My Background with Meditation
It was back in April 2013, I was a Junior in high school and was in an art class right before lunch. It was 12:45pm, lunch was at 12:50pm. Right before getting up to leave, my art teacher had my entire class close our eyes for a few minutes and pay attention to sounds and feelings, then he had us pay attention to our breath. The entire time I was probably thinking of lunch and how starving I was and if I was doing this weird “thing” right. Little did I know, this was my first foray into the world of meditation, a journey that would take me to now - 7 years later. The following is my story through the ups and downs of starting and keeping with the practice.
2013 / 2014
These were the years right before college and the stress of that was beginning to weigh on me. It was during this time I was getting more and more interested in this meditation thing. I’ve always been intrigued in training my mind and figuring out how to go about life in a more creative and profound way, and meditation seemed to be a low risk route to achieve this.
2014 / 2019 - My College years
I began meditating a lot more and started a daily practice in the beginning of my freshman year of college. I even bought a Zafu (A meditation cushion) that I still use today. I began to read a lot more about the practice of mindfulness and how it can enhance life. I read 10% happier by Dan Harris, Mindful Work by David Gelles, and Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by the late Shunryu Suzuki, as well as countless other books related to mindfulness, meditation, and other mind training techniques. On most days, I would meditate in my dorm room but when my roommate was home, I’d slip into one of my dorms’ private restrooms and meditate there. I was dedicated. I began to track my progress with the InsightTimer app and had an obsession with completing my 40 minutes a day practice. In other words, I dove head first into learning and figuring out what technique was the best, an idea that would later cause a lot of turmoil and confusion.
As I approached my senior year of college I began to meditate less often by myself, but figured out other ways to fit it into my schedule. I would wake up earlier and practice, I would attend weekly sessions where a professor and I, and maybe the occasional student who needed to do it for class credit, would sit in silence for an hour each Tuesday and Thursday morning. This was my first taste of what Zazen was - the meditative discipline that is typically the primary practice of the Zen Buddhist tradition. I also attended nightly meditation sessions that were put on by InsightLA. I even went as far as to skip my college graduation to go on a meditation retreat with insightLA.
2019 / present
From 2018-2019, my practice became haphazard and all over the place. I was struggling to keep up. Then, earlier this year right before Covid began to disrupt daily life, I had the opportunity to go on a week long silent meditation retreat at the beautiful Big Bear Retreat Center. It was my first taste of a long meditation retreat setting and it proved to be an experience that helped me build on my practice that I was struggling with. Today, I still keep up with my daily meditation but it looks much different than my early days. I’m much less rigid with how my practice looks compared to how I used to practice. I used to sit for an hour a day and do a walking meditation on top of the formal sit every day. I still try and dedicate the first 20 minutes of my morning to a formal meditation sit on most days, then I practice mindfulness during my day to day activities. I also still track my sits, but I’m not as concerned about that as I used to be. But if anyone wants to know...as of today, I’ve meditated for a total of 27.9 thousand minutes, and 1,035 total days with at least one session.
What my practice looks like now
I practice a mix of mindfulness, and Vedic (mantra) meditation. I’ve found that these two go hand in hand with combating my anxious and fidgety mind. I use a mantra in the beginning of my sit to calm my mind, then about half way or toward the end I simply follow my breath and become mindful of that and my body. I practice this for about 20-25 minutes most mornings. Because time tends to get away from me in the evening, I no longer do an evening sit but I sometimes do longer sits during weekends (30-45 min). Of course, throughout my day I try to be mindful of my walking and while doing other mundane tasks like washing the dishes or cleaning.
Key Takeaways from Meditation
- I’m not saying you should go out and track every minute of your meditation (because then that becomes one more thing you “need to do”) , but in the early days of your practice I think you need to have some sort of accountability factor - and the timer on InsightTimer works great for this.
- I never push meditation on anyone, I've learned no one really wants to hear it. But If people want to know about it and seem interested, I just tell them they should start by sitting with themselves for 10 minutes a day without doing anything first and see how they feel, then progress to longer sits and a guided meditation.
- I forgot who said this but it's very true: “I don’t meditate to be good at meditation, I meditate to be a good person.” While I do have a formal practice of sitting on a cushion, I believe the benefits aren’t apparent when you’re sitting alone. The benefits come into your life in particular ways like when you’re talking with a friend about a difficult topic, learning to listen before speaking, cultivating patience in difficult situations, actually tasting your food when eating. I believe these are all things that have been cultivated from my 7+ year meditation practice.
- Even if you don’t have a formal meditation practice, you can still learn to be mindful by paying close attention to the task at hand. Whether that's walking around your neighborhood, washing your dishes, and having an intimate conversation with your best friend. Learning to stay present and focused is a valuable skill that a lot of people have unfortunately lost.
What I’ve been up to this month
November has been a nice calm month. It’s surprisingly very cold here in LA, which is a nice break from the heat wave summer we had. This month I’ve been cooking lots of banana bread, freelancing with new and old clients, and figuring things out as they come. I've mostly been in LA with the occasional trip to San Diego.
Book I’ve begun to read
Articles I’ve enjoyed reading
Until Next Month,
Stay Healthy, Hungry, and Wise,