Experiment #8 - The Monk
Updated: Feb 22
The pandemic has elevated the need for remaining calm, and staying focussed. I went into this 30 day experiment with the intention of building up to meditating 10 minutes per day.
Here's what happened. See my habit tracker screenshot.
Just like with any new endeavour, it started with a burst of enthusiasm. Consistency was easy. I had already decided upon the time of day (early morning) and worked out where in the house would be the best place (living room).
I grew up in what I would describe as a fairly spiritual household. It wasn't necessarily zen, but my parents did and still do believe a lot in the power of inner peace. As such, I have been exposed to spirituality from a young age,. That said, exposure isn't the same as creating a habit. Now older, wiser and in need of more balance amidst chaos, I thought I'd give it another try.
The first few days were ok. I started at only 2 minutes per day. To begin with I used no background music, no guided voice telling me to focus on my breath. I just closed my eyes and tried to stay present.
After the first few days of this, I could feel my mind wandering. All I could think about was when would the timer on my phone go off, and allow me to get on with my day. Yes, I felt more connected with my breathing but I'm not entirely sure I felt more calm.
A few more days in, I remembered a friend had mentioned an album called 'Flow State' by a band called 'Above and Beyond'. He swore by its calming properties. I remember thinking when I pressed Buy, that I might just have unlocked the secret to meditative practice. Some of the album contains guided meditation, instructing me to focus on my breathing.
So far so good. But part way through my mind had wandered over to messages I needed to send, and the calls I wanted to make later that day.
Feeling restless, around half way through, I varied the experiment and moved my location to the garden. I found it restorative just looking out at trees, so I guess that was a good move. But now I'm thinking why not just go out for a walk At least I'll burn some calories?
As the experiment went on, I noticed that my mind was buzzing more. I was starting to even slightly resent the idea of sitting still in one place, when I could be planning my day, or going for a walk or doing something else.
By Day 20, my mind was everywhere. Get kids ready for school. Send emails. Outstanding messages. That wardrobe that needs fixing. I couldn’t wait to get to my notepad to get all my to-dos out that occurred to me whilst sitting in one place.
Never mind. In one more desperate attempt to nail this, I varied the approach again. I started reading up on how-to's. I discovered something called the 'Savasana' pose, which involves lying down. That worked... but only because I started falling asleep.
I got introduced to a technique called the 'Body Scan' where you just tune in to how you're feeling in your body and notice any sensations without judgement. As an activity I do admit, it forced me to think of something else, and yes I did feel a bit calmer.
In the end, I managed mostly through sheer willpower and determination to get to Day 30 and work up to 10 minutes. I put the motivation to complete the experiment, less down to any sense of peace, but more because I could see the finish line. I became the mediating equivalent of a short distance runner. Not good.
As is now habitual (see what I did there), here are 5 lessons from this 30 day experiment
1. What's right for you isn't necessarily right for me.
I really really wanted this to work. The benefits of meditation are well researched, and widely practiced. That doesn't mean it will work for everyone. Don't knock it until you've tried it.
2. Vary the approach.
By conducting a little experiment within an experiment, you get to notice micro habits that might work. For me, it was an acknowledgement that looking out into nature was truly restorative beyond focussing on breathing. So that's something I can incorporate into daily life easily enough
3. Start slow and build up.
I could have just given myself a 10 minute daily meditation target. But I suspect I might have stopped way earlier. Starting with 2 minutes and building up slowly gave me a chance to be consistent and observe what was happening before quitting too early
4. Go back to Why
The initial hypothesis was that a daily meditating habit would help with anxiety, overwhelm and perspective. The fact that this experiment didn't solve those components actually makes it successful. It frees me to try other things that work better. For me this includes, walking, listening to music, reading and in actual fact doing things like this...writing.
5. Recognise the good
The entire point of an experiment is that it may disprove the hypothesis. Being open to this, allowed me to recognise some of the benefits I had observed through this 30 days, namely:
Sitting still for a short while provided a level of discipline.
I was more aware of my posture whilst sitting
Whilst I couldn't banish random thoughts, there were moments of clarity and order that emerged before I began my day.
#30dayexperiment is a project I created to better myself, stay disciplined, whilst I pursue a long term goal of creating a business that I am passionate about.
It is now a programme available to anyone wanting to improve focus and discipline.
Click here to find out more.