I’m slowly reading Peak Performance, taking in some coaching and life lessons on productivity, patience, stress, and rest. It’s applicable to both what I do as a coach for my runners and nutrition clients, and what I do every day, building a business. I appreciate that the authors, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, write and explore human behavior in a way that so easily touches on various aspects of our “performance.” I appreciate that they had no hesitations in mentioning daily meditation as part of this performance.
Meditation comes up in Peak Performance‘s first chapter on rest.
It’s presented as a way to teach your mind to notice stress, rather than immediately react to it. Meditation: something I to do in yoga class as instructed, sometimes do when I run on my own, and often do via journaling before I start my workday. Yet, never have I ever had a daily meditation practice. I’ve never sat on a pillow in quiet corner of any house I’ve ever lived in, solely to meditate. (Nor do I own a meditation pillow, anyway.)
As I was reading I knew right away daily meditation was something I wanted to at least try to implement. It’s NOT hard. It’s not time consuming (unless I wanted to go for up to an hour—still no more time consuming than my run in the morning). It’s not something I’m incapable of. It’s simply not something I have ever prioritized on my own volition. As with many things, I’ve relied on others to hold me to it—yoga teachers, to be specific.
I’m four days into my goal of a two-week daily meditation streak.
I presented it to my runners, and six of them hopped on board right away. No hesitation. I learned that two of these runners already meditate. I learned that one of my triathletes has a church near her office that holds free lunch hour meditations during the week; she goes when she can. (Can we get more of that, plz?) I learned that one of my trail runners uses the Headspace app, but wanted something a little less than 10 minutes, with a little more accountability. Here we are.
We started with one minute of daily meditation.
One minute meditation: feels like 10 seconds.
One minute plank: feels like an hour.
— Heather Caplan, RD (@heatherdcRD) July 13, 2017
My first minute went by so quickly that I almost started laughing. How had I ever been intimidated by something as simple as one minute spent focusing solely on breath and letting my brain zone out? ONE MINUTE. Sixty seconds. More time has passed since you started reading this. Banana pup was laying next to me on the bed and didn’t even notice anything had happened. She was still laying there when I opened my eyes again. Nothing lost, a lot gained.
The next day, my ringer volume was so low that I couldn’t hear the timer. I went for two or three minutes before I thought, This feels much longer than yesterday. Am I THAT stressed? Impatient? Restless? I peeked my eyes open to see my timer was done; much more time had passed. And still, it fit in my day.
On Sunday morning, I set the timer for three minutes. I needed more than sixty seconds of brain rest. On the day’s agenda: Uhaul renting, storage unit emptying, washing clothes, gardening (and stick chasing), packing and unpacking, then packing again. Meanwhile, we’re mentally tallying up how many more weekends we actually have until we HAVE to move (not many), and how much has to be done between now and then (oh so much). I needed those three minutes of mental calm. I took them.
My daily meditation routine:
- Sit somewhere. A bed, a couch, a bar stool in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter where you sit (or stand, or lie).
- Set a timer.
- Optional: put on some white noise (with a fan, an app, website, or your device of choice).
- Close the eyes.
- Take long, slow breaths.
- Notice thoughts that come up, then focus on breathing.
- Repeat steps 5-6 as many times as needed.
There’s definitely something about daily (or any) meditation that scares so many of us away.
Is it the idea of sitting still? Or finding “quiet” in your house? PSA: My first minute wasn’t quiet. I don’t think that’s a solid requirement. Our neighbors were getting ready for work; my husband was making breakfast two rooms away. Is it a fear of looking weird with your eyes closed for one minute? (One of my runners said she meditated at her desk during a quiet time at work. Do you, girl!) I can’t even tell you what held me back, other than what I like to call the flossing complex.
It’s simply NOT a habit. Yet.
We brush our teeth, get ready for the day, eat, pack up, and leave. We do the necessary, ingrained routine things. We maybe only have so much brain space for extras. I still struggle with flossing, because it’s never something I’ve done every day. Therefore, I legitimately forget to do it. I don’t even think about it. Meditation is maybe the same, with an added layer of uncertainty. We know flossing is good for our dental health. (Well, most of us think so.) But are we SO SURE about meditation? The limited research shows yes, it’s beneficial (sometimes beyond measure). We’re just not yet convinced. It’s hard to see or feel tangible results.
If you do it regularly, in whatever form you choose, you’ll notice results.
When I do run solo (at least once a week), go to yoga, journal, or meditate as I’m doing now, I feel the difference. I need this right now. I need mental awareness of my emotions, stressors, and impulsive reactions to both. I need to know I can quiet my mind when it starts racing with ALL THE THINGS. I need to know I can be rational in tough conversations about money, bringing a babe into the world, moving, and renovating a house. I need to know I can be patient, reasonable, and kind through any process. I need to be able to acknowledge and trust my emotions, but not always give into them. When I practice this, and strengthen that mental muscle, I can tell the difference.
It even helps me with hunger, nutrition, coaching, and intuitive eating.
Without the ability to meditate in any way—to notice and be curious about thoughts as they come, not just accept them—I wouldn’t have realized I was questioning my hunger. I wouldn’t have been curious about my cravings. I wouldn’t even be able to notice when I’m hungry, full, or satisfied. I wouldn’t be able to listen to my clients without wanting to fix, judge, or “teach” them out of their disordered eating, running challenges, or whatever else they need from me. I wouldn’t be able to meet them where they are, because I’d be stuck where I am.
We can’t grow without stressors, and ironically, meditation can be one of them.
Daily meditation (or even weekly) is a personal challenge. It’s something you may have to remind yourself to do daily, holding yourself to it, spending energy finding the time and place and will to keep at it. You’ll learn uncomfortable things. You’ll process them. And if you’re diligent, you’ll keep at it until those things don’t feel so uncomfortable. They are part of you, not all of you. As needed, you can meditate on that.