August 8th was the end of the first week of my meditation challenge and I cobbled together some insights below.
A quick refresher – the challenge is to meditate consistently for one month. 5 minutes/day for the first week, 10 minutes/day the second, 15 minutes/day the third, and 20 minutes/day the fourth.
Let’s dig in!
10 is much longer than 5
I’ll be honest. The first week of 5 minute daily meditations was pretty uneventful. I wasn’t able to clear my head (I think a million thoughts a minute) and was mostly distracted. Plus my body is super inflexible which makes pretty much all meditation positions uncomfortable, even just sitting cross-legged on the ground.
Today I made the jump to 10 minute daily meditations. What a world of difference. I continued to focus on my breathing, repeating “inhale….exhale….” in time with my breath. At first I had the same difficulty staying focused, and my body in particular seemed to hurt a lot. My left foot started to fall asleep (necessitating a repositioning) and then my thoracic spine (mid-back) hurt like the dickens.
Incredibly, at some point it just “clicked,” and I entered the super-slow. 10 minutes is much longer than 5. It doesn’t feel like double, it feels like eternity.
Almost nothing in our lives is slow
There’s a slow behind the slow. Regular slow = what we think of as slow. There’s a much slower slow that waits behind that.
Pretty much all of our lives is always-on and instant. Microwaves, streaming services, ubiquitous internet connectivity, core services (email, file backup) across multiple devices, real-time notifications (email, text message, chat alerts) etc.
I discovered this slowness that transformed my entire body into a universe. A small movement of my neck would take eons. I could crawl from one section of my body to another and back and live a lifetime in that moment. It was amazing.
When I got up from meditation some of this slowness stuck with me. Then I sat down at my computer, realized I wanted water, and got up. My motion was jerky and abrupt, and called to mind just how different my regular speed settings are.
I give myself tons of instructions each day, but how often do I listen?
Inside this deep slowness I also became aware of a different capacity to listen to my body and my mind. Normally I am constantly reminding myself of things to do, changes or tweaks to make to various processes. At the same time my mind is churning on a healthy set of “back burner” problems, with insights bubbling up to the surface days or weeks afterwards.
This is pretty awesome, but it’s also a very mono-dimensional relationship with myself. Imagine if someone always talked at you, but never listened. That would suck!
It’s hard to describe what it’s like to listen to yourself, since it implies that you’re also doing the speaking, but it doesn’t feel like that. It feels responsive, and the best example I can think of is a filmmaker choosing to shoot an environmental study, one that is responsive to the environment. Or when a designer enters a space and feels something from it and thus creates their redesign. So it’s like that, but what you’re responding to isn’t outside, it’s inside. You’re responding to yourself, and allowing your self to be heard.
That’s it for now. I’m about to start my third week of meditation, which means 15 minutes a day. I’ll be transitioning to sitting in a chair for this (back pain due to hip tightness was too annoying sitting on the floor, even with a cushion under my butt). Look for another update soon!