Offensive Thinking

Brain tumors suck. Hi, I'm Patrick btw. This is my cancer blog. My "normal" stuff is over here.

Meditation And Mindfulness

Meditating in Nature is Great
Meditating in Nature is Great

Here I am, up since 5am (to be fair though, I usually get up at 5:15). My daughter happily sits on my lap, trying to mash on the keyboard, hitting random keys and potentially destroying what I just wrote. She’s been up since about 4am, so I didn’t really sleep since then, and she insisted on getting up with me instead of staying in bed a bit longer. But I remain calm. Update: This was written on February 23rd, not today when I uploaded the final blog post.

I began meditation as a habit somewhere around summer last year and haven’t skipped many sessions since (215 of 241 days since I started tracking with my habit tracker, to be precise). I started by using Headspace, a rather well known guided meditation program for mindfulness meditation. Having wanted to try meditation for quite some time, I was always put off by all the pseudo-religious, spiritual, esoteric voodoo talk most of the descriptions and programs out there are buying into. Headspace made mediation accessible for me by (mostly) talking about the scientific proof of mindfulness meditation. It is a guided meditation, so you have the soothing voice of Andy Puddicombe talking to you. I went with the free take 10 program they offer and then bought about 2 months of service from them, going through one of the programs whose goal is to make you comfortable sitting in silence, as it progressively removes the cues. I wanted to ween myself off of the guided meditation as soon as possible, so I could meditate without the crutch of relying on someone’s guidance. Starting with guided meditation helped tremendously though, as it can be a quite intimidating task to meditate if you have no clue what you should do.

I also found the book Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn helpful. The practice of mindfulness is quite old, but Kabat-Zinn helped it to gain popularity. It is a classic read about meditation and doesn’t delve too deep into the spiritual, as Kabat-Zinn developed a stress-reduction program for use in health care, which includes meditation. I use some of his suggested visualization techniques whenever just focussing on my breath doesn’t work.

Whereas many people suggest meditating in the morning, I find it particularly helpful to meditate in the evening, as the last thing I do before going to bed. My morning routine already sets me up quite well for the day (I’ll write another blog post about it), while meditating before bed makes me sleep a lot better, especially if the day has been hectic and my mind is full of thoughts.

My wife was kind enough to sew a meditation cushion for me to use. I’m sitting cross-legged and with no back support, so the usage of some kind of cushion is advised if you don’t want to ruin your knees. You can meditate in whatever position is comfortable for you though. I use Zazen Meditation Timer as a really simple timer. My meditation is set up to be 15 minutes long, but I don’t sweat it if for some reason, it is shorter. Every day is different, so sometimes I barely notice 15 minutes going by, sometimes I already get restless after 8 minutes. I try to go with the flow there. The only downside to meditation as the last thing before bedtime is that sometimes, I’m already so tired that I start to fall asleep, a feat not too small while sitting upright without a back rest. There are some techniques to counteract this, but sometimes I just drift of.

What meditation practice works best for you is rather individual, so I won’t advocate that everyone follows my kind of meditation. Let me just emphasize the fact that I personally benefit greatly from this habit, and I suggest you try it, too. Start with some guided meditation, as it gives you some clues instead of making you sit there in silence, questioning whether you’re doing it “right” (the answer by the way is always the same: there is no wrong and right in how you meditate, as long as it gets you in the desired state of mind). And don’t think too much about how long you’re supposed to meditate, if in the beginning it’s only two or three minutes, that’s fine, too.