One week after beginning Sharon Salzberg’s 28-day Meditation Challenge, I wish I could say that I’d been instantly transformed into a calmer, happier, more whole being; that my relationships had drastically improved and that any stress in my life had disappeared.
The truth is, I haven’t witnessed any big changes yet—aside from the fact that I’ve been sleeping a bit better (and hey, no complaints there!). But I know that patience is an integral part of this process—an integral part of any process in which you’re trying to learn something new and make a change—so I’m sticking with it.
This week’s chapter/focus is “Concentration: Breathing and the Art of Starting Over.” This idea of starting over turned out to be pretty crucial in silencing my seemingly endless inner monologue—definitely my biggest hurdle of the week.
Trying my first meditation session at bedtime was probably a mistake. Sharon says this time frame is perfectly OK, and I’m sure it may work for some people (could even make for a nice segue into a restful night’s sleep!), but for me? Yeah, I was nodding off within 20 seconds. I ultimately gave up and went to bed.
I tried for round two a couple days later, right after work—in the quiet half hour before my husband gets home. This time I didn’t nod off, but I did have to stop and start my session over again several times, as Sharon suggests you do if you find yourself distracted by your thoughts. Mine, if you’re at all curious, went something like:
I’m breathing… breathing… breath… gah, I’m hungry! What are we eating tonight? Arghhh I forgot to stop and get onions again so I can’t make that soup thing… ok ok, you’re BREATHING… breathing… I really hope our landlord gives us back our security deposit on time… OK! OK… BREATHING… breathing… “YOU! MAKE! ME! Feel like I’m living a TEEN! AGE! DREAM! The way you turn me…” ohhh shut up, Katy Perry, get out of my head! I’m breathing… breathing…
I was pleasantly surprised to find that keeping my thoughts quiet was a little easier on my third try. Sure, the inner monologue came, as it will always come, but as Sharon points out in the first chapter, there’s something comforting in “being able to begin again, no matter where your attention has gone or for how long.” She adds, “If you get tangled up in thoughts, release them and start over. If you feel bored, or panicked, start over. If you can’t sit still, start over.”
If insipid Katy Perry lyrics creep into your consciousness, start over.
For my Week 2 meditations, I’m going to take things a step further by trying the guided meditation CD that comes with the book, and I’m going to keep practicing the art of, yes, starting over.
Check out Sharon Salzberg’s blog to read about numerous others’ experiences with the Real Happiness 28-day Meditation Challenge, and read Sharon Salzberg’s Huffington Post piece about the program here.
See you next week!
Taking the Challenge