Are You Ready For A 30-Day Meditation Challenge?
Well, we are at the end of the strangest year we've probably ever lived. I'm going to be completely honest here . . . there were a few times in the last nine months where I thought I was going to completely lose my shit. But thankfully, I didn't (mostly.) I have to say, it was meditation and yoga that helped me. I have never felt more grounded and connected to myself, my soul, and my purpose than I do right now. So, that is one of the positive outcomes from this past year. Also, I was able to pivot rather quickly to teaching yoga online. Between private yoga classes, kids' yoga, and group FB LIVE yoga sessions, I am teaching more now than I was before the shutdown. It has also allowed me to connect with a greater audience than just here in my small town, but also including friends from back home. I've seen people find creative new ways to connect with their people. With all the bizarre twists and turns this year has taken, I am so grateful for my meditation and yoga practice. Yoga was there for my physical body and no doubt, helped alleviate any tension and stagnant energy, but my meditation practice supported my mental health and my ability to keep calm.
January is the time of year where many yoga studios and teachers offer a 30-day yoga challenge . . . but I won't be doing that for a few reasons. First, I don't believe that asana needs to be practiced daily. Even the die-hard Mysore Ashtanga yogis take ONE day off a week. I, too, think it is necessary to take at least one day off from a physical practice. Second, going along that same line, I don't think that it is very realistic to practice asana everyday. Most people have other activities they like to take part in besides yoga. It's good to vary the forms of exercise we use to stay active. That's where the idea of a 30-day meditation challenge came to mind. It seemed a little more realistic and it will lay the groundwork for a meditation practice. New research shows that it takes anywhere from 21 to 254 days for something to become a habit, with the average of about 66 days. Wow! Talk about a range! And after a 30-day yoga challenge, most people will not continue on that same trajectory because it's not sustainable, but you CAN with a meditation practice. Lastly, I think it's gimmicky. I'm not a salesperson. I'm a yoga teacher. No judgement if you offer 30-day yoga challenges. It's just not me. I let yoga sell itself. When the benefits of the practice are felt by the practitioner, the yoga sells itself. If you've already been sold on an asana practice, fantastic. Let's take it a step further with cultivating a meditation practice.
Now, let's talk about meditation. It's something I hope everyone gets to experience at least once. It takes commitment and accountability to sustain a meditation practice. But the benefits definitely outweigh any drawbacks. First rule, come to the practice without any expectations. Just allow whatever happens, to happen. And on the flip side, nothing needs to happen during your meditation practice. It's just the practice of showing up for five or 10 minutes, it doesn't matter. You show up, see what happens. It's the practice of sitting down in a certain place, at a certain time daily; consistency is the key to your practice. Just sitting down on the cushion taking some deep breaths and bringing your focus to one thing; your breath. Second thing to keep in mind, there will always be thoughts during meditation, but it's how we choose to engage with those thoughts which is part of the practice. We can attach to the thoughts or we can allow them to just float by. When we have a consistent practice, it become part of our lives, just another aspect of our daily self-care plan. Meditation then becomes one of our tools to deal with life. When I teach the kids' classes we talk about why we do yoga: so we can have a calm heart, a calm body, and a calm brain. And when all three are calm, we can make really great choices. Some days will be easier than others, but we just keep showing up. We just keep doing it. And there will come a day or several where you will skip your practice and you will notice the difference. Sometimes when we step away from certain practices or activities, we then see the real benefit in them. Your friends and family may begin to notice a difference in how you show up or how you respond to life. The graphic above Iists some benefits of the practice: the lessening of anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death. Sounds like a win-win to me. The time you take for meditation will actually GIVE you more time in your day because you will be present and mindful in your interactions. For many years, I felt like I was on auto-pilot; not aware of the things I was doing due to routine and muscle memory. When my meditation practice became part of my morning routine, time expanded. I was present with the people around me and I wasn't running down my to-do list in my head while in conversation or in a meeting. I was completely present.
A few quick tips: 1. Find a dedicated space where you can sit undisturbed. That may even be in your car. It really depends on your situation and your other responsibilities. 2. Decide what time of day is best for you to practice. Some people like to do it first thing in the morning, others do it before bed. Try them both on, see what fits your lifestyle. I prefer to practice in the morning, when I have no excuses. I have no children that need me to help them in the morning, just a furry little beast that usually joins me in meditation. 3. Commit to it. Start with five minutes and gradually increase the time. You decide what is best for you. 4. Just keep showing up with no expectations of what will take place.
I hope you will join me for this 30-day Meditation challenge on Facebook. It will begin on January 1st at 8:00am EST. If you cannot make it to the LIVE FB session, watch it later. Here is the link to join. Feel free to sign on a little early and get comfy. Have a beverage of your choice and something to wrap around you, like a blanket or shall, the body temperature drops in meditation since you're sitting still. January 2nd and 17th will be at 7:00am EST.
This is a practice not a perfect. The only thing you need to do is just show up. Honor the commitment you made to yourself when you decided to do the challenge. Have no expectations. Stay consistent. Even on the days where you don't want to do it. Like Nike's slogan: JUST DO IT.
Be well. Stay well.