Saturday, April 24 will mark 365 days of daily meditation for me. When this post is published, I will be just two days shy of that 1-year milestone.
Last year around this time I wrote a 4-part series on meditation, where I gave suggestions on different techniques and general insight as to what meditation can mean to you. It’s interesting to think that one year later, I’m fully invested in my daily meditation practice. Would I believe you if you told me a year ago that I’d be where I was today in this practice? The answer is yes, only because everything a year ago was so unbelievable. But am I still kind of amazed and proud of this milestone? Yes!
A Year of Daily Meditation
My average meditation time over the past year was about 10 minutes a day. On the best of days, I was sitting in a field of lupine, overlooking Mt. Rainier. Most days, though, I was lying on my bed, completely unglamorous and simply practical.
Some days the time felt like it went by in the blink of an eye, with my thoughts bouncing around my brain — no matter how many times I tried to bring my focus back to my breath — until the session was up and I was left feeling at least somewhat more centered. Other days, I’d go well over the “ding” of the time being over, repeating my mantra and the affirmations I needed in that moment. And sometimes, more rarely, I’d have days where I’d be peeking at the timer, unable to stop thinking about what I’d have for lunch.
Most of the time, meditating was something that I did because it was a part of my routine. There were days that I felt I “didn’t need it” and days when I knew deeply that I did. In the end, I meditated all of the days anyway, because they all mattered. The benefits of meditating compound — much like all habits — which is why it’s important to keep up the practice even on fun and stress-free days.
What have I learned in a year of daily meditation? I wish I had some big revelation and the answer to all of life’s woes. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. If anything, daily meditation may have made me more present to reality and the truth of what’s around me, which isn’t always pretty. It’s given me an honest look at my world, how I float through it and with whom, and how to make deliberate decisions to live a life that makes me happy and fulfilled.
This past year has been hard for all of the obvious reasons — pandemic, politics, uprisings, natural disasters — and also for me personally, with lots of shifting dynamics and eye-opening realizations about some of the closest people in my life. It seems that there’s no coincidence that my meditation practice hit its biggest stride during what’s been perhaps my most challenging year — hopefully ever, but at least up until now. But as I reflect on a whole year of daily meditation, I do have a few things that pop up for me.
Finding More Clarity and Presence
You know when you get your belt loop stuck on a door handle, or your hip hits the corner of a table? Maybe you drop the shampoo bottle right on your big toe, or knock your knuckle on the cabinet getting a glass out? Or maybe you just cannot clasp your bracelet. We all have experienced any one of the many unique, minor annoyances that can happen in a day, and sometimes that exact thing sends you over the edge. For me, these examples are all things in the past that might have sent me to tears on a bad day, spiraling to the ultimate conclusion that everything in my life is horrible (even when I know, deep down, that my life is anything but).
While I wish that these little annoyances magically went away just because I started meditating, I can say that now these minor inconveniences seem to come and just go. I’m able to find levity in situations I once thought indicated that I’m a damaged human. Sure, it’s still a struggle to get that bracelet clasped sometimes, but when I can’t get it on after a few tries, guess what? No bracelet today. And that’s it; there’s no deeper meaning than that.
Habit Building Is Real
About four weeks into my daily meditation practice is when I knew that it’d stick for good. It’s around that time when it started to feel weird if I didn’t sneak in my meditation at some point, similar to it feeling weird if I didn’t brush my teeth one morning. It became an anchor in my day, and I could no longer not include it. No matter where I was — whether I was backpacking, out of town, or at home — it was still there to ground me, every single day. And all of those days really add up to a substantial improvement in my overall ability to be less anxious and more present.
I wouldn’t consider myself a competitive person, but there is something about the way Insight Timer tracks your days where I feel compelled to not break my streak. For better or for worse (is it Ego? Pride? Perfectionism? Maybe I am competitive?) that definitely played a part in helping me stay on track. But is that so wrong? I don’t think so.
Being Gentle with Yourself
This lesson is one I’ve learned more recently, and something I’ve been keeping in mind a lot: to be gentle. Meditation is a beautiful practice, but as I mentioned earlier, it can bring up some heavy things — whether that’s something that comes up during a single meditation, or perhaps over a prolonged period. But what I keep reminding myself of is to be gentle. That I’m doing the best I can. That if I could’ve made different decisions in the past, I would’ve. That fantasizing about a made-up future full of “should haves” and “only ifs” is not an excuse to be cruel to myself. Gentle, gentle, gentle.
Because newsflash: We all have struggles. We all live our own lives internally, with our own insecurities, doubts, fears, regrets, coping mechanisms, and pasts. So I’m being gentle with myself, more gentle with others, and always trying to lead with compassion as much as possible.
I trust that I’ll continue to practice daily meditation, though I’m not putting any expectations that it’ll be every single day for the rest of my (hopefully long) life. This past year has proven that we absolutely cannot predict the future, so it doesn’t seem realistic to set the meditation bar that high… wait, am I a perfectionist?
But what I do know is that at this moment, I’ll continue my daily meditation practice. And who knows; maybe in 5, 15, or 50 years, I’ll have that big life revelation figured out.