Tuesday, Apr 25th

Loving Kindness Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

It’s always dangerous to assume that I’ll get to an exercise “later.” My brain believes, chronically, in the idea of little bits of free time scattered throughout my day. Occasionally such bits actually materialize, which just encourages the delusion that they’re common.

In any case, I ended up doing this meditation while sitting in my parked car, waiting to take my sons home from school. This was not an ideal setting — I can’t pretend that my focus was as good as if I’d been sitting in a quiet room. But to my surprise it also wasn’t the worst setting, and it put me in an excellent mood for greeting my sons and driving home.

Happy Tuesday!

Tuesday, Apr 18th

Guided Meditation

This time around I chose a relaxation meditation from YouTube to try. More relaxation is always a good thing, right?

This one did not go quite as smoothly as some of the other guided meditations I’ve tried. I’m not certain how much to blame that on my own state — I’ve had a cold, and the physical discomfort in my body has been noticeably disrupting my daily meditations. For whatever reason, I found it all too easy for my mind to wander away from the sound of the waves that was supposed to be captivating my attention. I also felt that the meditation included just a touch of hypnosis, and I must admit that I’m pretty skeptical of that.

Still, I came out of it feeling more relaxed than when I went it. And there’s a great big world of meditation to explore — I can’t expect to love them all.

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, Apr 12th

Gratitude Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Recently I watched a TED talk called Happy Brain, in which Amit Sood talked about positive psychology and gave some recommendations for short exercises. One of them was to spend a few minutes upon waking each day feeling gratitude toward five people in your life.

When he ran through the exercise in his talk, though, he surprised me. He left the first four people up to the participants, but for the fifth he specified being grateful for “your eight-year-old self.” This really struck me; I have a difficult time with self-compassion, and it had never occurred to me to try a gratitude practice aimed at my younger self.

So today for my gratitude meditation, I tried to skip through my life, generating a sense of “the person I was” at various points, and feeling gratitude for that person. At times the meditation began to edge into being more about compassion than gratitude, but that seemed OK.

Happy Wednesday!

Thursday, Apr 6th

Mindfulness Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

I realized the other day that I’d accidentally created a kind of “check” on my day, both at the beginning and at the end. In the morning, my ten-minute mindfulness meditation is one of the first things I do, and how easily that works for me is a good indicator of my mental state. In the evening I practice viola, and that seems to similarly hinge on my mental state.

I think I would also benefit from a midday mindfulness session (although realistically it’s unlikely to happen on a regular basis). I noticed while doing this meditation that I began to develop a sense of how my day had been trending since the morning; the various small stresses and negative thoughts of the day came into clear focus. It seemed to help me nudge myself toward a better place.

And that, after all, is the point of these exercises.

Happy Thursday!

Monday, Apr 3rd

Loving Kindness Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Inspired by my recent experiences with guided meditations, I found this one for loving kindness. I selected it mainly because it was short, and I wanted to compare doing a guided meditation with doing a non-guided one.

In this case I wasn’t sure I preferred the guided meditation. It wasn’t bad, obviously; it’s hard to be unhappy with feelings of loving kindness. But I think that the advantage of guided meditations is that they can help keep me on track, and with loving kindness I feel that there’s already enough structure to the meditation that I don’t have too much trouble with wandering.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, Mar 21st

Gratitude Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Today I focused my meditation on my two-year-old. This was partly because we had a serious conflict today, and I think it can be helpful for me (when I have space for it) to remind myself of how grateful I am for her presence in my life. It certainly helped; I felt much closer to her afterwards.

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, Mar 15th

Mindfulness Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

I have days where I think I might be getting better at this. Not amazingly better, mind you, because I still catch my mind wandering off on tangents or trying to tell itself stories. But I think regularly practicing this meditation (and I’ve been doing it for almost two months now, a new record for me) has actually improved my ability to identify thoughts coming up without sinking into them.

Happy Wednesday!

Thursday, Mar 9th

Loving-Kindness Meditation

There is a description of this meditation on the Exercises page. One note: I find that if I’m feeling more “closed” or unhappy, I do better to focus on just the easiest part of the meditation – whichever target is the easiest for me to generate genuine warm and loving feelings. Those feelings are the important benefit, rather than being able to work all the way through the list. There will be other days when it’s easier, when it feels natural to extend this sense of loving-kindness to the entire world.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, Feb 28th

Gratitude Meditation

Focusing on gratitude never fails to make my day better. Today I decided to spend a little time in focused gratitude meditation.

The stillmind site has some simple instructions for gratitude meditation, which focus on gratitude for the world around us, our friends and family, ourselves, and our life. It’s a good place to start, but if that seems too long or if you want to try something different, it’s entirely possible to build a custom meditation for yourself. I’ll sometimes choose a single thing in my life, or a single relationship, and spend my meditation time focusing in on all the ways I’m grateful for that one thing.

Today I chose my hands. I thought about their sense of well-being, and how grateful I am that they do their (many) jobs without pain. I thought of all the things I do with my hands: working, holding children, playing viola, typing… My hands do amazing things every day, and I am definitely grateful for them.

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, Feb 22nd

Mindfulness Meditation

I debated over whether to include a mindfulness meditation exercise in my rotation, since I’m already doing ten minutes of it each morning. But eventually I decided to try it out, for two reasons: 1) a little more is unlikely to hurt, and 2) given my track record, it’s entirely possible that my morning meditation routine won’t last too long.

If you haven’t tried it before, the basic idea of mindfulness meditation is to focus your awareness on a physical sensation or process – the breath is a popular choice – and try to keep it there. As you notice your mind wandering (and it will), gently bring it back to the breath. In theory one gets better at this; I’m not sure I’ve ever maintained a practice long enough to notice real improvement.

I have noticed some benefits, though, even with my sketchy practice. I’ve had occasional moments of enhanced awareness, where I can stay distant enough from my thoughts that instead of being absorbed in them, I can just observe them, as though I was watching a stranger. Those small moments have been interesting and useful enough that I keep coming back to try again.

Happy Wednesday!