Career, how to learn, Leadership, personal, Reflective practice, Slow Thinking, Thinking differently

Sit down & chill the hell out (AKA why you should be meditating)

There’s 10,000 reasons to chill the hell out (AKA meditate), but I’m going to lead with what I see as the most topical for right now.

Relaxation.

When was the last time you actually relaxed? Not when was the last time you took a break, or got a workout in, but when did you last relax?

“Relaxation isn’t a luxury. In the world we live in, it’s a necessity. The everyday tension and stress that accompanies life in the 21st century can be debilitating to our mental and physical health. We need something deeper than an occasional treat. We need something that will get to the root of the problem.” – Yael Shy

Do you ever pause? From work, home, doom-scrolling on social media. When do you take time out to just be? 2020 was a year of big learning for me, one of the biggest being that doing the same old thing to de-stress just didn’t seem to work any longer. I’ve got a list (surprise surprise) of things that I need to do when I feel myself getting run down:

  1. Say no to more – works every time
  2. Eat better – works every time
  3. Exercise (for someone who genuinely hated PE at school this one took a long time to get on board with) – much to my disappointment at the work required, works every time
  4. Meditate…

During 2020 I got the list out. I hit everything on there every day, but the shitstorm that was last year just kept coming. On top of the list of things we all had in common, the border restrictions meant that I couldn’t get home to see my family in New Zealand while some pretty major things were happening. Honestly, it was pretty hard.

So I was doing the list.

I’ve been ‘meditating’ on and off for the past 15 years – every health professional, every popular speaker seems to espouse the same advice. Meditation is good for you. And I felt like I was doing it. I had all the apps and ticked every box, but it just didn’t really work for me. I figured it was a slow burn – “they” say that even if you feel like it’s not working, you should stick with it. So I did, to no avail.

Towards the end of 2020 though, something changed, I tried a variety of types of meditation (I know, seems obvious in retrospect) – but low and behold I’ve gotten results.The things I did differently:

  • I set up a space for meditation. This doesn’t need to be 100% dedicated, but I have an old wooden chest I bought secondhand that sits in the corner of our bedroom – it’s decorated with things that make me happy, beautiful candles and incense, a picture from my little boy. It’s a warm spot where I want to spend time – and because I see it every day, I’m being constantly reminded to take 5 minutes.
  • I prioritised myself and didn’t let ‘getting busy’ get in the way of taking some time. There are always jobs to be done – at work and around the house. But you can’t do any of that well if your energy is always depleted. Meditation is one way I can refill my energy reserves.
  • I tried different forms of meditation. That one about the cars or clouds passing me where I’m meant to observe them? That does nothing for me. I’ve been focusing on objects, sound baths, guided meditations from different meditation practitioners. Just because one form of meditation doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean others won’t.
  • I listened to podcasts/read books about meditation, the science and different approaches. I like to know why something is working – the most impactful thing I’ve learned? Meditation works differently for everybody, so if you’ve tried and failed – maybe try approaching it differently.

The best resources I’ve found:

  • Podcasts, obviously. Current favs are 10 Percent Happier (Dan Harris) and Wake me Up (Tyler Brown).
  • Apps – Insight Timer is my favorite. There’s a paid version, but the free version has a huge variety of content. This one is fabulous. Spotify is another gem, you can find beautiful soothing music or nature sounds to help you get in the zone.
  • The internet is gold here. There’s a host of resources out there, for a basic introduction on the types of meditation out there, start here https://www.headspace.com/meditation/techniques

You might have sat down & chilled out/meditated before and gotten out of practice – or it might be something you’ve never tried before. I wholeheartedly encourage you to take 10 minutes today for yourself, no matter how well, or terribly your day is going.

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