I tried meditation for seven days.
Let me backtrack a bit and explain I am definitely not the type of person who meditates. I am an Aries, a fire sign ruled by Mars, the planet of war. I love all work and no sleep and I could hardly be called the calmest person in my friend group. I have in fact tried meditation before, but it caused me to be in a state awfully similar to an anxiety attack. The idea of sitting still and thinking of nothing is as foreign to me as the Russian language. Because how can I sit still and think of nothing when there is always so much to do and think about?
And that is precisely why I have been told by everyone who knows me well that I would greatly benefit from meditation.
So, I tried it for seven days.
Full disclosure, seven days was not enough to turn meditation into my favorite activity. But it did enlighten me to just how beneficial it can be.
So, let me share a little bit of my week-long journey in the world of meditation.
I started with research, because there is never a better place to start. Quickly I found out there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding meditation, one of them being that it involves completely emptying your mind. I was one of the people who had this misconception, which was my biggest reason for rejecting the practice for so long. But the truth is, meditation is about being present in the moment, which includes your thoughts and feelings. The end goal of meditation is mindfulness and awareness, meaning you will become more aware of your thoughts, feelings and surroundings, and learn not to judge them but instead accept and understand.
On my first day, knowing this, I was ready to accept any thoughts that came my way while I was meditating. That is not to say it was easy - it was still very hard, - but at least I was prepared to not beat myself up over it. I decided to start small, so I searched “meditation” on YouTube and picked a five-minute video. The five minutes went by slowly but I enjoyed every second. I repeated this process on the second day.
The third day had me feeling optimistic - I had already successfully accomplished two meditations, - so I decided to step up my game and chose a ten-minute video. That was exponentially harder. After the five-minute mark, I started being bombarded by thoughts and couldn’t focus on any one, and my breathing became completely irregular. I was defeated. The third day went so horribly compared to the previous two and I wanted to stop immediately.
That brings me to a second misconception and another reason why I didn’t want to start meditation. Meditation is not easy and you shouldn’t “get it right” the first time. Or the second or the third. But meditation is all about practice - it comes with and takes time.
With that in mind, I was ready to take on the rest of the week. The fourth and fifth days I used the same ten-minute video. My mind still wandered way more often and it was hard to focus on one single thought, but I didn’t give up. On the fifth day, I cried for a little after I was finished - I was so proud of myself. On the sixth day I tried a 15-minute meditation (which I highly recommend) and slept better than I have in a very long time.
Finally, the seventh day arrives and I decide to try an unguided meditation. I take this handy-dandy playlist by none other than our wonderful team member, Hana, and skim through until I find a track that speaks to me. I lie in bed, close my eyes, and just breathe. I am having thoughts, acknowledging them, embracing them, and letting them go. I keep taking deeper breaths and longer exhales. I think of one instance in which I smiled that day - and I smile again. I feel present. When I finally open my eyes, I’m not sure how much time has passed but it does not matter.
I am in no way trying to express that I became a mindfulness expert in seven days. The seventh day was the hardest and I’ll probably continue doing guided meditations, but it was still good to try. The main takeaway, in my opinion, is how greatly my week improved by inviting mindfulness into my life. I have been struggling with insomnia for over a year, which usually causes me to wake up tired, in a bad mood, and have horrible days. But meditating every night helped me put my worries aside for the next eight hours and just enjoy peace.
Just a few benefits of meditation are: reducing stress and anxiety, improving emotional health, sleep and attention span, controlling pain, and many others. There are no downsides to meditation, only positives!
If, like me, you are threatened and discouraged to start meditating and feel it is really not the right practice for you, I beg you reconsider. If I can benefit from meditation, so can you. And if I can do it, then I have full confidence you can as well.
by Larissa Aguiar