30-Day Meditation Challenge Complete!

"Cool Buddha" from my visit to the Relational Yoga Mandiram in Colorado

Two days ago I completed a 30-day meditation challenge. You can read my posts during the challenge here. The challenge was as follows:

I commit to, starting today and for the next 30 days, meditating twice a day for 20 minutes each. Once in the morning and once in the evening.

The challenge began simply enough, and became progressively more challenging as life seemed to get in the way of my attempts to sit still and focus. First allergies, then a cold, then several late nights and busy work meetings made sitting still a challenging task! Despite the challenges I persisted and eventually found my time sitting to be easier and more fulfilling. By the 10 days of my 30-day challenge my meditations took on a whole new shape. I was no longer having to force myself to sit. It became more enjoyable and I began to notice more profound benefits.

I’ll share my approach to meditation, the challenges I faced and the benefits received as a guide for those of you that want to take up a similar challenge yourself. Suffice it to say, that at the end of my 30-days, I took 1 day off and did not meditate at all (even though I wanted to!) simply to keep myself from getting in the trap of trying to “keep a streak alive.” However, this morning I did sit for 20 minutes again and will do so again this evening. This is no longer a challenge for me but a way of life. I’m going to keep this up.

My approach

  • Sat still in silent meditation for 20 minutes, every morning and evening
  • Often meditated after exercise or yoga practice (makes it easier to sit still and focus)
  • Chose the same place every time, mostly in a dark room (without tons of light shining on my) and away from noise
  • Set a timer for 20 minutes (I use my iPhone, it has a built-in count-down timer and the alarm is soothing!)
  • When cold, I draped a shawl over me (including my head) just leaving room around my mouth to breathe
  • Sat on the floor (light carpet or yoga mat), and avoided using excessive props and pillows (if you need props or pillar, or even a chair to start, no problem, if you can sit cross-legged on the floor, do that)
  • Rested my hands, palms faced down, on my knees
  • Kept my spine straight, but with its natural curves
  • Imagined an apple balancing on my head to keep from slouching (just initially)
  • Kept eyes closed no matter what
  • Breathed in and out through my nose (not loud or with “ujayii” breath as in yoga asana practice, but with a normal breath)
  • Focused on my breath to start (in fact, you could spend the entire 20 minutes just noticing your breath, I would often do this)
  • If you know a mantra or empowering phrase, you canĀ  repeat that, often I would do this, but it is not necessary. You can also focus on an emotion or idea like peace, love, harmony, etc…
  • No matter how much my mind wandered, I brought it back to my single point of focus (breath, mantra or whatever you are using for that)
  • No matter how badly I wanted to see how much time I have left, I did not open my eyes! (it helps to keep any clocks out of sight so you aren’t tempted to look)
  • When finished, I ended in namaste (with hands in prayer at heart center) and that is it!

My challenges (all avoidable with practice and care!)

  • Felt sleepy while meditating if I didn’t get to bed early enough
  • Had trouble concentrating if I would eat right before meditation or ate heavy foods or overate (or ate late in the evening and then meditated before sleep)
  • Tempted to look at a clock or timer to see how much time was remaining. In many cases, I would open my eyes and look right before the time was up!
  • Legs sometimes felt ancy…..not pins and needles, but ancy like I wanted to get up and do something
  • Mind would wander incredibly, especially if I was late for work or had other important matters to do
  • Allergies made it very challenging at times, with constant sneezing and a runny nose, I persisted through this
  • Was extremely tired a few times, due to a cold and late work days, made meditation incredibly challenging
  • Listening to music or watching a movie (especially action movies) would make meditation more challenging

My benefits

  • Less attachment to other people’s actions towards me – especially words and things they say or do that would normally tick me off. Things would just have a far more neutral effect on me
  • Incredibly enhanced ability to concentrate on single tasks – especially creative tasks and challenging work that requires focus. I wouldn’t be joking to say that my productivity at work doubled in the past month on a per-hour basis. Not in terms of quantity, but also in terms of quality of work.
  • Better connections with people. I noticed a better connection with people in yoga classes I teach, and also in several personal relationships and also in the workplace.
  • Easier control over what I eat – size of portions, type of food, etc. I’ve noticed that I’ve become far more away of what I eat and have noticed having to eat less or just moderate my food intake in a more natural way. I think this is due to less impulsive feelings which let me notice when I am really full and stop eating at the proper time, and also make smarter choices about what to eat.
  • Overall feeling of happiness and well-being. This is perhaps the single biggest benefit. I generally just feel happier. I feel like there is a purpose and direction for what I am doing and things don’t get to me like they used to.

That’s it, if you decide to take up a meditation challenge of your own, please let me know in the comments. It is very well worth it!!!