What a milestone!
I wasn’t always consistent with meditation, though. Before the 365 consecutive days, I had tried meditation, but it didn’t stick until much later.
My first exposure to meditation happened through sports psychology. Dr. Jarrod Spencer from Mind of the Athlete was local to the Lehigh Valley area, but I couldn’t personally afford sessions. Instead, I bought a book he co-authored, “The Sky’s Not the Limit.” After sending him an email on his website, he sent me two CD’s with a kind note wishing me luck in my wrestling career. Both tracks were about 30 minutes long, and one focused on relaxation while the other focused on sports visualization for peak performance specifically for wrestling. I decided to try these out and tried the relaxation CD. 30 minutes later, I sat up and felt incredible. “What the hell?” I thought. My stress and tension had melted away, and all that was left was clarity and a sense of calm focus. It felt like my mind had taken a relaxing hot bath. Immediately, I was intrigued since I had never felt this sense of calm focus (though I could point to a few instances where I felt something similar, but to a lesser extent. This was effectively my gateway into meditation.
Playing Around: Meditation Apps and Other Options
As much as I loved the Mind of the Athlete CD’s, 30 minutes felt like a steep price to pay. I couldn’t fit it into my morning routine. Instead, I looked for short but effective alternatives. Online guided tracks seemed to work, but required that I had my laptop open and connected to internet. On days when I simply didn’t have much time, this seemed like an extra obstacle. Looking back, however, it probably would have worked just fine for most people. Another challenge was tracking my progress in some sense, which was when I decided to try apps.
Headspace was the jackpot for me for the following reasons:
- Apps are portable, which are particularly useful if I wanted to listen to a walking meditation track on my commute or just a casual walk.
- There was a progress tracker, which appealed to my type-A personality in regards to progress and tracking it. This feature was very appealing to me since it automatically updated itself whenever I’d finish a meditation track.
- Meditation tracks were geared towards specific themes (Performance, Health, Relationships, etc. About a year after I started using Headspace, they expanded and put in a Sports Performance theme which I loved. $8 per month is cheaper than just about most sports psychologists (There are definitely plenty of good things to be said about sports psychologists. I just personally couldn’t afford one at the time, so this is a helpful, reasonable alternative.)
- Cute little sprite animations. Who doesn’t need those in their life?
This isn’t to say that Headspace is the only functional meditation app out there. Many other apps work too, but Headspace is my own personal preference.
As a disclaimer, I will note that my personal experiences with meditation may not be the exact same things that you will experience. I’m also not a scientist, but I do hope that my experiences and observations can give you a glimpse into what benefits you might experience from meditating consistently.
Without further ado, here it is:
- Less stress and more clarity of thought than I ever had (led to much greater productivity).
- Less distraction (also leading to more productivity)
- Depression and anxiety symptoms seemed to gradually reduce until they eventually disappeared
- Calm focus, leading to one of the best wrestling performances I ever had. My reaction time improved significantly because I wasn’t actively thinking about everything during the match. Endurance was better too simply because I was calmer. Nervousness must have led to shallow breathing. Techniques and skills that I had practiced but never used in competition ended up being used in competition that day. I felt ecstatic for what it meant for the coming months/years.
- Improved senses- I’m not sure where this comes from, to be honest. Am I rewiring my brain or was I just “oblivious” because I wasn’t paying as much attention to my senses? Maybe a bit of both? Examples:
- I could notice people’s body heat if they were close to me even if they weren’t making physical contact
- My eyesight seemed to have improved slightly.
- My hearing certainly improved, too. I was picking up sounds more acutely than before.
- Faster recovery (at least that’s what it seemed like). I recovered from injuries and training sessions pretty quickly.
- The sense of “getting out of my own mind.” Instead of being consumed by nervousness or anger, for example, it was the perception of the emotion. “Oh, I’m nervous.” or “Oh, that upset me. Why did that upset me?”
- Andy Puddicombe, Co-Founder of Headspace, uses the analogy of being inside the house watching the storm. Consider this scenario. You’re in your house watching the storm. It’s pretty safe in here- you don’t have to get wet or cold, but you certainly have the option to go outside in the rain if you so choose. In a sense, meditation gives you that house with the window to watch the storm, which is your emotions. The storm (emotion) is certainly still there, but it doesn’t have as much control over you. On the other end, if the weather’s nice (and, say, you’re in a good mood), then you’re free to feel that emotion in all its brilliance. Meditation gives you a chance to get the best of both worlds.
As referenced from my other post, here is a reminder of benefits that other people have experienced as well:
- Stress & Anxiety Reduction
- Depression Prevention
- Cognitive Skills
- Immune function
- Pain control
- Changing habits (such as smoking)
- Heart health
I hope this post offers more insight into how you may feel after meditating for some time. It definitely doesn’t take a hundred hours to feel the positive change. Remember, that 30 minute CD from Dr. Jarrod Spencer had an immediate impact on me. Best of luck!