10 days of experimental guided meditation.

Day 1.

An article hits my feedly by way of HN about meditation and the brain. It mentions headspace and after chuckling to myself at the realization that I live in a world where there is “an app” for guided meditation, I decide to give it a whirl.

The app will guide me in meditating for 10 minutes every day for ten days. I pick a time that I’ll likely have free for the next 10 days, and bring out my best headphones.

After watching a few short animations, I start my first session. This is not what I expected. Meditation is like, an activity, and not an easy one. I cannot imagine being able to do this on my own without someone there to tell me what to do. At the end, I’m asked by the narrator if I feel different. I don’t think I feel different, but I can’t deny: I want more.

Also, I realize that I can now preface sentences with “since I started guided meditation…”, and am therefore REALLY looking forward to tomorrow.

Day 2.

Co-workers quite annoyed at me. Line of the day was: “Since I started guided meditation, I have not put onions on my cheeseburger.”. GREAT DAY.

The second session felt easier. I focused right in and didn’t wander at all despite a cat rubbing me nearly the entire time. It’s nice to sit for a while and clear my head. When asked at the end if I felt different I could honestly say yes. Not detached exactly, but maybe a bit more.. I’m not sure how to articulate it, but “comfortably situated” comes close. I’m concerned that I’m getting hooked, but I tell myself I can stop any time I want.

Day 3.

Line of the day: “Since I started guided meditation I no longer feel the need to wear shoes to meetings.”

A frustrating day of unproductive meetings spent reiterating the obvious to various combinations of people who all should know better (for 8 solid hours).

The third session was difficult. I felt tense and unfocused. I had a muscle twitch in my left eye and my body was sore and it was difficult to settle in. Earlier in the day it occurred to me that I should blog about this meditation thing I was doing, and I kept thinking about what I was going to write about meditation in the meditation. I also thought a lot about work. I was at least halfway in by the time my mind quieted down but I was able to pull it out in the end.

Despite the frustrating start I felt pretty great afterwards, but not quite as settled as day 2. I still find it hard to imagine just sitting down and doing this on my own without a guide. I’m tempted to try it, but won’t until the 10 days is up for fear of corrupting the data.

Day 4.

Line of the day: “Since I started guided meditation, I have not needed to clear the xlate table.”

A work from home day spent mostly in “managerial” pursuits rather than productive ones. The fourth session was easy and relaxed. Cat jumped on me about 30 seconds in but otherwise no distractions at all. Must remember to sit for a couple extra minutes and let the cats gather and settle before pressing play from now on.

I’m a little embarrassed that it’s taken me four days to notice this, but it became apparent today that the sessions are following a pattern that moves your focus .. inward? .. toward a sort of pivotal bit of time where you are encouraged to lose focus and let your mind wander wherever it wants. Maybe that few seconds is actually what “meditation” is, or maybe it’s the goal. By the time I get there, I’m noticeably in a different state of mind in the same way that sleep is a different state of mind. I am not asleep; I am fully aware of everything going on around me, but I’m not exactly awake either, it’s certainly different, and it feels important.

I don’t think it’s temporally the center of the session; we spend more time getting there than getting back. If I had to guess I’d say it’s about 7 minutes in, and lasts for around 40 seconds. In the previous days nothing memorable happened during this … “dreamy unfocused center time” … but today, right near the end of it, I got a sort of “flash-image” of a revolver (yeah, the handgun kind). It was powerful – it felt as if I was physically struck by it – and came seemingly out of nowhere. I don’t own a revolver, and can’t remember having seen one in a photo or movie lately, so that struck me as odd, and caused me to notice the overall pattern that the sessions seem to be following.

Anyway, I’m hooked, and do not care if it makes me a hippie, and find myself looking forward to these sessions daily. Also prefixing my sentences with ‘Since I started guided meditation’ is not even close to getting old.

Day 5.

Line of the day: “It’s OK, since I started guided meditation, babies don’t cry in my presence.”

The first Saturday and official day off. Also the first day my wife realized in earnest that I’ve been meditating, she’s totally jealous. Did the session in the same room as my wife walking on the treadmill, the noise/presence was not a problem at all. It was a different chair and therefore a different position, which drastically altered both my breathing and my weight from what I was used to. Neither of these were a problem either, but it was kind of telling how obviously different they were once I started the focus exercises.

This made me want to meditate at the office in the position I spend the preponderant quantity of my day in. I suspect (given its similarity to the position that I used in the session today) that it’s an unhealthy repose, and meditating in it will likely result in my changing it. No strange weaponry flashes today, just a lavish 10 minutes of mindfulness. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Day 6.

Line of the day “Since I started guided meditation I encounter 14% fewer compiler errors”

I’ve completely lost interest in blogging about this. I feel like a Rock star who was too busy partying to finish the lyrics and just writes in “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah NAAAHH” instead. I have nothing to report and yet words keep appearing on the page. Also, this post has entirely too many first person pronouns, and is boring. Meditation is pretty great. Try it if you want.

Day 7.

Line of the day “Well last week I would have agreed with you, but since I started guided meditation I’m better equipped to appreciate John Tesh.”

Still tired of this post. Also, I’m beyond tired of having to force-stop the Headspace app. Protip guys: Making an app that sits resident in memory notifying me every so often with faux-wisdom that I cannot read because you haven’t figured out how to line wrap in the notification API does NOT fill me with inner peace. I will delete you when the 10 days are up because buzzers are a horrible implementation of a stupid idea. I would have stopped this experiment on day 4 because of buzzers, but since I’ve started guided meditation I find that I am a more patient person in general, and I promised myself that I’d see this through.

Day 8.

Line of the day: “I used to be ignorant of the inner workings of node.js, but since I started guided mediation, it is a more blissful ignorance.”

Two things of note today. The first was, a cat started kneading on my forearm about 5 minutes in, and although I usually find this irresistibly uncomfortable and basically impossible not to react to, today in mediation I was able to just kind of notice that it was happening and carry on. This must be what Roland felt like in the first book of the gunslinger series when he separated himself from this own thirst to make it through the desert. So basically, since I started guided mediation, I have super powers. The cat stopped a couple minutes later because by that time my arm was sufficiently bleeding from the scratches to gross-out the cat, causing him to move on.

The second thing was that when Andy tried to guide my attention back up to normal, I refused to follow him. It was a conscious thing, but not something I’d planned going in. The option hadn’t occurred to me until that moment, but not only was I not ready, I realized that for several days I’ve felt interrupted and not ready to stop at this point in the meditation, so, annoyed and unwilling to follow Andy, I rebelled. I let Andy do his thing, and waited for him to leave, and carried on alone for a while. I don’t know how long. When I was ready I brought myself back up in the normal way.

I remember feeling like guiding myself through meditation would require a cognitive duality that I wasn’t capable of, but I no longer feel that way at all. I could do this anytime, anywhere; I’m sure of it.

Day 9.

Line of the day: “Since I started guided meditation, everything smells like beer.”

I’m sorry Andy, but I don’t need you anymore. I guess I’ve hit my angsty-bhuddist teen phase, and want to explore this on my own for a little while without your preening condescension inside my skull. It’s not you, it’s me. I just feel like, I’ve done a lot of growing lately, and you seem to still be in the same place. I’d like it if we could still be friends, and we don’t need to make this awkward – I’ll meet you tomorrow for our thing, but then I think we should spend some time apart. You deserve better. Don’t be like that, this is a good thing for both of us. I’ll always cherish the time we’ve spent together.

Also, I think I have a sufficiently quiet mind that a couple sessions a week is all I’m going to want, and 10 minutes is not enough time per session. Something like 30 minutes Tuesday and Thursday would be more ideal for me, but that seems beyond silly; like “No I can’t meet you for drinks, I seek inner peace every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 to 9:30”. Really? I’m not an ordained monk, but if “seek inner peace” is on your Google calendar I think you might be doing it wrong.

Anyway, don’t let me discourage you from trying the 10 for 10 thing; I don’t know what’s going to work out for me, but every day for 10 minutes is too often and not enough.

Day 10

Line of the day: “Since I started guided meditation I’m able to give you the pity that you truly deserve.”

AAAAAnd we’re done. Not much to say about the last session, I felt a little guilty about leaving Andy. He seemed so certain that I’d be showing up for the 15-minute phase-two stuff, but I think I’m going to call this a successful experiment and leave it at that.

See you on the other side Andy.