Fear · habits · meditation · mindfulness

Nine Nifty Things I Noticed in 150 Straight Days (and counting!) of Meditation

As I write this, I just hit 150 days of meditation in a row. That is a big accomplishment for me. My longest meditation streak ever. 

The day I started this streak, I participated in a meditation workshop and the teacher suggested that all we needed to do was noticeduring our sits, be mindful of our noticings. So that’s what I’m doing. 

The biggest thing I’m noticing is that I’m in a constant state of re-learning what I already knew, but somehow forgot or thought I had changed. Or I’m discovering that circumstances have changed and what I learned no longer applies. Or I am the circumstance that’s changed and therefore needs to learn anew.  I don’t got this, but I am getting it. Very few changes stick forever, no matter what, no backsliding. Good to know, so we don’t judge ourselves as falling short! This whole streak has been about impermanence and the wow-reallys?of staying curious. 

Small brass yogi sculpture in cross-legged seated position, reading a book, wearing a red string scarf (made of a string I was gifted by a fellow attendee at my first silent meditation retreat)

Here are 9 more noticingsthat jazz my curiosity and keep me coming back for more: 

  1. Practicing daily makes it easier to drop into a meditation. Every day is different, but most days there’s a moment (often in the last moments of the sit) when I feel like my mind drops away and my body simultaneously gains 100 pounds and sinks into the earth and slips the bonds of gravity. I find that this moment may happen right away now. Not that it lasts the whole meditation, but the opening fidgets hardly have time to squirm before I’m noticing my mind and body in that more concerted meditation-y way.
  2. A short meditation is better than no meditation.When I started this streak, I sat for 10 minutes a day. I knew that if I demanded more from myself that I would fail. Why set myself up for failure in advance? There have been days when I’ve only managed 8 minutes of riding on the personal rollercoaster of my mind. Great. I accomplished what I set out to do. Often, I am more open to a longer meditation when I’ve given myself the grace of a short one the day before. 
  3. Noticing feeds itself, so I notice more details when I’m not meditating. Over the last months, I’ve become more aware of the complexities and hidden corners of how I am in the world. What feels most sharpened is my sense of responsibility for who and how I am. I notice that blame is futile. Better to open my heart, to consider how I might change the circumstance, even if that’s just changing my own attitude. Pissed off by someone else’s thoughtlessness, how can I be more thoughtful somewhere else? Noticing slows the world down enough to create a pause for reflection.    
  4. There’s a lot of dogma around meditation, which we should not be dogmatic about. A lot of people prepared to say that there’s one right way to meditate and at the end of their suggested path lies … fill in the blank—peace, bliss, no pain, wealth, happiness, fulfillment, career success, spectacular sex, love, the source of infinite wisdom and so on. The dogmas conflict, no surprise. We have to self-test and find the combination that works for each of us. To do that requires tuning into where our mind and body is at, making an honest assessment of our condition and situation and choosing for ourselves what feels right, which, by the way, may change. I’ve been self-testing a lot of different modes on my meditation app (Insight Timer)—various guided, recorded music or chanting, timer with background of rolling OM chants; plus some other guided meditations I’ve downloaded, and meditating on specific subjects or objects (my spirit guides, space-time, elevated emotions like joy and gratitude, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, fear). 
  5. Meditating on fear is squirrely and uncomfortable. I recently read Kristen Ulmer’s book, The Art of Fear. These past days, I’ve tried on a bit of her dogma, meditating on fear. The idea is that getting intimate with my fear will transform the feeling into a healthy catalyst, instead of a dreaded obstacle. My list of fears stretches the length of the alphabet and more, ranging from losing my ability to move easily, to not connecting with people, to my washing machine going on the fritz and flooding the downstairs neighbour’s apartment. Plus, the existential, running subtext fear that my life doesn’t have meaning. Simply allowing fear the space to express itself, instead of telling myself to get over it, is new. I feel a small catalytic effect. As in: okay you’re scared, that’s okay, let it be, and hey, maybe you can still do the scary thing.
  6. Owning my woo-woo is scary. Meditating on, for example, one’s spirit guides feels out there. I fear that I’ll lose credibility (whatever that means) if I admit to any kind of woo-woo experiences or encounters. I am allowing myself to be more woo-woo curious and owning up to it (like in this piece about a puppy in India, that I wrote around day 100). 
  7. Sneezing during meditation is like an orgasm. As a kid, I read Where Did I Come From?, which compares an orgasm to a sneeze. Over the years I wondered if I have orgasms wrong, because they never felt like sneezing. Then I sneezed while I was meditating the other day. Because I was alone in my office and in the midst of a meditation and quite sure I wasn’t about to sneeze out great gobs, I just let myself sneeze without holding my arm in front of my face or ducking my head or any of all the twisting we do to be polite and not sneeze on others. Holy crap. That sneeze went right through me like a wave of sparkles over my nerve endings. Our well-justified, necessary public fears around sneezing mask the thrill of the simple sneeze.  Like orgasms, something to look forward to in private.
  8. I think a lot of non-contemplative thoughts when I’m meditating. In addition to thinking about sex when I’m meditating, back on day 45, I narrated a succession of interior design thoughts I had while meditating. I still have such thoughts. Everyone does, even monks on high mountains. Oh, and I did get the new duvet from Boll and Branch I was thinking about, which makes bedtime even more delicious. (I’m with Tracy, who writes often about the radical pleasures of sleep.)  
  9. Meditating regularly enables me to be kinder with myself. Noticing generates the gentle pause, in which we see our suffering from the outside and thus cultivate compassion. A truism worth repeating—if we are more compassionate toward ourselves, we will be so with others.

All of these noticings are small. Yet abundant enough to keep me going on my streak. Have you noticed anything in your meditation? Or in another streak you’re having? 

cycling · fitness · winter

Streak interrupted but still going strong

My bike streak was interrupted this weekend when travel to London to see a concert and help my daughter move made cycling impossible but I’m back at it. Yesterday was warm, grey and snowy and today was bright and cold. Both have their charms but after the greyest November on record  I’ll take the cold and the sun.

I am not the sort of person who thinks after breaking my streak “that’s it, it’s over.” I’m more a “back at it” kind of person. I wasn’t not going to go see Mallory’s Christmas concert. And I’ve got a bunch of streak days ahead. I’ve got spinning classes on campus, my bike on a trainer in my home office, and my bike commute. 

I love riding at this time of year. It feels so good to be moving outside. I used to love winter running for the same reason.

How’s your running/cycling/whatever streak going? Let me know in the comments!

running

Sam ran every day for a week and guess how she feels?

Answer: Great!

It’s Day 8 of my holiday running streak. And I’m just back from my morning run, all sweaty and smiley.

Freezing drizzle, yes, but offset by the sounds of happy children playing in the schoolyard across the street and guilty pleasure pop music on my iPod.
image

Today was the usual route in my neighbourhood. The upside of that is that I know exactly where a mile begins and ends. And Strava helpfully tells me if I’m faster or slower than last time.  I’ve also taken my running with me when I’m away and I’ve done one of the daily runs in Toronto and another on campus to and from the gym to lift weights, adding on a bit to make the mile.

I’ve got a friend on Facebook who is celebrating 365 days of running, on average just over 11 km a day.

Me, I’m just doing 1 mile a day for the holidays, American thanksgiving through the New Year.

Two thoughts so far, one week in. First, a mile isn’t a short as I thought and yet it barely seems worth getting running gear on. Second, and this is the best news, so far nothing hurts.

Also,  bonus, I no longer deliberate if I should run today or maybe run tomorrow when the weather is better. I’ve been writing and running everyday. It’s a good way to deal with the changes in schedules that come with the holidays and the very busy end of the university term. Faced with a grading, and behind with a bunch of my own writing deadlines, it can be easy to miss out on exercise. But a mile? Anyone can do that, I think.

My friends and my cycling coach aren’t convinced. I’ve promised Coach Chris that if my knee or shins (previously injured bits) hurt even a little bit, I’ll quit. As you know, if you’re a long term blog reader, if running and I had a Facebook relationship status, it would “it’s complicated.”

A running friend commented on Facebook about my streak, ” This is wonderful but please watch out too. A few years ago there was a city-wide “run 30 min for 30 days” that started in Jan. No days off, and you could only make up a session if you left 2 hours in between the make up run and the day’s run. A google spreadsheet was being circulated; not only did it get competitive but among my fit friends (sample of 6 I know I know) we all started feeling things in places we didn’t normally feel sore or hurt as regular runners (eg regular: knee; everyday plan: hips). Re-read this post on that day life gets busy and you can’t make your run smile.”

So far, no pain.

But it doesn’t take my 30 minutes to run a mile. I’m slow but not that slow.

And if anything hurts, I’ll walk instead. After all, Cheddar, needs his exercise too.