katy here, fitlosophy's in-house foodie + go-to guinea pig who willingly tries new things each month for our "been there, tried that" series - then reports back to y'all so you're in the know. let me start this off by saying that i am not exactly a model student when it comes to practices that involve sitting still or quieting your mind. the one + only time i tried acupuncture, i was in agony the entire visit, spent the entire appointment thinking about all of the other more important things i needed to be doing, and walked out thinking to myself “yep, won’t be doing that again!” epic fail.
but here’s the thing: with 3 rambunctious boys under the age of 9, momma can use a little more calm in her life. after dealing with months of behavioral issues with one of our young sons, balancing full-time work with overtime motherhood suddenly became an insurmountably overwhelming prospect. i felt defeated + exhausted. i needed a daily ritual that would help me deal with the stress of it all. i’d been wanting to try my hand at meditation for a while, so this seemed like the perfect thing to try for this month's edition of "been there tried that".
i won’t lie: meditation has always been slightly intimidating to me for some reason. maybe it just seemed “woo-woo” or like it was something only “enlightened” people could do. i definitely needed reinforcements to help me get started. luckily, nowadays there’s an app for everything! my meditation app of choice: the calm app. coupling that with my daily gratitude journaling was the winning combo - and it only took me five days to get hooked.
today was the intro. after hearing a couple statistics on the benefits of meditation + the relative inability of modern-day humans to stop + smell the roses, we got right down to biz. it was a beauuuutiful + uncharacteristically warm day for the dead of winter, so i decided to do my inaugural meditation sesh outside on the front porch. i settled into a rocking chair + sitting straight up, hands on my knees, i began. the background noise for this session: a serene, flowing river with the sound of birds chirping quietly in the distance. i kid you not when i say that this feature alone had me 100% sedated. the instructor’s voice was soothing - a prerequisite when she applied for the job, i’m sure. i was instructed to close my eyes + breathe in + out, focusing on my stomach rising + falling with each inhale + exhale, or even counting to 1 with each inhale + 2 with each exhale. i did this for the remainder of the 10-minute session - about 8 minutes or so. she told me she understood that it was probably difficult to quiet my mind, that i was probably thinking about the day ahead or things i needed to accomplish (bingo), and that that was totally normal, that as with anything, it takes practice + consistency to become adept at something new. i felt soothed. “she gets me!” i thought.
today started with a little meditation pep talk - i’d be learning about a technique called mental noting, meant to focus the mind. i chose a tropical beach as my background noise + sat in my favorite comfy chair in the keeping room. i must admit though, old habits (lookin’ at YOU, multitasking) die hard, and i did actually pause the session about 4 minutes in without even thinking to take a few notes. pretty sure that’s frowned upon in the meditation world, but my guide did assure me yesterday that this would take practice, so i didn’t get too down on myself about it. it was especially ironic though, given that the lesson of the day was to shut out thoughts + just focus on breathing. “the more you meditate, the more you’ll be able to maintain focused concentration.” i’m counting on it!
another pep talk - this time about purposefully paying attention. “the present moment is really the only one that counts,” said my guide. “notice your perpetual running commentary.” she encouraged me to focus on my face + jaw - spots where we tend to hold tension without even realizing it. sure enough, as i homed in on those areas, i discovered that i’d been tensing my jaw - even after 5 minutes of meditation when the rest of my body was so relaxed that i almost fell asleep a couple times. i paid close attention to my body the rest of the session, ensuring that every part of me remained tension-free. i couldn’t believe what a huge difference it made.
another thing i added to my practice today was my fitspiration faith gratitude journal. sometimes the word "meditation" can bring about thoughts of omm'ing, but truth is, the Bible even talks about the importance of meditating on God's Word. being able to focus more on my gratitude each day + unloading some of my control-freak-y stress onto the Big Guy in the sky really helped my mood considerably.
today’s lesson: avoid slipping into autopilot. notice the distractions that pull you away from your practice. breathe in + out, in + out. anytime you notice your thoughts disrupting your meditation, focus back in on the breathing. i don’t know why this is such a difficult concept for me to put into practice. as a working mom to three young boys + wife to one big boy, i think it’s become second nature to be doing for everyone else. and between kids + husband + house + work, there’s always something that needs doing. multitasking is a necessity for survival. but this practice has made me realize that i haven’t prioritized my own personal needs at all. self-care doesn’t have to mean going for a massage or a mani-pedi. It can be something as simple as this - taking 10 minutes each day to let yourself have complete + utter peace.
today was all about the value of non-doing. this is one i really needed to absorb. putting a pause on productivity is difficult. we have become so addicted to physical progress that we’re not leaving enough room for rest. we tend to believe that our to-dos can’t possibly wait (i am a major repeat offender of that one) - that each thought must be acted upon as soon as we think it. “find comfort in a state of being rather than doing, encouraged my guide.” we believe that doing more will get us further ahead, but then you become exhausted. when you feel anxious or overwhelmed throughout the day, take a few minutes to slow down + breathe.
by the end of the five days, my meditation was something i truly looked forward to each day. i can’t remember the last time i allowed myself even 10 minutes on a work day to step away from my responsibilities and just do something peaceful for myself. bonus: you can set a feature in the calm app to remind you to carve out time each day. i had no clue how much i really needed it, how burnt out i’d allowed myself to become. this is a practice that i’ll definitely be continuing every single day for at least the foreseeable future. i can already feel the difference in my soul.
[chief fitlosopher's note] if you veer away from from meditation, which i admittedly had in the past, by definition it is to "focus one's thoughts." once i realized how this could apply to my faith-life, it was a game changer. this is what God calls us to to - to disconnect from the world, focus on Him + meditate on His Word.
have you tried meditation? how did it work for you? what tools, if any, did you use to complement your practice? let us know in the comments!