What I learned from my 30 day meditation challenge

We discussed a few weeks back in our podcast that I have embarked on a 30 day meditation challenge given to me by Jared Truby from Cat and Cloud Coffee. I had asked him what I could do on a daily basis to not be overcome by fear as I work to create the best damn beverage shop in The Valley. He said to meditate 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening and then circle back with him at the end of 30 days. I’m coming up on the end of my 30 days and thought I would share what I have learned.

I hold stress all over my body, not just my shoulders. I know for a fact that I store up stress at the base of my skull and up under my shoulder blades. While meditating, the guide would lead me through a body scan. This is just a practice where you you breath and release tensed muscles. I found that I stored a lot of stress in my abdomen. It was weird to think that I was storing up all this anxiety in my guts, but there it was. Stress is so bad for the body. If we can take a moment to seek it out and help release it from our body, I think we’ll be much healthier.

Being present takes practice. I am the type of person who tries to anticipate as much as possible so I can prepare for it…because, “fate favors the prepared” (a saying of mine). The problem with that is that it generates fake stress and I store it in my body. (Clarification: real stress is a tiger chewing on your thigh, fake stress is worrying about what if scenarios that you made up in your brain.) I found that I was constantly distracted by “what if” scenarios and a million different possible outcomes to every situation. Anticipating problems is good, stressing out about something that may not happen is not helpful. While meditating, you focus only on the here and now. It is incredibly freeing to have the burden of the future removed. I’m not going to say that I live in the moment, because that’s not me. I am saying that I now have a tool to deal with my anxiety when I get stuck in the “what if” hamster wheel.

Breathing is important. Seems to be a bit of a no brainer, I know. This one is hard to explain too. For some reason, I forgot to belly breath. I know this because I breath up in my chest, but my children breath from their belly. It kind of hurts actually to reset your breathing, but as soon as I did, my body just kind of fell in line. It’s kind of like when a cog in a machine is just a hair out of place and you push it back in and the machine whirs to life.

Imagery sounds super sappy but helps on deep levels. The whole cliche about a therapist telling their patient that they are a fluffy cloud, or, your a flowing river trickling through the forest is real. It can be cheesy, but it’s like real life Inception. When you picture yourself experiencing things, or step outside of yourself and watch yourself experience things, it works on a deep level. I think it is like a good book or movie where the subtext is what speaks to you. They don’t just say it on the nose like with affirmations; but let the person discover it for themselves, making it more meaningful. I haven’t quite gotten into the whole affirmations thing. It’s still a little uncomfortable for me.

I’m not going to sit here and say that meditation is good for everyone. It has been good for me though. I’m a bit of a hot mess and meditation has turned out to be a tool I can use to sort through it all. If you do want to try it out, I would recommend to you (as it was recommended to me by Jared) that you download the InsightTimer app. It’s free and easy to use. It is hard to tell someone how to meditate, so this app helped me get into it without having to climb a mount and speak to the monk sitting atop it.

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