New York, New York — 2015
The concrete jungle is as far from a peaceful zen temple as anyone can possibly imagine. It’s an unlikely place to spark a successful meditation habit, but that’s exactly where my journey began.
Since 2015 I’ve woken up most mornings, sat up straight, and focused on my breath for about 10 minutes.
If you had told my younger self this is what I’d do every morning for the next couple years, I probably would have objected with:
- I don’t have the time for that.
- I can’t sit still for more than 2 minutes.
- How will that really help me?
Why It All Started
“Ordinary people seek, entertainment, extraordinary people seek learning.”
That’s one of my favorite quotes and I think about it daily.
Most of the content I consume is in the form of nerdy personal development podcasts and non-fiction books. I quickly began noticing a common theme within these books and podcasts.
A disproportionate amount of successful high performers practice mindful meditation. When best-selling author Tim Ferriss wrote his book Tribe of Mentors, he found that 80% of the people at the heights of their fields had some form of guided meditation practice.
Seeing these facts was exactly what I needed to get my start. If ultra successful people like Oprah, Arianna Huffington, and Steve Jobs can find the time to meditate, I can surely carve out the time too.
I have big dreams, and if I want to achieve even a fraction of the success these titans have accomplished, I should start by following similar habits.
Debunking The Meditation Myth
When many people think of meditation, they might envision a monk in a far away temple, perched on top of a mountain. The idea of meditation can sound intimidating to people who have never given the practice a second thought.
It certainly was for me. Even when I was convinced of its usefulness, I wasn’t sure how to begin meditating properly.
I started exploring the countless options in the market. There are YouTube videos, podcasts, even Spotify playlists. Yet, after experimenting with each of these outlets, I landed on the Calm App over two years ago and have stuck with it ever since.
Meditation doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t need quiet your mind while sitting in a lotus position.
Beginning your meditation practice is as simple as downloading an app, and sitting still for 2 minutes a day listening to a voice in your headphones.
It’s About Awareness — Not Mind Control
A common misconception about meditation is that we need to quiet our mind or “not think about thinking.”
Meditation is not about mind control.
If you thought about that delicious burger you had for lunch during your two-minute meditation session, the idea is to acknowledge that thought and watch it drift in and out of your mind.
You can decide to bring as much or as little meaning to that delicious burger as you’d like.
Meditation also brings greater emotional awareness into your life. Meditating allows you to become more aware of emotional spikes. With this awareness, you can choose to watch these emotions come and go, and become proactive over whether you decide to take action and change them.
Mediation is about bringing awareness to your thoughts, not punishing yourself for being unable to control your thoughts.
You Do Have Enough Time
Another common myth I hear about meditation is “I don’t have the time.”
I find this ironic because several studies have demonstrated that meditation helps people focus and maintain that focus for longer.
What does that mean for the long run?
It means that a 1% investment for a quick meditation in the morning has the potential to deliver 10x the results throughout the day.
I’ve personally found this to be true in my own life. On the days when I meditate in the morning, I feel more able to pull away from distractions and procrastination throughout the day.
Ultimately, an old Zen saying puts it best:
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
It’s Easy And For the Do-ers It’s Therapeutic
Once you debunk the idea that meditation is about sitting in lotus position, humming hippie tunes, and controlling your thoughts, you get to appreciate the real beauty of meditation.
Your meditation session is 2, 10, 20 minutes of guilt-free time for yourself.
If you’re anything like me, you thrive on doing. If I’m not creating, growing, or learning I feel like I’m wasting my time and wasting time is one of my biggest fears.
I fear getting to age 70 and feeling like I’ve wasted my time on this planet.
It’s why I quit a job I didn’t enjoy, and it’s why I’ve been traveling the world for the past few years pursuing my dreams.
Time is the only non-renewable resource that we have control over in our own lives.
So the idea of wasting time is unacceptable to me.
This is where the beauty of meditation comes in if you’re anything like me. If you consider yourself a do-er, the few minutes to meditate can be therapeutic in taking time to relax and take time to simply breathe.
From the outside looking in, it may seem like meditating is doing a whole lot of nothing. But when you take a deeper dive, you realize that the benefits stretch across emotional intelligence, stress reduction, inner peace, and so much more.
How else can you get so many benefits by simply sitting still, plugging in your headphones, and focusing on your breath for a few minutes?
The Hardest Part is Getting Started
Looking back at my streak, I have to admit that I’m surprised that I meditated for 208 days in a row.
Yet, after a while, I didn’t even think about it anymore. It just became automatic.
So yes hitting a 208-day streak of anything is a decent accomplishment. But many studies will point out that it takes 21 – 66 days to form a habit.
Once that habit is formed, maintaining it is much easier than building it up.
When you push through the initial resistance and build some momentum, you find that you won’t want to break the streak you’ve created for yourself.
The longer the streak got, the less I wanted to break the habit.
Meditation brought a greater sense of wellbeing into my life both during and after my 208-day streak.
Getting started is the hardest part of meditating and through apps like Calm, it’s easier than most people think.
Commit to a 1% time investment in meditating and you’ll reap 10x the rewards in areas like focus, reduction in negative emotions, and a greater sense of emotional awareness.