Do you ever want to tell the voice in your head to just quiet down for a minute?
Sometimes the mind flits from one thing to another and it’s hard to stay focused.
At other times, your mind wakes you up at 3am worrying about work, or the future, or something else you have no control over in that moment.
This is what Buddha called our “Monkey Mind” – like monkeys jumping from tree to tree, constantly chattering, our thoughts move around chaotically, and many times negative thoughts like fear and anxiety make the most noise of all.
We hear the term ‘being present’ a lot these days, and it’s something I struggle with – having my mind on other things rather than just enjoying the moment. Usually I’m thinking about the next thing I need to be tackling from the constant To Do list in my mind, which contributes to my ‘busy’ feeling. Minimizing the continual multi-tasking is helping, but exploring meditation seems like the next natural step to learn how to tame the monkeys in my mind.
A few months ago during work travel, I purchased an Audible copy of ‘10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story’ by Dan Harris. Snappy title huh. Dan Harris is a news reader and he is hilarious – to give you a sense, it prefaces that he wanted to name the book ‘The Voice In My Head Is An Asshole’ but that was deemed inappropriate… Asides from being an entertaining read, it opened up my mind to the concept that meditation is not simply the territory of Buddhists and yogis, it can be accessible to everyone and beneficial for those of us dealing with Busy minds. I recommend this book for either learning about meditation or simply for entertainment.
In a very small and unscientific poll I conducted, the majority of people who responded were either already meditating or interested in learning more about it (82.3%!)
As I am a total beginner to the world of meditation (beyond listening to that book) I decided to try a free 7 day trial of an app called ‘Calm’ which I’ve recently discovered, and for the past 7 days I have meditated for 10 minutes each day.
In this last week, I have meditated sitting on the bedroom floor, in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble, and on Saturday afternoon lying on my bed, which resulted in the best 30 minute nap ever (pro tip, probably best not to be lying down if you want to stay awake…)
Using The Calm App
Getting going with the app is really easy. The first time I used it I was greeted by a calm blue screen, the sound of singing birds and running water, and the words ‘take a deep breath’. So I did! Just that felt pretty good.
Each day a new meditation was presented, lasting around 10 minutes.
The first 5 minutes were a breathing meditation, simply paying attention to the breath as it enters and leaves the body.
This sounds so simple, but I found it very hard! As soon as I pay attention to my breath, I feel like I can’t breathe naturally anymore. Just like when I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair, I can’t stop salivating…
However, as the app points out, this is normal – and just like any skill, the only way to get better is through practice (this made me feel a lot about better about my efforts – if it just takes commitment, then we’re all capable of being able to do it.)
The second half of the session had a ‘lesson’ on a new theme each day: the first day of Spring being a time of renewal – for discarding what we no longer need in our lives and welcoming in change, on finding contentment and acceptance in our lives, and on gratitude.
The app has so many different categories of meditation, I haven’t scratched the surface in the first 7 days. There are meditations for beginners, for anxiety, for focus, stress, relationships, and even for kids.
There is plenty of material available and ‘Calm’ looks like it would be of value for all levels.
‘Calm’ does more than just deliver guided meditations. For the high-achievers among you, the app tracks your progress and gives you a virtual pat on the back for your longest streak. 7 days for me – woot!
You can also use the app to set yourself a reminder (handy), and you can share your stats to Facebook, email etc. in case you want to do some meditation bragging 🙂
I really like this additional feature, which is a collection of stories around 30 minutes in length designed to lull you to sleep. Sometimes I’ll put on a podcast to help me focus my mind when it’s still racing after a busy day, but then I’ll be alarmed awake by a sudden excerpt of noisy music – gah! These pieces were interesting enough to focus my mind, but soothing enough to relax me to sleep – and no noisy musical interruptions. Again there are options for kids here too.
Masterclass & Music
A couple more features I haven’t yet explored are Music and Masterclass. The Music feature has one hour collections for different moods (Relax, Sleep, Focus, Nature.)
Masterclass is a collection of videos on different topics, and now I’m reviewing these, I definitely want to make some time to check them out as they all lend themselves to my own personal challenge of finding my UnBusy mind, for example a masterclass on Social Media and Screen Addiction.
‘Calm’ has provided me with a really easy way to dip my toes into the waters of mindfulness and meditation! I have only used a free trial so far. Calm is charged at $12.99 for a month by month subscription, or $4.99 a month for one year. There are probably cheaper ways of starting meditation, and there are free apps available which I’ll be investigating – but ‘Calm’ is really user-friendly with tons of great material, so could well be worth paying for a subscription.
If you are already using any tools on your own journey to mindfulness, let me know in the comments what they are and I will try them out!