Accepting the Meditation Challenge
I’m writing this blog, as I look back on a year when I committed to a daily meditation practice. Too weak-willed to give up chocolate or alcohol for Lent, I decided to do something worthy – to meditate every day for forty days. Forty days turned in to 400. I’m writing this on Easter Sunday, one year on from when my challenge was due to end, and I have no intention of giving up now. I wanted to share with you my journey, partly for myself –to capture my learning before I forget, but also in the hope that it may help you, whether you, like me, are a writer, or just interested in developing a regular meditation practice.
Last year we had not experienced Covid 19. The devastation of that pandemic on so many lives certainly puts my past worries into perspective. However, I am using my experiences of last year to demonstrate how meditation helped me.
The first day of Lent I was in a precarious position. On the one hand, a leading literary agent had plucked me from her slush pile the previous year and, with exclamations of rapture, had invited me to work with her in reshaping my novel to make it more marketable. O’ frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! An agent wanted to sign me. This had been my goal for the past two years.
So, with an agent and in-house editor’s valued guidance, I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again, each time getting more pages of comments. Then, just before Lent, I received an email that made me think, if I didn’t ‘get it right’ this time, then I would have thrown away my one and only opportunity to get published. Terror. I was going to fail. Physical signs of stress which I hadn’t experienced for a couple of decades returned: eczema, IBS, migraines. I would wake up at three in the morning unable to go back to sleep. Relationships suffered, as I was irritable and over-sensitive.
I didn’t start meditating as a response to this discombobulation (I love that word!). Maybe, some part of me did, without me being consciously aware. Anyway, I went in to it just to prove to myself that I had willpower, even if I couldn’t give up chocolate. At first, I meditated for five or ten minutes a day. Sometimes, I forgot or remembered after I’d turned out the light and then I got up again and made myself meditate for five minutes. I squeezed in ten minutes, if I was waiting for a friend to collect me to go out, or on the train with headphones, on my way to a meeting.
Getting started ten-minute meditations
I started with mindful meditation, Head Space is great for this and they offer a seven-day free trial, see www.headspace.com
Just keeping my mind from wandering or dropping off to sleep was a challenge. But I found with practice, that for just a few minutes, the constant noise of the voice in my head was silenced. You know how it is, all the what ifs?
Mindful meditation made me feel grounded and focused, whereas before, my thoughts were skittish, either wildly excited that I was on the brink of success or full of doubt, telling myself that I was a fraud and my agent was probably regretting taking me on. The calm experienced in meditation expanded and I felt back in control.
I realised that no amount of worrying about what might happen, would make any difference. It’s crazy how our mind hangs on to something, as if things stop happening when we stop willing them to. Accepting that I had no control and letting go was a challenge but those ten-minute meditations helped.
Other ten-minute meditations I found helpful were:
Welcome the Day guided meditation. The narrator is female and has a soft, caressing voice that is wonderful to ease you into the day.
The Honest Guys – I love all of their guided meditations http://www.honestguys.co.uk
In April I sent the next draft of my novel to my agent and tried really hard not to stress about her response. In my next blog, I will tell you what happened and share some of the meditation resources that took me to the next stage of my journey.
Please tell me, if you are having a go at this meditation challenge and what you have found helpful. We can all support one another.