15 Days of Meditation – What I’m Learning About Myself

The above photo is a couple of screenshots from my beloved iPhone. The left side is my home screen – bare and minimal, just like I like it. The most prominent app is the Streaks App (you will see the ’15’ in there which displays the daily streak I have going) from the App Store. On the right is a screenshot of a Streaks calendar I’m using to keep me in check, so to speak, when it comes to keeping up my daily meditation.

As you can see, the 16th is unchecked because I haven’t done my meditation yet today (it’s 7:27 a.m. as I’m typing this).

I will aim to keep this short, as my main goal of today’s post is  to share a few things I’ve learned, and some current struggles I’ve experienced with my meditation. All in all, it’s been a very positive, enriching experience – much more so than I believed it would be.

2 Subtle ‘Aha!’ Moments

I’ve been keeping a journal to document my meditations, feelings, what’s happening, and how I feel about it all. As I look back over the last week, I experienced a few things in different scenarios.

1st Aha! Moment

I was training a few of my clients last week. I had a few ladies back to back, and it was just another normal day of training, or so I believed. During the first session with Susan, we began chatting during her warm-up about the fitness industry in general, the bad name a lot of fitness pros have due to shady sales practices in commercial gyms, and the maniuplating of people’s minds to make a few bucks.

I’ve come to know Susan very well as I’ve trained her since February. I call her a friend actually. I’ll probably be lecturing to her office floor about the basic concepts of a sound diet and exercise plan in the coming month. As I was discussing topics, and ideas with her, we came around to the bad experiences she’s had in commercial gyms – mainly trainers overselling and under-delivering when it came to the actual training process.

After a few minutes she smiled and said “wow, I can tell you’re really passionate about this – you’re adamant about proper education and giving the most back to your people.”

She even said I ‘lit up’ when discussing how badly I hated how most commercial trainer coordinators conduct business… mainly the idea of funneling as many leads into the office, giving them the hard sell, and then assigning them to some trainer who just doesn’t mesh with the client.

Long story short, I put her through the session and I found myself feeling completely whole. I don’t recall focusing on anything other than her efforts, and progress. I pushed her past her supposed limits, made her better, and then told her how much better she’d gotten.

I was focused. She was getting results. All that mattered was that session. I knew nothing else.

Immediately after working with Susan, I had Brittney. Now, she is a relatively new client, but she’s come so far in just a few weeks – her motivation is high. I knew she’d be a good one after I interviewed her to train with me.

I had the same experience with this session… My focus was 100% on her efforts. I let everything go. I only looked at my phone to check rest periods. I kept close eye contact with her and ensured she did everything correctly.

I found myself experiencing deep feelings of joy as I coached her through strenuous movements. Pushing people past their supposed limits is my job – I’m used to this, actually. But that night was different.

I didn’t think much about this until I was in my car on the ride home.

I was still on high with these ‘feelings‘ but had no idea what was going on until I returned home to finish my journal entry for the day.

Then it hit me.

I was living purely in the NOW with no fear or worry about the future, or regrets of my past.

The great joy I was receiving as I coached these ladies was a product of letting go of everything and just focusing on them, the moment, and being content with what was going on.

No changing anything.

No attempt to control anything.

Just letting it be.

2nd Aha! Moment

So the second moment came a few days later. I recently ditched my commercial gym membership and joined a small local S&C facility to get my personal workouts in for the week. It has everything I need, no A/C, and is full of young athletes and regular Joe’s who are there to put in work.

Every time I walk in, there are guys sweating their asses off doing heavy squats, and conditioning work.

So I went in on Saturday for my bodybuilding training. It was back/biceps day and I was one of 3 guys in there. I normally listen to Pandora radio when I train, usually The Weeknd station, or some other hip hop. However, today’s reception wasn’t too hot, so I relied upon my iPod.

I decided to take a break from hip hop and put on some Rage Against The Machine (first album). The 2nd track, ‘Killing In The Name Of’ came on and I realized that I was again, ‘in the moment.’

All my fears, thoughts, worries, predispositions were so far away from me. All I could think about was bodybuilding, pulling the barbell to my chest, rinsing and repeating.

Again, I found great joy in being fully aware of the moment and how it made me feel, which is pretty spectacular in itself.

Here are some unedited excerpts from my journal last week:

Meditation has been really good for me, I think. I learned yesterday (12th) the importance of being in the moment.  Mainly this was after my meditation session when I was training Susan and Brittney.  I noticed myself completely wrapped up in their sessions and finding great joy in what I was doing.

Susan even said I ‘lit up’ when I was talking about the sales process and how many bad trainers there are – along with my passion to provide good information for all. (July 13th)

Today I decided to train. I did back/biceps from my brogramming. It was cool – when I’d first gotten started, I was listening to my usual TheWeeknd radio on Pandora. Once I got into my second movement (cable rows), I changed it to RATM and got lost in the moment during Killing in the Name Of by Rage Against The Machine. I actually started dancing without caring as I was getting ready for the heavy pulling. (July 14th)

 

So what am I learning about myself?

That’s a great question, and for now I ain’t got a real good answer in terms of knowing exactly what’s happening, but here are a few ideas…

Learning to Let Go
I find myself caring less, actually. I seem to be less affected by the small things that used to frustrate me. I’m finding that my concentration is improving when it comes to various tasks that used to beg for distraction.

I’m learning that Habits are what make you great, not merely ideas…
Fortunately I’ve been able to come in contact with some really great people. My life is changing in an incredible way as I make new friends in the fitness space. I’m even using a course created by Leo Babauta on building habits.

I’m always striving to do better, give more and produce lots of awesome. It wasn’t until this last month of keeping a daily habit of meditating at least 5 minutes, that I truly understood that the greatest changes we can make all begin with the tiniest habits.

Owen Cook said it really well (paraphrased): “While you’re sitting in front of the TV, I’m out practicing, and doing these menial little tasks, that make me better by 0.001% and this is why I succeed.” Originally taken from this lecture (even have the exact spot tagged).

I don’t particularly ‘like’ meditation – I like the benefits
So far, I can’t say I actually look forward to sitting in silence. There’s always something to be done. Always something to work on.

Sometimes, I just want to veg-out and play video games (something I’ve been doing lately too – probably deserves another post on that).

Sometimes, I don’t want to do anything.

However, I can now see the benefits of meditation manifesting in other areas of my life, and I’m happy to continue my journey.

I’m  finding it easier to get my work done – anxiety-free, actually. I even wrote some copy yesterday for my upcoming fitness course and it didn’t make me antsy like I thought it would. I actually enjoyed the process for once.

Frustrations and Practical Advice

The last thing I want to bring up is how my actual meditation process normally goes. I’m still a budding beginner when it comes to this, so please understand I’m just sharing with you what happens in my head.

I usually sit down and focus on the first 5 breaths. Then I fade. I start thinking about an article, or what I need to eat. I think about driving downtown for a meeting, or getting coffee later that week with Steve.

Then I refocus. Back to center. Back to the breaths.

5-6 more counts, and I’m sidetracked again.

I mostly find my mind wandering about sex, though. If there’s anything that engulfs my mind more than anything at random times throughout the day (and not just meditation), it’s sex. It also doesn’t matter how much of it I’m getting at the time either. It can be once per week, or 3 times per day, and I still find my mind constantly flooded with random thoughts about it – mostly neutral.

I even wake up in the middle of the night from vivid dreams of previous sexual experiences and more recent love affairs.

Male animal.

So why’d I tell you about my random thoughts?

Because I want you to know that if you begin the practice of meditation, you will battle them. You will struggle. You will think you’re not getting anywhere.

However, someone wise shared this tidbit of knowledge in the comments section of the last post:

There are only two rules for meditation: begin and continue. Keep in mind, there are no failures in meditation. It’s a mistake to consider the practice meditation in terms of success and failure.

I’m slowly learning that to begin and continue is all that really ever matters, in anything. Start and keep going. Don’t let the discomfort or lack of understanding deter you if you want something bad enough.

I’ve rambled long enough. I stayed out drinking last night, went to bed at 1:30 a.m. and awoke at 5:30 a.m. from some very vivid dreams again. I never get up this early, but if I’m up, I may as well get some work done.

thank you for reading.

JC

10 comments

  1. Nicole · July 16, 2012

    Nice post JC. I noticed these things too when I had a regular practice… and then I fell out of practice. This has been a good reminder of the importance of sitting every damn day, it’s the only way it makes a difference. It doesn’t matter if you sit every day for a year, if you stop practicing you’ll start falling back into old habits and anxieties.

    If you want to advance your practice, look around your area for a Sangha to sit with. The feeling of meditating with a group of people is completely different and invigorating. Weird as hell at first, but awesome at the same time. I sit with a group who follows the Thich Nhat Hanh interpretation of western buddhism, it’s a more relaxed form that doesn’t bother with rituals etc, the focus is on mindfulness and sitting/walking meditation. And they don’t care who you are or what religion you follow as long as you’re there to meditate.

  2. Jon · July 16, 2012

    Thanks for your generous reflections, JC. By way of qualifying my comments, I’m a student in the Soto Zen tradition, and I’m currently studying towards what is somewhat confusingly called “lay ordination.” Your experiences with meditation — both the reassuring and the frustrating — are very familiar to me. One thing I did want to comment on, though, is your statement: “So far, I can’t say I actually look forward to sitting in silence. There’s always something to be done. Always something to work on.”

    There’s no requirement that meditation be done seated, though that’s certainly what most meditators do, and what most people associate with meditation. But the best kind of meditation is what works best for you. If it works better for you to meditate while, say, brushing the teeth, that’s a good kind of meditation. Or while lifting; that’s good too (I’d also note, probably good for lifting: staying aware of the body while using it in ways it maybe doesn’t want to go helps both to get more out of it and to not injure it). I appreciate seated meditation, but I have a six-month old daughter, so seated meditation isn’t something that fits well with my schedule these days. Instead, much of my practice has been around being with my daughter: babies are both wonderful and intimidating in this respect, because they’re completely in the moment, all the time. When they’re hungry, they eat. When they’re tired, they sleep. When they’re happy, they smile. There’s no habituated filter. For me, just the attempt to be with her in those moments is a kind of meditation equally deep as anything I’ve found on the cushion.

    That said, for some people, seated meditation really is the way to go: In much the same way that it can help a workout to say “OK, from 4 to 4:30 I’m going to go squat, and ignore all the other things in my life,” it can help to say “OK, what I’m doing now is meditating.” So my point in all of this isn’t to discourage you from sitting, but to encourage you to have some flexibility around the process. What works best for you is what works best for you.

    • JC Deen · July 16, 2012

      Appreciate the comments. It’s good to know there’s not just one way of getting this done. I’ve been experimenting with sitting positions. every other day or so, I’m adjusting.

  3. Christian · July 16, 2012

    So, how does one start this whole meditation thing? Being in the here and now and more focussed sound like amazing perks. Sign me up.

    • JC Deen · July 16, 2012

      I know this is going to sound simple, but you really just have to start.

      Start by sitting silently. remove distractions. turn off the phone, TV, iPod, etc. Sit in silence, and try to focus on nothing but your breathing. Count your breaths until your mind wanders. When you find your mind wandering, accept what’s happening, then recenter and get back to counting your breaths beginning at one.

  4. Shaz · July 16, 2012

    Counting from 1,2….. can lead to a linear constraint and *might allow your mind to wander more- another strategy that might achieve a different result is counting inhale/pause/exhale/pause. Since the cycle repeats it allows the mental body “mind,ego,thoughts” to become transparent with practice. So inhale 3 count- hold 3 count- exhale 3 count-hold 3 count. Do whatever is comfortable and as you practice your length of time for each phase will grow and you can enter heightened states of being with less conscious “force”.

    Give it a try if it resonates.

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