5 lessons from 500 days of meditation

I was talking to my friend Jason Parry on my 499th consecutive day of meditation. We were discussing our 2018 goals and I mentioned how I want to continue to meditate each day.

“You should just stop now,” he said. “Before you hit 500.”

That would be the ultimate Zen power move, to prove that I don’t need some arbitrary meditation milestone. It would show I’m finally free from the bonds of external validation.

But I didn’t stop. Today I’m on day 502. I am weak.

Maybe on day 999 I’ll achieve ultimate nirvana. As the Zen master says, we’ll see.

In the meantime, here are 5 insights from 500. Nothing earth shattering, just some practical tips from what I’ve learned so far.

You need a trigger

When busy people think about meditation, the main barrier seems to be time. I don’t have time to sit and do nothing! I’m already too busy!

But I don’t think time is really what’s holding people back. Do you have time to eat, go to the bathroom, brush your teeth or take care of other basic needs? Yes? Then you have time to meditate.

What you really need is a trigger, something to remind you to do it on a daily or regular basis. Habits need a regular ritual, as Nir Eyal has written about.

A time of day, a place or an action can remind you now is time to meditation, like the first thing you do when you get up, arriving at your desk, or maybe…

You can secretly meditate in the car

I’m serious.

I usually find that my drive home from work is when I’m at my twitchiest and most impatient. I’m fighting traffic, trying to get home in time for dinner, the events of the workday are swirling around in my head, and I’m tempted to go on my phone and reply to one more email.

Instead, I meditate in the car.

I haven’t been in an accident yet.

You don’t have to close your eyes to meditate. Instead, I put on a meditation from calm.com, focus on my breathing and release the tension from the day.

This increases my awareness and mindfulness, and arrive home in a calmer, more present place.

Zoning out is a form of meditation

Meditation doesn’t have to always be some hourlong Zen session on top of a mountain top. Sometimes you’re stuck in your office staring at screens, spinning your wheels and caught up in the spinning wheel of opening and checking your inbox over and over again.

Stop. Break the cycle. Just zone out.

That’s right, zone out.

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Stare at a spot in the ceiling, or the floor, or a brick outside your window.

Zone out.

Pay attention to your surroundings.

Listen.

Relax your muscles.

Breathe.

Then come back to what you’re doing with refreshed focus and energy.

You don’t have to talk about it

I realize the irony of saying this while writing about meditation, but it’s only the second time in 500 days! Maybe on day 1,000 I won’t feel the need to write about my supposed insights again.

I think Light Watkins had the right idea when he wrote:

Treat your “inner” practices like brushing your teeth. Do them daily, but without mentioning it.

Do meditation for the Instagram or the Medium post. You don’t have to be the guy from the Onion article:

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Noting how he piled on yet another healthy practice to his perfectly goddamned balanced lifestyle, exasperated friends confirmed Wednesday that annoying, well-adjusted 32-year-old Ryan Miller is even fucking meditating now. “Christ, the emotionally stable fucker already loves his job, exercises four times a week, and now he has the balls to spend 10 minutes every morning sitting quietly and breathing deeply to clear his mind,” said longtime friend Michael Saunders, adding that it was bad enough when the irritatingly healthy Miller switched from drinking coffee to herbal tea…. At press time, Saunders told reporters that if his aggravating, good-natured friend posted one more sun salutation picture on Facebook, he would unfriend the man on the spot.

Meditation is not THE answer

We’re always in search of a magic bullet to fix all our problems.

New Year’s Resolutions. The Whole30 diet. The perfect productivity app.

I think meditation can fall into this same cult of seeking the perfect solution.

But meditation is not THE answer.

I’ve been meditating for 502 days now, and I still get stressed out, worried, and anxious. I don’t walk around in state of blissed-out nirvana. I have good days and bad days.

But at the same time, I do feel tangibly different than I did 500 days ago. It’s a change for the better.

Meditation is not about being perfect. To me, it’s about being more accepting, and as a result being more resilient.

Meditation isn’t going to solve all your problems, but I can help you deal with them.

BTW, as part of my meditation training, I created a 7-day series of mindfulness reflections. Sign up for my email list here and get the free weeklong mindfulness program

Written by

Educator. Podcast addict. Wrote a book about creativity: http://bit.ly/thecreativejourney

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