It’s been four years since I last posted about my endeavors with mindfulness meditation. I figure it’s time for an update.
Over the last four years I’ve practiced mindfulness meditation sporadically. There have been long stretches of months where it didn’t even occur to me practice it. Over the past year however I’ve taken a more proactive approach, to the point where it’s something I habitually think about every day. Despite being fairly inconsistent over the past four years, I still sense an overall improvement in my understanding of mindfulness since first learning about it almost a decade ago.
Even more recently I’ve begun challenging myself. I’ve made a goal to undergo at least one mindfulness meditation session a day for five minutes. I’ve set a reminder in my phone for sometime in the evening, and before I begin meditating I’ll set a timer for exactly five minutes. The five minutes that I set aside for meditating go by very quickly, so I’m often left feeling that I could’ve meditated much longer. For now I stick pretty close to the five minute mark in order to prevent burnout. I’ve noticed that sometimes when I try to go for as long as I can there is a diminishing returns effect where my mind just becomes fatigued and I lose focus entirely. As I begin to feel further improvement in my five minutes sessions I will most likely bump my allotted time to 10 minutes, and I’ll repeat the process from there.
The effects of somewhat consistent meditation every day are subtle, but nonetheless noticeable. I began my mindfulness journey intent on eradicating my day-to-day anxiety. In the past, after learning about mindfulness breathing exercises, I was lucky if I even remembered do it in all of those stressful, anxiety-inducing situations I found myself in every day. But now, mindfulness is something I’m aware of almost every passing minute of the day. If I sense myself losing focus on a task, I spend a few seconds concentrating on my breathing, and then direct attention back on my task. Focus is still something that I struggle with, but at least now I’m more aware of when I lose it. The same goes for the majority of my social interactions. The minute I feel pangs of anxiety bubbling up, I simply focus on my breathing for a few seconds and attempt to engage a little longer in the interaction. Again, I’d hardly consider myself skilled at this, and anxiety is still something I constantly grapple with, but at least I’m more conscious of my triggers and am better at talking myself back into stability. Aside from social interactions, many of the moments I feel anxious are when I’m either sitting doing nothing or trying to fall asleep. During these times mindfulness breathing exercises are crucial in snapping me back to reality and clearing my mind, and falling asleep has never been easier for me in general. In fact, my girlfriend has commented on how quickly I fall asleep since she’s known me.
The five minute-a-day meditation challenge I’ve set for myself is something I’ve only been doing for a couple of weeks, but one thing I’m already noticing is how excited I am to do these sessions each day. To supplement my mindfulness journey I’ve also enrolled in a Coursera course called ‘Buddhism and Modern Psychology’. It’s basically an exploration of how Buddhism relates to what we know about the mind through psychology. The course is stripped away of any deep history or spiritualism and approaches things from a more scientific standpoint. It’s incredibly insightful and has helped motivate me to continue to pursue my meditation goals.
Sometime in the future I will hopefully muster the courage to take things to the next level and maybe go on a mindfulness retreat, or at least some sort of professional workshop in my area. I’m also headed to SE Asia next autumn; I’m hoping that by indulging in Thai culture I will gain further insight into meditation practices.