week, I naturally switched to a morning routine;
- I made up my own mantra at the advice of my therapist and it helped me to regain focus during my practice;
- After my third week, some evenings, I had a natural desire to meditate again as a craving for relaxation of some sort;
- At the end of the six weeks I was indeed happier.
Was I more happier at the end of the experiment? It seems so. Does this matter as much as it did when I started? Not really. Why? Because during this experiment I came to understand that meditation is not about making or measuring “progress”, or about doing it well, or for long periods of time or multiple times a day or being a zen master. I must admit, I went through a few paradigm changes to arrive to this conclusion. I came to realise that meditation is about taking care of yourself, taking a moment for you, to stop, relax and just be.