Today marks the end of a 30 day meditation challenge done with one of my best friends who also happened to be a chocolate addict! Our idea was simple. We would meditate at least 5 minutes everyday and if we missed a day, we would have to offer a chocolate or praline to the other friend. If we kept the challenge up for 30 days, our reward would be… you guessed it… CHOCOLATE!
To keep track, we used an App called Insight which tracks stats and offers thousands of free guided meditations. There is also a simple timer with optional bell ringing and background music. I love this App also for the fact that it also a “social media” part where we could message each other and see what the other has been up to. I even decided to join a group committed to meditating for 365 days!
Why this challenge worked so well for me
Friend’s support and accountability. I had tried to set this habit a few months back as a new year’s resolution last year but it had never really stuck. But challenging my friend worked wonderfully for me because I had someone to share my struggles and experiences with and we’d bother learn from each other. We had both discovered mindfulness and meditation in different contexts (I had followed a few seminars on using meditation to manage stress and anxiety on stage and be present during performances).
Diversity. Often the thought of sitting still and doing nothing but breathe for a few minutes a day is not the easiest or most exciting thing to try and do and often I’d feel bored and/or discouraged. However, the Insight App helped tremendously because it allowed me to discover countless different meditation techniques (guided mindfulness meditations, visualizations, breathing meditations, yoga meditations…) and to stay curious and excited about the process. I loved browsing through and experimenting with the different meditation sessions. If I started to feel overwhelmed by the vast array of choice, I would simply put the timer on and let the feelings pass although I found my mind would more easily wander if I simply relied on the timer. Another great plus about the App is it allowed me to keep track of how long I’ve been meditating and gave detailed daily, weekly and monthly stats of my different sessions (great for data lovers such as myself).
A good motivation to win the challenge. Belgium is the land of Chocolate, home to the best, richest, sweetest buttery and gooey delights on the planet (Sorry Switzerland… you and your purple cows simply can not compete)! This challenge was just meant to be another excuse to indulge in more goodie sweetness but in the end, I actually found I didn’t feel the constant want or need for this guilty pleasure anymore after I meditated. Instead of unconsciously swallowing my comfort food whole like I usually did, I found myself savouring a lot more the different flavours and enjoying every bite of chocolate when I did have some. So at the end of the challenge, instead of buying a big box of 30 pralines for each day I meditated (which might have left me feeling bloated and potentially nauseous…), I chose to reward myself with something different : 4 little pralines from a famous chocolate maker. I chose to celebrate this time quality over quantity, mindfulness over indulgence, one of the many lessons I learned from this small challenge.
What I learned from the experience
A lesson on perserverance. Some days I sucked at it, Some days I felt great about it. Some days, I felt I was racing against the clock trying to fit a meditation into my morning routine and other days, I’d have a feeling I was in sort of timeless place for a moment and I felt I needed to meditate. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to keep up with the challenge even if sometimes I did feel it became harder to be present to the moment the more I meditated. The hardest often was dealing with discomfort and practicing forgiveness when my mind did wander off.
A lesson on letting go. I found I would more easily let go of situations beyond my control after a few weeks of meditating. One truly amazing example to me was on a hectic day where I had important classes and appointments, every single one of the trains I took was late. I was running to every single one of my appointments trying to get there on time but when I was on the train experiencing lateness of the trains, instead of stressing and wallowing in anger about the situation, I simply got aware of the fact that regardless how I reacted or felt, I wouldn’t be able to make the trains move faster so I might as well enjoy my time in the train to read my book, send a few emails and be present to the situation. By some miracle that day, I actually made it to all my commitments just on time! Imagine, had I gotten pissed at the delayed trains like I always unconsciously do, I would’ve wasted a lot of my precious energy on anger and frustration towards a situation that in the end turned out just fine.
A lesson on self-care. I meditate because I feel good, because I feel bad, sometimes just because I feel too much… I feel peaceful and free after I meditate. I found regardless if it went well or not, the simple fact of taking this time for myself everyday was a simple and wonderful act of self-love and self-care.
A message of wisdom
I finished these 30 days feeling inspired and grateful for the experience and I wanted to leave you with a beautiful poem I discovered on the Insight App often used as a quick simple and powerful meditation tool… Enjoy!
She Let Go
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments. She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her. She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go. She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go. She let go of all of the memories that held her back. She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.
No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.