After the emotional overwhelm of 2014, I wanted to try to keep myself on a more even keel this year. I also want to dedicate myself to something that goes a bit deeper than “trying to be better”, so I’m going to take up monthly challenges to start changing my habits and giving myself the space and mindfulness to enjoy life and be grateful for my blessings.
I’m kicking off this month with daily meditation. I’ve been attempting to get into this for the last 18 months and have dipped in and out with varying degress of success. What I have picked up, though, is that it really, really works for me.
I’ve always had quite a temper, a short fuse that’s easily lit and explosions that could be quite uncontrolled. Granted, as I’ve got older I’ve managed to get them under control to the extent that they are usually aimed purely at inanimate objects, but I know they are a trait about me that K likes least.
Reflecting on that, and wanting to be the best husband I can, I set about trying to embrace mindfulness to keep things in check and I was amazed at the results. When I mediated regularly (my longest stint being about 3 weeks, I think), I was instantly calmer and more relaxed about everything. And that feeling stayed with me even when I let things slip.
I read a lot of the teachings of zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, who helped me see the impermenance and realtive unimportance of the wide variety of ‘things’ that happen to us in our daily lives. Maintaining a half-smile and letting other people worry about their own days is something that has made my daily commuting through the busiest of London stations so much smoother than it would have been even a year ago.
“Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
If things are going well, then, why do I need meditation to be my first habit change of 2015? Because I can always be better at it.
There is one more important element to it that reflects on my own skills and experience, too: I need a quick win. I’ve tried before to change habits – something that most experts will tell you takes a minimum of 30 days to do – and my best intentions fall by the wayside quickly.
Meditation is something I know I can do, but haven’t maanged to keep it up daily yet. That means through January I will not only see the instant daily benefit (the reward feeling that my brain will definitely need), but also be better able to keep it going.
I’m going to be using Headspace, an app I discovered for guided meditation that draws you into meditation without dumping you in at the deep end and expecting you to sit in the lotus position and float off into trancendental bliss in your first session. It’s simple, practical, and starts with just 10 minutes a day. It also has a huge number of extensions so you don’t end up stuck with the same old 20 minutes of guidance every day.
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”
Thich Nhat Hanh