I Did This: Meditation for 7 Days

Don’t get me wrong — I’m  familiar with the concept of meditation. It’s something my colleagues hold in high regard, friends have practiced and taught over the years, and celebrities are frequently outspoken about. Yet, I never had the urge to try it. Years ago, I gave yoga a spin, and the emphasis on deep, focused breathing left me, well, quite frankly, dizzy. 

Full disclaimer: I’m the kind of person who doesn’t enjoy sitting still, my mind frequently buzzes, and I’m more at ease when I’m doing something. The idea of sitting still, or perhaps, mindful quietude, has been challenging, so giving something like meditation a try felt almost as novel and difficult as trying to join an Olympic-caliber sports team with no prior training. To say that I felt like a fish out of water would be an understatement. 

Not to be deterred, I decided to give it a try with the help of a popular app. After all, I have plenty of stressors on a daily basis (who doesn’t?), so why not try a calming approach that could potentially benefit my body and mind? The first couple of tries, I couldn’t get my mind to slow down. I focused on the cloying interface of the app, the soothing ocean in front of me designed to bring some type of forced relaxation within the nine minute session. The voice-over narration that told me it was okay if my mind wandered was causing me to become more unsettled than centered. Instead of focusing on my breathing, I was rattling off a list of things I had to complete for that day, the weekend, the present, and the future. It wasn’t working. 

But then again, according to many recent studies, meditation does work for many. Millions of adults in our country have given meditation a try, and countless more have stuck it out. Approximately 8% of the adult population has dabbled in meditation, which isn’t exactly minuscule. So what were they seeing or actually benefiting from? As someone who views patience as an undervalued virtue, it wasn’t hard for me to understand that meditation is a way to train one’s mind. Practice makes perfect, or in this case, practice makes focused breathing and thinking perfect. Many vouch for meditation’s benefits, which include help with relieving anxiety and heightening one’s focus. Those are habits I’d certainly like to see more of in my daily existence, yet attaining them often seems impossible. 

As the days went on, with practice, I did feel like I was able to focus on my breathing more, just the idea of taking in breaths and breathing out. I can’t say it made me feel better, but it did bring to mind memories of being at the doctor’s office, stethoscope in hand, telling me to breathe in deeply, which invariably made me feel lightheaded. As someone who suffers from sinus concerns, deep, measured, rib cage-expansive breathing is often in stark contrast to the shallow, fast mouth-breathing I’m more used to. So modulating my breathing pattern felt like more of a strain for me and, ultimately, distracting in and of itself.

Overall, so far I’ve found meditation hasn’t quite been for me. The stillness has been much of a transition from my normally 90-mile-an-hour rushing mind. Although, I’d be curious to give some other relaxation and calming techniques a try that require a bit less stillness and incorporate a bit more mobility. Progressive relaxation techniques, which combine both muscle movement and breathing, may be more beneficial for someone who’s always fidgety and has a hard time disconnecting from the world at large. 

Yet the facets of meditation, especially the emphasis that healing, knowledge, and peace come from within, are valuable. After all, we do live in a world where everything is amazing, but no one is happy, and being able to tune out the noise and negativity is important. Your feelings of calm will come internally, and not in the least through painstaking practice. In our world of immediacy, self-growth takes time, and it needs space to breathe.