Experiments in Wellbeing – Meditation

Meditation. Noun, often used by tree huggers as an excuse for sitting around and not doing any work. Get a job you slacker.

Love and Peace

I used to think meditation was a waste of time, and I held this point of view despite never having tried it. As part of carrying out the 100HappyDays experiment, I began to appreciate the positive impact of slowing down enough, each and every day, to spot something that prompted happiness in me. I became conscious that in order to do this – I needed to let go of many distractions and thoughts, just long enough to spot and record whatever it was that made a difference that day.

I really enjoyed 100HappyDays, and the small change in behaviour I needed to make in order to complete it (79% of people who start the experiment fail to complete it – many citing ‘too busy’ as their excuse), so as I continued with my wellbeing experiment, I decided to get over myself and my negative thoughts, and expand on that slowing down and letting go sensation. It’s time to give meditation a try.

I chose Headspace as a tool to help me meditate, and I’ve been using it for almost 300 consecutive days now. Here’s a little of what I am experiencing.

What Makes A Habit?

I didn’t want to experiment with this half heartedly, I felt that would be making it too easy for the cynic in me which had dismissed the idea so strongly without every having tried it. Yet before I started with meditation, I wondered: how will I manage to find the time to do it every day? Turns out – it’s easy. You just do it. Whatever you decide is important – you will make time for. ‘I’m too busy’ simply means ‘this is not important enough to me right now’, and I am currently not too busy to meditate.

Having got this far, and whilst acknowledging that I’m probably being gamed by the Headspace app (complete xxx consecutive days and get a cookie), I’m curious to see if I can keep this daily practice of meditation up every day for a year. I haven’t yet found the answer to the question, ‘What makes a habit?’ and the longer I continue with this practice, the less interested I am to find out. What I am learning is that when you turn up every day to practice something, things start to change. I don’t think I am getting any ‘better’ at meditation as such, but I do think other things are getting better as a result of this reposted practice.

Distraction

Distraction is everywhere. Even as I thought about how to begin to write these sentences, I popped over to Facebook, just in case anyone had posted anything interesting since the last time I looked, about ten minutes ago. I’ve always had a niggling conviction that I am easily distracted, and through meditation, I’ve begun to experience just how widespread and unhelpful that distraction can be at times. Having had my suspicions about distraction confirmed, I am in a better position to deal with them.

Acceptance

I frequently experience things such as loneliness, frustration, anger, sadness. I frequently experience things such as joy, humour and love too, yet for some reason I wrestle with the negative side of my mixed feelings more than the positive. You can’t have one without the other – I’ve always known that, yet I can struggle to accept the flow of these conflicting and contradictory thoughts and feelings. Through meditation I am learning to accept. Accept myself, accept and even enjoy the conflict which previously bothered me.

Other Stuff

I’m becoming increasingly mindful of the impact I have on others around me and I’m seeking to involve them in my thoughts, and how I can benefit them from being more mindful. I’m learning to go gently. Julie Drybrough recently tweeted a very touching memorial to her late father on the anniversary of his death – in it she used the words going gently. Her short, sweet tribute moved me and I’ve since been more aware of incorporating going gently into my practice. I want to move away from using Headspace and manage my meditation on my own for a while. It’s been incredibly useful, and it can be flaky at times. Waiting 25 minutes to get the day’s session to download is not always conducive to the act of meditating!

More to follow…some day.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

2 thoughts on “Experiments in Wellbeing – Meditation”

  1. Doug – I’m curious how you selected ‘Headspace’ as a tool to explore mindfulness and what your overall impressions are of its usefulness and usability.

    I note that you’ve had some technical issues in terms of downloading lessons. I’m assuming you’re on one of the subscription plans.

    1. Hi Peter – thanks for being in touch. I chose Headspace because I’d spotted them tweeting. I did a bit of digging around and although they offer a short free trial – I jumped in and paid for a year long entry ticket. I did this because I thought it would help me commit to the process – and so far it has.

      Elements of the programme have been and are really useful for me, and some of the ‘packs’ you can choose turn out to be not so useful – you can bail out on a particular pack easily enough if you choose. The phone interface is much better than the desktop, which has a tiring left/right scrolling requirement in order to get you to today’s session. I also find the desktop version frequently doesn’t update after a session which means I have to rerun it on my phone in order to keep my continuous streak going. I frequently have to wait 20 minutes plus for a session to download on my phone – the connection to the server feels flaky. It’s worse on 3G/4G but still problematic on wifi.

      My conclusion. Headspace was a great place for me to start and I am not going to renew – I don’t feel the need.

      I hope this is useful for you.

      Cheers – Doug

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