Tag Archives: Meditation

Unguided Meditation Update #2

Last month in this series on my experiments with unguided meditation, I mentioned wanting to try sitting up during my sessions. Meditation is something I’d previously been doing lying down due to a minor injury that made sitting in certain positions uncomfortable. Click on the link above if you want a refresher on why I chose that goal.

Before I jump into today’s post in detail, let’s talk about the chairs in my house and how they’re related to this topic. Technically, both of our chairs are actually meant to be used outdoors. They’re not traditional chairs. Think of camping furniture instead of anything you’d find in a fancy dining room.

My spouse and I chose them because they can be folded up and put away when not in use. Since our apartment is a small one, we use the same areas of it for many different activities throughout the week. Anything that can be folded up and put away when not in use is always folded up and put away when we’re finished with it.

These chairs work well for most of our purposes, but they’re not designed for someone to sit up straight and meditate in them.Their backs are soft and flexible, and they mold to your body as you shift position.  In other words, you’re supposed to sit back and slouch in them.

Sitting Meditation

The reason why I went into so much detail about our tiny home and unconventional chair situation is so you could better imagine what meditating while sitting upright is like for me.

I had three options when I started doing it a few weeks ago: sit on a chair that encourages slouching; sit on our wood floor; sit on the bed.

Due to my sore muscles at the time, I chose option three. It seemed like it would be the least likely one to cause me even more discomfort than I was already feeling.

I’m going to be very honest with all of you here. Not all of my meditation sessions have involved sitting up since my last post in this series. In the beginning, that position was simply too uncomfortable on some days. The only way to do it was to lie down.  On other days, I waited until so late in the evening to meditate that I was too tired to do so sitting up.

The general trend in my life has been towards meditating while sitting up and away from meditating while lying down, though. I expect it to continue in the future as long as I can avoid future injuries.

The Results

In my experience, meditating works much better in the sitting position. It’s easier for me to stay focused on the task at hand when I’m sitting up straight. There have been a few times in the past when I accidentally fell asleep while meditating lying down due to how relaxed I was on my soft bed. This isn’t something I’ve come close to experiencing while sitting up.

There’s also something to be said for creating a routine and sticking to the same environment as much as possible from one session to the next. When I sit in a cross-legged position in my quiet room, I know it’s time to relax and meditate. My body has begun to recognize that this is something I only do during that time of the day since it isn’t how I normally sit.

When I was meditating lying down, there wasn’t as much of a difference between that and lying down to go to sleep or to watch a TV show. I like having a sharper contrast between all of those activities.

While I’m still in the early stages of this adjustment to my routine, I’m pleased with how it’s working in general. As I mentioned in the previous section of this post, I am planning to meditate sitting up even more often in the future. It was definitely the right decision for me, although I am glad that meditating while lying down worked for me when I wasn’t able to do this position.

Next Up: Meditating for Longer Periods of Time

My goal for the next month is to begin meditating for longer periods of time. My sessions are only about five minutes long right now. This was a time limit I originally set due to the pain and muscle stiffness that I’d been dealing with earlier this year. Sometimes it was a stretch to even make it that far, to tell you the truth.

Now that I’m doing better physically, I’d like to double that number at bare minimum. If it’s possible, I may even aim for a longer time period than that. I’ll let you know next month.

If you’re a fellow meditator, how is it going for you?

Unguided Meditation Update #1

A few weeks ago, I blogged about experimenting with unguided meditation. Now that I’ve been doing it regularly for a few weeks, I thought it would be a good time to give an update on how it’s been going.

When I talk about unguided meditation, I’m not talking about meditating in perfect silence.

That is something I’d like to try at some point in the future, but for now I prefer having some sort of background noise that isn’t a human voice when I meditate.

Deep Breaths Aren’t Peaceful

A couple of weeks ago, I briefly tried a section of my meditation app that plays three different tones over and over again. The first tone prompts you to breath in, the second prompts you to hold your breath, and the third prompts you to exhale. There is otherwise no noise in it. Yes, this technically isn’t unguided meditation, but i thought it would be an interesting and possibly quite helpful transition from the fully guided routines I’ve been doing.

As much as I loved the idea of this, it turned out not to work for me at all. I was so focused on remembering which sounds signalled which action and anticipating what would happen next that those sessions didn’t go well at all.

On a slightly humorous note, they reminded me going to the doctor and being asked to breathe in deeply while your doctor listens to your lungs. There’s something about that experience that always unnerves me a little bit, possibly because I’ve had pneumonia in the past and know how miserable it is to have even the mildest form of that disease.

Deep breathing works for me if I’m timing my own breaths, but I ended up really not liking being told when to breathe in and out again.

Rain Is Peaceful

The meditation app I use has a setting that plays the sound of rain falling. While it isn’t as strong or heavy as a thunderstorm, it isn’t quiet rain either. You can hear the drops splashing as they hit the puddles on the ground. The sound is gentle, soothing, and beautifully repetitive.

It masks all of the unavoidable distractions that come with living in a urban environment and in a building where noises from one apartment can easily carry several floors away if the conditions are right. Someday I do plan to meditate through dogs barking, the elevator door pinging, people having loud discussions, and someone dropping something heavy on the floor a few floors up, but for now it’s nice to dampen these things.

Just as I suspected, I absolutely love this section of the app. Listening to rain fall is my favourite sound in the entire world, and I find it very easy to clear my mind and simply be when I have something so soothing playing in the background.

There have been multiple times when I was surprised by the quiet beep that alerts me when I’ve reached the end of my session. The time passed much more quickly than I thought it would, and I could have kept meditating without realizing how long I’d been doing it.

I will continue using this feature regularly. As you can probably tell, it’s working well for me. Honestly, I wish I’d tried it ages ago.

 

 Next Up: Trying New Positions

So far, I’ve been doing most of my meditating either while I’m walking or while I’m lying down. Yes, I know that these aren’t conventional positions for meditation, but sitting meditation failed terribly for me the first several times I tried it. I’ve also been dealing with some minor muscle twinges and aches that make certain positions uncomfortable for me to remain in for long periods of time.

The next goal I’ve set for myself is to slowly transition to sitting meditation if I can do so without aggravating my muscles.

I will update you all again in a few weeks!

Experimenting with Unguided Meditation

Today’s post is going to be a pretty short one.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I don’t believe in padding out blog posts to reach a specific word count. Sometimes I need a few hundred words to make my point, and at other times I require 1200 or more of them.

Last month I talked about why mediation was difficult for me.

I’ve spent the past few weeks experimenting with my meditation practice in a few different ways.

Morning meditation sessions worked better for me as far as my concentration during them went, but I also found myself missing meditation as part of my bedtime routine.

There is something incredibly relaxing about meditating an hour or so before bedtime. Fitting more than one meditation session into my day isn’t something I wanted to do until I was doing better with one session a day.

Last week, the meditation app I use temporarily put the guided meditation sessions that I’ve been using for a long time behind a paywall. While I was deciding whether to sign up for a paid account there again to see if I liked it all of the special features more than I did when I’d previously paid for them, I began thinking about unguided meditation.

My first meditation attempts many years ago were with unguided meditation. They didn’t work well for me back then because of how unused to this practice I was, but maybe I’d get more out of them today? It took me a couple of tries to get into the habit of weightlifting, after all. It took me even longer to cut 90% of the added sugar out of my diet as well.

This could be another case of something that took a few attempts to turn into a habit. I am tentatively planning to write a follow-up to this post in a few weeks once I have something else to say about it. It’s too soon to say much more about it, but I’m enjoying the process of trying something new.

An Update on My Difficulties with Meditation

Wow, it’s been six weeks since I last blogged about meditation. I knew it had been a while when I first began working on today’s post, but I had no idea that so much time has passed.

The last time I blogged about this topic, I talked about the possibility of taking a break from meditation. It turns out that I was far too stubborn for that option.

I didn’t want to make any drastic changes to my meditation habits until I’d figured out if I was going to continue meditating or give it up for a while. There are a lot of fantastic apps and other services out there, but I don’t want to pay for something I won’t use regularly.

If there was a way to begin feeling more relaxed after my sessions again, I was going to keep using my current app until I figured it out.

Now that I have the answer to that question, I have to decide how to change this part of my daily routine.

No, I’m still not back to my regular habits yet, but I am still meditating and I have noticed an improvement over the last two months. Today I’ll share the techniques that worked for me. I’ll also talk about some other ideas I’ll be trying in the near future.

Going Through the Motions

While I know that going through the motions is generally used to negatively describe how someone is performing a certain action, I don’t think of it that way for this particular situation. Sometimes going through the motions is a perfectly valid response when something isn’t working out the way you hoped it would.

There were days, especially back in early December right after What Should You Do When Meditation Isn’t Working? was first published,when I listened to my guided meditation app without consciously trying to clear my mind or participating in the process at all.

As odd as this might sound, listening without trying to participate in any way was helpful. I like the soothing voice of the woman who narrates the sessions on the app I use, so it was nice to hear her talking even if I wasn’t reacting to the routine the way I typically would.

The more I listened to her without expecting myself to join in, the more interested I became in trying again.

Comparing Meditation to Exercise

This section could almost be expanded into it’s own blog post, but I’ve noticed an interesting correlation between meditation and exercise.

Both of them require effort long before you see many results at all. It takes time and dedication to build muscle or lose weight. Even then, there have been times when my progress slowed or even temporarily halted in those areas for any number of reasons. Training your mind requires the same level of determination. There’s no quick fix for it.

The last few months seem like they were a plateau for me in this area of life. Yes, it was frustrating, but once I figured out what was going on I wasn’t nearly as annoyed with the process. I expect it to take a while to notice a difference in many of my fitness goals, after all.

Meditation should be held to the exact same standards.

Remembering What December Is Like for Me

December is my least favourite month of the year for a few different reasons.

One, I live far away from my family, and I miss them terribly over the holidays.

Two, my mood dampens a little bit every year between the end of Daylight Savings Time and the Winter Solstice. My body doesn’t like having that many hours of darkness in a day.

Three, I used to work in a field whose busiest time of the year was between October and the beginning of January with December being the peak of it all. While the actual number of hours I worked in December were only slightly higher than normal, there were multiple times when I stumbled into bed at 2 or 3 am only to go back into work at 11 am the next morning.

The shifts themselves were hectic, too. We dealt with many furious people over the course of the average day, and there was never enough time to do half of the things we were expected to do. I still associate those memories with that month, and it’s not a pleasant association.

Due to these factors, everything is a little tougher than normal for me in December. I should have thought of that when I was blogging about this at the end of last November, but for some reason it didn’t cross my mind until I began working on this post.

Now that I know more about why this plateau happened, I’m ready to start tweaking my meditation routine to see how it can be improved even more than it’s already improved for me since last November.

Other Adjustments I Want to Try

I’ve been doing guided meditation exercises since I first began meditating regularly. My very first attempts at meditation from years ago had been without any guidance at all, and they didn’t go well at all. I quickly became bored and gave up on them. Maybe it’s time to try self-guided meditation again now that I’m better at releasing stray thoughts when they appear?

Right now I’m meditating every evening. As much as I love winding down my day that way, a morning or afternoon session might work better. I’m even thinking about meditating for short periods of time more than once per day to see how they affect me.

If I do continue to use guided meditation, is it time to start exploring other meditation apps, Youtube channels, or other services? I’m using the free version of my current app, and it only offers the same few sessions to people who haven’t paid for a subscription. A few years ago, I signed up for a subscription to my current app, but I didn’t find their premium content worth the expense.

I don’t know how long it will take before I update you on this development in my life again, but I will let you know what I find as I continue to play around with my meditation habits.

What Should You Do When Meditation Isn’t Working?

Lately, my meditation sessions haven’t been doing much good for me at all.

I sit for the usual amount of time and do my best to exist without entertaining any stray thoughts that might pop up, but at the end of it I don’t feel any different than I did before. My brain is still churning out images as regularly as ever, and I don’t feel any more relaxed than I did when I began.

It’s frustrating.

I remember what it felt like to open my eyes and feel refreshed and relaxed after previous sessions. It would be so nice to get back into that habit, especially as we move into the holiday season and I begin to need the peace that comes after some meditation sessions a little more than usual.

The good news is that this is completely normal.

There’s no such thing as constant progress in life. Everyone eventually reaches a point where they face a setback, appear to be plateauing in their skills, or need a break in general.

I can’t give you a sure-fire list of steps to get back into your meditation routine, but I can give you a purposefully contradictory list of ideas to try based on the research I’ve been doing on this problem.

  1. Focus on maintaining the habit of mediation, not on what you get out of it.
  2. Try another form of meditation.
  3. Stick with it and see if you can push past it.
  4. Remember that everything ends eventually. This, too, will pass.
  5. Take a break. It can be a long break or a short one, but sometimes it’s easier to find the motivation to meditate if you can reset your habits.
  6. If you’re following some form of guided meditation, listen to the session without trying to follow along with it.
  7. Choose a different position. I find it easier to mediate while lying down on days when I’m having more trouble with it than normal.
  8. Spend some time reading about meditation.
  9. Move to a new location. Last spring, I had a lot of luck with walking mediation in the park. It’s too chilly to do that most days now here in Toronto, but you might find renewed motivation if you’re in a less familiar environment in general.

I’ve been spending plenty of time on #1, #6, and #7 myself. There is something to be said for going through the motions if it keeps you in the habit until meditation becomes easier for you once again.

Today’s post is purposefully short because this is still something I’m trying to figure out. I hope I’ll be able to write a follow-up post soon that details how I began getting more out of meditating once again. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away at it. If you’re having trouble with your meditation, I hope you also figure out a solution for yourself soon.

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I’ve slowly been trying to incorporate more meditation into my routine after the long break I took from it earlier this spring. This spring has been a chilly, wet one so far here in Toronto. We’re only now beginning to have a few days in a row where it hasn’t rained and the temperature has been above 10… Read More