Updated: Jul 1, 2019
What others might call meditation, I call lying on the floor contemplating what to make for dinner or how to fix all my life's problems in a day, depending on my mood. I am to spend thirty consecutive days of doing some form of meditation properly. Apparently, lying in the bath is not the correct way of doing it.
"To sit for twenty minutes a day unless you're very busy, then you should sit for an hour." I'm told.
I'm just grateful that it doesn't involve running, climbing or hurling one's body around the place.
Having drowned two pints of tea after heaving myself around 5k, It took some time before I could face lying down and embarking on my day 1 of consecutive meditations. Twas one of those gloriously wonderful rare-as-hen's-teeth summery days where one could see oneself bask in the garden for hours. The only problem was all the weeds have the same agenda and if I don't tackle them soon, I'll be hacking myself out of the garden in coming weeks. I'm already fighting to get into the garden as it is.
Thus, I thought I'd better get the meditation done first, even though I was terrified I'd fall asleep. I knew I'd most definitely fall asleep if I did the garden first. I dragged my sorry legs up the stairs to recover a large old bathtowel as my outdoor meditation mat and lay it on the grass under the apple tree. I put a small cushion on top of the towel and then went to retrieve my new phone and select a suitable meditation. Came back to find the cat had already started...
Went back upstairs to retrieve a second towel (Cat owners will understand) and selected a short twenty-minute meditation from YouTube.
"Our bodies are programmed to heal..." she began.
Just as I was dozing off, a baby apple hit me hard on the face.
A blustery day in which the gardening and running around of yesterday has left me absolutely exhausted. Not helped by waking up at 5:10am - that middle-aged middle-of-the-night urgency has recently started (oh, yay!) inducing the cat to think it's an appropriate time to be fed, let out, let in and generally fussed over. He's wrong but that doesn't make me right either apparently.
I decided it was best if I stayed indoors for this meditation. If I fell asleep (highly likely) I wouldn't run the risk of sunburn (highly unlikely today) or hypothermia (more likely). Cat was already in prime position on the sofa and so the sheepskin run on the floor would be my meditation mat for today.
I selected another twenty-minute meditation freely available on YouTube, entitled 'Meditation for Being Present' and settled myself down. About half way through a gigantic hornet arrived through my window. Never have I been so present.
As per the agreement, today is my first busy day and thus meditating for one hour is a must. The first hour I could find for this task just so happened to be 7:30pm - thankfully I checked the TV schedules and realised that doing nothing for an hour, nay watching paint dry, would actually be more interesting.
With that conviction, I searched for a one hour meditation on YouTube and lay down on my living room floor to listen. And listen and listen. Whilst the music wasn't unpleasant, it wasn't long before I'd planned Wednesday's shopping list, written to-do lists for my to-do lists, had three arguments in my head with an ex-boyfriend and generally fretted about my retirement fund.
I realised then I need a disembodied voice to tell me when to breathe, when not to and what to think. In other words, I am in requirement of guidance. And so I stopped and hunted down a guided meditation.
"Breathe in slowly" she said. I assume I exhaled at some point because the next thing I remember is waking up three hours later.
Another busy day, and therefore another day to find an hour to meditate it. It occurred to me that as yesterday's meditation was so successful at sending me to sleep, a bed-time meditation might be the best way forward. There's ample to choose from even though it occured to me that blue light, which is emitted from phones, is supposed to keep one awake. Mind you, that never stopped me watching endless cat videos come bedtime. I have often wondered why I have insomnia.
Anyway It worked so well, I overslept and woke up shattered.
With a morning free, but a busy afternoon and evening, I thought I'd do a short thirty-minute meditation in the morning. I quite enjoyed it at first. 'Imagine you are on a boat,' she said. So I did - something affordable to Roman Abramovich, only to be told it was a small wooden boat. With that I came crashing down to sea, whereupon my boat I was told, meandered up a river. The physics of this freaked me out quite considerably, until my boat began traversing up a mountain to a golden temple and I prayed with some monks.
Physics has never been my strong point.
Another fairly hectic day - not helped by the fact I had a plumber coming in to fix the river that had begun to establish a swimming pool in my futility room. The cat's taken to swimming to his litter tray. All well went, and faster than anticipated, and they left. I hopped in the bath before cracking on with tidying up the kitchen, putting the laundry on and the dishwasher. I'd failed to notice that the waste pipe had been dislodged from the dishwasher and had another swimming pool in my kitchen to deal with. Any plans to meditate were washed away.
And so another bed-time meditation was the arrangement. I settled comfortably as per the suggestion and began a few breathing exercises. Right at the precise moment he told me to clear my mind of any thoughts, my ears detected a capella in the key of F. Shortly after, a housefly began dive-bombing my face, or so it seemed. I opened the bedroom window and tried to negotiate it flying away, only to encourage a choir of C singing mosquitoes. Has anyone else tried meditating in an insectarium?
I restarted the meditation, this time with headphones.
Not too busy day so thought it would be good to try something a little different. Searching for twenty-minute meditations they all promised to conquer my sleep ishoos - and the one thing I don't need more of is sleep. I've been oversleeping for days. I settled on one which would instruct me to let go of my negativity.
Apt because I was worrying about the cat. I have two rugs in my living room. A machine washable one, and a sheepskin rug. If you were a cat, and you felt the urge to vomit, followed not long after by a sudden urge to shart, which rug would you consider the best receptacle for each specimen?
Having been greeted by that first thing, naturally I assumed my cat was terminally ill - not least because he refused to eat his breakfast. This is not an unusual event but he didn't even meow his disapproval of whatever was his favourite yesterday. I needed something to soothe my negative frame of mind, especially as my official meditation mat was now drip-drying in the bath. Fearing the cat would mistake me for a rug, I lie down on my bare carpet with trepidation.
So I was somewhat relieved to find the meditator (?) had rapid-fire instructions and did not speak like Yoda. In fact, the pace she asked me to breathe in and out had me near panting. No fear of failing asleep during this meditation. Before I knew it, I was suffocating in energy and struggling to listen to my heart as she kept reminding me to do. There was barely enough pauses for me to worry about paying the bills, cleaning the house, getting the cat to the vets etc. Then I was off down stairs in to basements, through doors and around corners discovering all sorts of potential possibilities and lights and energies and benches and things.
I certainly felt more vigorous after that.
Today was always going to be a nothing day - my house was clean and free of insects. Cat's health has miraculously restored and it was raining gallons so no gardening, no running and no major obligations. Thus a quick twenty-minute meditation had to be slotted in between cooking a Saturday fry-up, watching Box Sets galore and reading 'Why we dream', my newest Sadventure. The fry-up was accomplished but alarmingly I fell asleep whilst trying to find out why we dream. By the afternoon I'd had a full on nightmare - I've yet to discover why. I woke up, had a bath and had to go out. I came home and indulged in a box set - Chernobyl. I finally admitted defeat at 2am when they were off shooting dogs (sob, sob).
Thus my twenty minute meditation ended up, by necessity, being a sleep meditation as there was no chance of me falling asleep naturally after that! I discovered the sleep meditation was on a loop and it got irritating annoying after that.
With all the plans I had for Sunday, the one sunny day we'll be having for the foreseeable, I concluded this was a 'busy day' and thus I'd have to slot in a hour's meditation as per the rules of this Sadventure.
It was busy because at 4:30 England was playing Scotland in the world cup. Usually I hate football but special times, special efforts. Then the F1 was on after. Also, I've a garden that needs mowing, a gazillion seedlings that need planting out, two baskets of laundry, and (it seems) a plethora of physical activites coming up including several 5k runs and a six hour walk to train for. I also wanted to finished #Chernobyl.
I was once told that in order to get everything done on time, one should start by doing the things one likes the least, working through them in sequence, leaving the best to last. Unfortunately, they wouldn't re-arrange the World Cup to fit my schedule, so by the time I'd got all my weather-dependent activites done, the meditation was pushed to bedtime again. I think my YouTube has a great sense of humour as tonight's offerings were all 'morning meditations'.
After yesterday's strenuous gardening, and running my fastest 5k to date, then cheering on England and Lewis Hamilton to a win, plus tensing up through the remaining episode of Chernoby, it was safe to say I huuuuuurt all over.
Hence it seemed appropriate to choose a meditation for healing. So that's what I typed in YouTube and found a shortish meditation, called 'Body Scan' which instructed me not not try to relax as it will only create tension.
I can confirm that I began to concentrate my attention on my toes. Yup, they hurt. Then my ankles - yup, soreness there too. My calves, my thighs, pelvis, my stomach muscles. I noticed pain sensations in them all. And my arms, my hands and my back. I think I detected that my left ear lobe is ache free.
Twas a Tuesday and I wasn't overly busy, I was in a particularly good mood, free of stress and anxiety, well-rested, and very housebound until the weather cleared later in the afteroon. It was a quite a challenge, then, to find a meditation - either they promised to help me with sleep, de-stress or find an inner calmness. So I settled on a twenty-meditation that promised to be Life Changing.
I was mildly irritated by the voice, which had an annoying echo to it, was slow-paced and the music was very repeatitive. That, coupled with the harmmering rain, the dishwasher and a hungry cat made my mood very changed.
A busy day, and given the gallons of coffee I'd drunk yesterday, there was nothing more obvious than a one-hour send you to sleep meditation. Can't tell you much about it except that I was flat out asleep before it even got going.
The weather is miserable, cold and very unJune-like. I have even resorted to putting the heating on for the last two nights. Cat yowls at the door. Cat gets let out - noticing with alacrity that it's absolutely tipping it down. Cat comes in. Cat out. Cat in. Cat out. Cat in. Yowl, yowl, yowl.
Thus, I was in dire need of a meditation with a sunny, sandy, beachy scene to settle down with on my now decontaminated meditation rug. Cat out. Cat in. Cat glares at me from his lofty position.
Have you ever tried to find inner peace when the cat is plotting your demise?
Days 14, 15 and 16
Fairly quiet in terms of busyness, so a quick twenty minute meditation every day. Nothing of note happened.
"You ought to try Kundalini," she said.
"I will," I said, "I love pasta."
Turns out it's a kind of meditation. I am somewhat diasppointed. The first one that YouTube selected for me begain with what sounded like a tiger growling. I found another.
I didn't get much better when the voice started talking about serpents entwining up one's spine into one's brain, only to burst out of one's crown. This is the stuff of nightmares.
First, I had to take a very slow, deep inhale down to my sacrum and then visualise snakes emerging and encircling my solar plexus, and then intertwining around my heart. At this point, she was talking so slowly, I thought I would suffocate. One more urgent inhale, I then had to imagine the elongated reptiles enter my throat only then to merge and pass to my pineal gland, which exploded. On the plus, I no longer fear being eaten by tigers.
Once guided through the visualisation, each repetition became faster and faster - with the voice speeded up to frenetic speed. Relaxing this was not.
I also learnt more about human anatomy than expected. I had to google sacrum, medulla oblongata, pineal glands after just to locate them in my body. The latter are prone to cysts, google told me. Thus, I am left with something else to worry about.
A quick 20 minute, pre-sleep meditation. Did the trick.
A ridiculously busy day: two appointments, a trip to the tip, a funeral (not mine!) and a dinner date to pack in. As well as, of course, England v. Japan to watch when I got in. I completely forgot to do a meditation until I climbed into bed and realised I should have done an hour's worth! I sent up one for bedtime but I don't recall any of it. I shall do a two-hour meditation (yikes) this evening.
^^^ But if this is true, I did a seven hour meditation last night.
Blimey - I was not looking forward to doing this. I still find my mind wanders a great deal during a meditation and lying on the floor for two hours is likely to do my back in. So instead, I decided to go up to the bedroom. Never before in the history of ever, have I gone to bed untired and the 'wrong' side of midnight. I felt like an owl pretending to be a chicken.
And then I remembered why bed meditations aren't good either. Not least on inspecting the bed, I had 'somehow' forgotten to make it that morning and it was all knotted up in the centre of the bed, with the cat lying atop of it. As he was sleeping, and because he has a tendency to be a very irritating bedfellow when awake, either by licking his balls noisily, or because he'd quite like to be fed right now, I decided it was best to leave him be.
I retrieved a blanket. I carefully arranged the pillows into a position I thought I'd be able to maintain for an hour or two, and one that wouldn't encourage me to drop off, I selected a two-hour meditation and settled into it.
The bluebottle, however, was far from helpful. At one point he nearly woke up the sleeping cat. But at the next point, he did wake up the sleeping cat, who looks severely pissed off and promptly fell asleep again. I switched the light off in the hope it would calm the fly down, and raised teh volume on the meditation.
I think I managed one and a half hours. I do remember waking up cold in the middle of the night.
I always find this portion of doing month-long challenges the hardest. The novelty has worn off and tasks have become relegated to 'chore status' and that's how I feel about meditating at present. By way of compromise, I run a hot bath and meditate in it. Found myself accidentally enjoying it so much, I did a second one.
I am open about the fact that I rely on anti-depressants. I finally agreed, very reluctantly, to take them about a year ago. I started on anti-anxiety meds and then swopped to anti-Ds when they stopped working about three months later. I knew the anti-anxiety ones stopped working because my menopausal migraines came back with a vengeance - at times having up to three a week. Often, it's just visual impairment, but sometimes, I get headaches and nausea. A bad one would include numb fingers and a complete intolerance to noise and light. Mostly, though, they just discombobulate me.
That said, I am hoping not to become reliant on anti-Ds long term. They do numb me for the most part things, but one is left with a sense of not quite being in the real world at the same time.
I am on a very low dose - I take one pill every 36 hours. Partly because I am, and have always been, pill sensitive. I tried taking one every two days because it's so much easier to remember! However, they didn't quite do the trick. A few months ago, the doctor suggested I try again with one every other day as a way of weaning myself of them. I tried, but within days, I felt very odd, very low and very out of sorts. My old mucker, anxiety, came back. So stayed on my regular dose.
However, the two weeks I have successfully taken one every other day with no noticeable changes in my mood. My head feels slightly clearer and so far no migraines either. I felt a bit ropey one day but it didn't develop. I know because of 'Why We Dream' there is a link between migraines, sleep and stress, so perhaps meditating is having more of an impact than I appreciated.
That said popping a pill takes seconds. Meditating takes hours.
Me and Fierce Fanny are off to climb a wall. Well, I am: FF is getting me there (hopefully!). Rock climbing, or wall-climbing, is said to be is highly mindful. If I'm still alive later, after watching the F1 race (Go Hamilton!), the Football World Cup (go England!) and The Handmaid's Tale (Go June!) I shall definitely be in need of meditating.
Well, I definitely was in need of a mediation when I got home - not least because I did not get an adrenaline rush in quite the way I expected. Having to get Fierce Fanny recovered and home from a busy A road after she stopped abruptly at 60mph only a mile away from Far Peak Climbing was a heart-stopping moment in itself.
By the time we got safely home, had a brew with my knights in white shining armour, cooked dinner, fallen out with the cat, and watched everything that brings me pleasure (or pain), I was absolutely shattered. What I wasn't was surprised that Fierce Fanny has broken down again. Worried whether I'll get her back on the road again. Definitely.
Upon arriving in bed I googled 'meditation in a crisis' but found nothing substantial or appropriate. Instead settling for a Panic Attack Meditation. Not that I was having one, but seemed apt.
"Panic Attacks are your body's way of reacting to danger. It is human to feel like this," he said. Well, that got me worried that my reaction was abnormal...I laughed when she blew up. A derisive laugh, granted, but not a panic reponse at all. Perhaps all this meditation is paying off.
Not an overly busy day so decided that as I'd have an early start the next day, I might combine a bath with a lovely meditation. Discovered there was actually a mindful meditation for the bathtub.
My first mistake was overfilling the bath. Bath was scalding hot, rather than gorgeously warm as advised. Next, I had to arrange the following...
Wine or herbal tea
I stewed a blueberry and raspberry tea to enhance the experience of fig and mulberry essences from the candle, and chucked some acai berry bath salts into the bathtub for a total berry experience.
"Now close the door as this is private time' he ordered." Clearly, he is not a cat owner. In a cat residence, one can never close the door and hope to rest in peace.
"Turn off your phone,"He said. Unfortunately, it's my phone that pipes the meditation into the bathroom.
"Remove your glasses and jewellery, and put them somewhere safe." He said. Now I'm getting freaked out that he knows I'm wearing glasses and jewellery. Only one ring, and it is no longer removeable but still....
Next he told me to remove my clothes slowly, and put them somewhere well away from the water.
Have I ever mentioned I cannot bear mansplaining?
At this point, my irritability tolerance quotient was reached and I shut him off. I decided to meditate in bed instead. With that I threw myself into the scalding water, creating a tidal wave that extinguished the candle, diluted my herbal tea, and soaked the clothes on the floor.
And it was at that moment when I was doing my best 'orangutan' reaction to the overheated water, that my body spontanously had a hot menopausal flush.
I did a meditation in bed instead.
Quite a busy day - a trip to Cheltenham. Getting Fierce Fanny arranged for her trip to the repair shop. Then out in the evening. Settled on a long meditation for sleep as I'd overdosed on coffee throughout the day. I think I managed five minutes...before nodding off.
Another busy day, or that's what I was expecting. And with an early start, it would be best to do a bedtime sleeping meditation. I don't even remember hitting play.
"You ought to try a mantra meditation" I was told. With a memory like a goldfish, I was worried that I'd foget the words or mispronounce them and unleash all sorts of catastrophies on myself.
I settled on a very simple 'So Hum' mantra meditation, which means 'I am'. So hum having a mid life crisis. So hum female. So hum off to the garden to hum so.
Was actually quite enjoyable. Lots of doing breathing exercises, first breathing through the nose, later exhaling out of the mouth and then the other way around. Finally, breathing fully in through the mouth and out the mouth. Kept me focused.
Apparenly, then you can hear the sound of inhaling 'So (in) and Hum (out). Then we were guided to listen for other bodily sounds. Most people hear their heatbeat, followed by the coursing of blood around the body. All I became aware of was my neck sounds like a bag of spanners, and there's a bird in the garden that sounds just like a landline ringing.
Just another sleep meditation. I put a two-hour one on. Worked like a dream - I woke up with most of the morning gone! The only bloody day we have a heatwave and I slept through it. Pants.
I thought this was a twenty-eight day challenge. I didn't do one. I'm sorry. I will do an extra day.
A quick twenty-minute meditation in the bath - not least because I overfilled it, and it wasn't warm enough to do one much longer.
Day 29 (again)
So does meditation work?
I thought, to conclude, I would look into some of the science behind it, as well as consider my own personal reflections.
Instantly, I was alarmed to read:
"If possible, don't meditate before bed," says Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of the meditation app Headspace, which incidentally has a ton of meditation for sleep offerings!
Just as I'd been thinking about whether or not meditation has been beneficial for me, a point I'll return to, I've just learnt that I've been doing it wrong! <sob>.
He doesn't say why though. I've asked Dr. Google and been hit with 1,000+ reasons on why you should meditate before bed. Thus, I am now most definitely now in a state of contemplative confusion.
So I googled whether there is any scientific research that mediation can stymie insomnia.
Again, some say it can - but only if it's done during the day. So my own results, in that every meditation seemed to send me off to sleep, and I am a renowned poor sleeper, seems to fly in the face of medical science. I am an anomaly.
There is some evidence that meditation has some benefits on some conditions, but is by no means a proven panacea for all ills. Terrified of your irrational fears - yup, meditation works. Stubbed your toe? Not at all. Chocolate addiction or worse? Nope. And as for panic attacks? Well, in yonder year, we were encouraged to pant into a brown paper bags to allievate panic attacks, which were then called all sorts of derisory things. Then plastic bags came into circulation, and we risked suffocation. With more and more of the big retailers now switching back to paperbags, traditional "mindful meditation" of counting one's breath may yet make a mainstream comeback.
Daytime meditations I found more difficult - one fitting them in, secondly it's really hard to meditate with a cat who suddenly got ADHD whenever I sat down. Thirdly, garden meditations - the idea of sitting in quiet rumination surrounded by nature is idyllic. The next-door neighbours lawnmowing less so. The postman catching you chanting 'So hum' to the apple tree downright embar