What I Learned From My First Month of Meditation

Asmita Karanje
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“So much time and effort is spent on wanting to change, trying to change, to be somebody different, better, or new. Why not use this time to get comfortable with yourself as you are instead?” — Andy Puddicombe, Headspace co-founder

Meditation is not just about being calm and composed. It is about learning how to be focussed amidst utter chaos.

It had long been on my agenda, but in all honesty, it never was a priority until recently. Sitting silently even for 5 mins was a scary thought for me. If you are in the same boat as I was a few months back, then maybe I can help you with the perspective I have gained over the past 6 weeks.

Being homebound, I could incorporate meditation into my routine. While it started because I wanted to deal with anxiety, it has now become a part of my lifestyle. I don’t say this lightly. You will find out as I take you along my journey. What also helped me to meditate regularly was staying away from social media and news. It gave me plenty of time to do the things that really mattered.

My first couple of weeks…

At first, meditation to me was just clearing my mind — trying to untangle a million thoughts one at a time. I started with guided sessions — in these sessions, the instructors help you navigate through your thoughts.

But honestly, I was too pre-occupied with my thoughts to pay attention to what the instructor was saying. I didn’t understand why focus on the breath was important or how to maneuver through thoughts; I was a complete novice. As soon as I closed my eyes, I would drift into thoughts that wouldn’t cease. That’s when I realized I had been out of focus for so long.

I wanted my focus back.

I also wanted to improve my short-term memory. To realize the full potential of anything that you learn, you have to first follow the techniques, right? So, after the initial few sessions, I started carefully listening to the facilitator — focussing on my breath, relaxing the muscles, and being present in the moment.

I trusted the process, but I lacked an understanding of how it was affectingme mentally. Post a physical workout, you experience some obvious signs such as blood pressure going up, small tearing of muscle tissues, and those heavenly endorphins kicking into your bloodstream. But after meditation, I didn’t feel any notable differences.

For sure, I was more peaceful than before, but I didn’t feel any different. Is this normal? Are there any visible changes that others have experienced? Does it affect your mental faculties?

A Harvard research paper shows significant differences in the MRI scans of people who have formally studied mindfulness and those who haven’t. It showed participants who practiced mindfulness showed lesser activity in their amygdala as compared to participants who didn’t.

Another study states that meditation helps in reducing inflammatory chemicals such as cytokines that cause stress. These changes happen over a long time and are therefore less apparent.

Next 30 days…

I continued practicing each day for 15 minutes.

It's been over 50 days now. I definitely feel a lot more centered in my outlook. My anxiety has reduced to some extent, so I enjoy a caffeinated coffee every once in a while. It has also helped improve my attention span and memory.

To test this, I also did a little self-experimentation. I played a set of 6 brain games before and after a meditation session. I recorded my score each time. My performance after meditation showed a significant improvement. I repeated this over the next 10 days.

Each time my score was better than my previous one, and it amazed me how my focus and memory had sharply improved.

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Screenshot of brain scores before meditation;

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Screenshot of brain scores after meditation

Let me share with you a few techniques that have helped me:

  • Start with 5 minutes just to be comfortable with oneself and stillness
  • Download an app that can help you track your progress. I use Insight Timer. It has a variety of guided courses from the experts in the industry and it is very user-friendly. Also, it’s free.
  • Count your breath to 10 and repeat
  • Count backward from 100
  • Use your breath as an anchor each time your mind wanders.
  • Visualize a big green apple (just anything really, I just chose green apple) — it’s another anchor if you are not comfortable using your breath as an anchor

Overall, I have loved my experience with meditation so far. I am not doing it because someone said so or because it is backed by research. I am doing it because I love the feeling afterward.

It is simple, yet very effective. I feel empowered.

I regret not meditating earlier in life. If only I had known the effects of meditation earlier, I would have done it before my exams, interviews, and important assignments.

It’s never too late, though.

If you have always contemplated doing this but have not yet found time in your diary, this article is for you — start sooner rather than later.

“Meditation is a long journey, not a single insight or even several insights. It gets more and more profound as the days, months, and years pass. Keep reading and thinking and meditating.” — Dalai Lama

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Thinker, self-experimenter, and a newbie writer. I write about personal growth, socio-political issues, and career advice.

Dallas, TX
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