If you're curious about what it's like to meditate with a 75 pound bulldog in your lap, then this is the blog for you.
I’ve been self employed since August 2015. While I was still managing the bookstore, I’d fantasize about what my self-employed life would be like: I’d get up and meditate, then I’d take a walk with one of our dogs. During the walk, I’d drop the previous day’s jewelry orders in the mailbox. Then I’d come back home, have a healthy smoothie for breakfast, and dig into work.
After a week or so of being self employed, I was walking my Etsy orders to the mailbox with our dog Gracie. I was thinking about the peanut butter banana smoothie I’d have when I got home. And I thought, "HEY! This is the life I was planning! I get to create exactly what I want my life to be like." I've never had that sense of potential. It's both thrilling and overwhelming.
I got home and made a list of all the healthy habits I was going to incorporate: meditation, yoga, walking, calorie tracking. I set weekly goals for how often I’d meditate, do yoga, and reach my Fitbit step goal. I wrote those in my Dream Job Shop planner. On the days that I accomplished my goals, I would circle that day in my planner. I used my beloved glitter gel pens.
That kind of worked. Until it didn’t.
It was a lot of new habits at once.
MEDITATION WITH THE HEADSPACE APP
Instead, I decided to layer on the healthy habits, one by one. First I began with daily meditation. After about a month, daily meditation would seem like an easy, habitual part of my life. Then I’d layer on another habit the next month.
I started meditating with Headspace. Headspace is an app that guides you through meditation. Every session is led by the Headspace founder and former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe. The New York Times wrote, “Andy Puddicombe is doing for meditation what Jamie Oliver has done for food.”
In interviews, Andy speaks about demystifying meditation and making it less “airy-fairy”. Meditation with Headspace doesn't have a religious angle. It's all about the breath, mind, body, thoughts and feelings.
During the meditation, Andy provides some gentle prompts. Before and after the meditation, Andy gives one or two minute lessons about meditation. He has some really insightful analogies, like this one: meditation allows you to gain some space and perspective between you and your emotions. It's the difference between watching a raging storm through the windows of your warm house, versus being outside in the cold and rain.
After over a month and a half of almost daily meditation with Andy, I’m pretty sure I love him. I feel like the compassionate British voice floating to me from my iPad is the voice of my friend.
I’m not a perfect meditator. I have an incredibly busy mind. And sometimes I meditate with my 75 pound lap dog Murphy. I meditate this way because I don’t have a choice. Murphy is a very togetherness kind of guy. Meditation with Murphy begins with me sitting in the chair and Murphy on the ottoman in front of me. But he often migrates to my lap. This is my view when I meditate with Murphy.
As evidenced by the picture of Murphy, I interrupted this morning’s meditation to take a series of photos with my iPad of my dog’s adorable head. Next I started thinking about the blog I would write on meditation, and how I would incorporate the photos of my dog’s adorable head in my blog. And then I realized that instead of meditating, I was thinking (and taking pictures!). So I put down my iPad and went back to just breathing. After a few minutes of silence, I checked the app and learned that the meditation will actually pause while you take photos. It won't start up again until you hit play. Not that you would do anything like that. But just in case, now you know.
HEADSPACE APPRECIATION SERIES
I started Headspace with the recommended 30 day foundation that teaches the basics of meditation. I began with 10 minutes per session, but you can choose longer sessions. After the foundation is complete, you can choose a 10 to 30 day series on specific topics like Appreciation, Generosity, Stress, Depression and Anxiety. I started with the 10 day Appreciation series.
Spoiler alert: Andy instructs you in the daily Appreciation meditation to ask yourself this question: “Who or what do you appreciate most in your life right now?” You’re supposed to respond quickly and instinctively, without thinking through what the answer should be. The first day he asked this, I was meditating with my bulldog Murphy in my lap.
So the first time Andy posed this question, my immediate thought was Murphy. As much as you’re trying to transcend the moment, it’s difficult to forget that you have a 75 pound dog on your lap. Then I instantly felt guilty. Why didn’t I think of my husband, Chris? Or my twin sister, Theresa? Or our other dog, Gracie? After a few days, Andy explains that this is part of the exercise. The point is to sink into the feeling of appreciation with whatever you’re moved to appreciate in that moment.
So each day during my appreciation meditation, I asked myself: “Who or what do you appreciate most in your life right now?” This was who or what I appreciated most during the first days of the Appreciation series:
Day 1: Murphy
Day 2: Me (I know, my appreciation choices are getting even more embarrassing, right? But in that moment, I was grateful to myself for quitting my job, building my business, and trying to create a daily life that I love.)
Day 3: Andy Puddicombe. Again, I’m like seriously, mind? Why is my mind coming up with these answers? But I do appreciate me some Andy.
Day 4: My Husband! Finally! Phew. Chris is a wonderful guy (even more wonderful than Andy Puddicombe!). He deserves all the appreciation in the world.
In the ten days of my appreciation meditation, I learned that appreciation can be a strong and mixed emotion. I was moved to tears almost daily when I contemplated the people and the dogs I was grateful for. And the emotion was usually strongly tinged by a fear of loss. I love my dogs so much, and I know someday they will die. It’s mind blowing to sit with these emotions, and to process them in a way I never have before.
I’m just beginning to understand the benefits of meditation. I believe it has the power to be life changing. I absolutely recommend Headspace. I think of it as really cheap therapy, rather than an expensive app. Try a free ten day introduction to Headspace. After I was finished with the free introduction, I paid about $70 for a year of Headspace. I used a coupon from RetailMeNot for three months free with the purchase of an annual subscription.
Later, I’ll write about the other new habits that I'm layering on. Tell me, have you tried meditation? Have you added any other new healthy habits to your life?
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