SImply Begin and Continue… Random Thoughts + Birthday Month Meditation Challenge

Today is an impromptu update, but it’s my blog and I can write if I want to.

So the last time I rambled, I discussed what I’m learning about myself since beginning this whole meditation thing. Turns out I’m learning more than I thought and it seems daily I’m becoming more aware than the day before.

This is good. Real good.

Question: So why the half-nude shot above?Β  There are a few reasons, actually.

  1. The first one is that I’m just about finished with this damn fitness course I’ve been working on the last 6 months. This (or another similar photo) will likely be somewhere in the artwork for the cover design/promotional material.
  2. The next reason is because my hair looks great.
  3. The last reason is because while I may appear the same to those who see me regularly, I see something different. There’s something in my eyes I’ve never seen in an image of myself before. This is the first topic I want to discuss first. We’ll try to be brief

A Look Into My Eyes

One of the main reasons I’m practicing meditation is because I’m in a dire search of inner peace. For as long as I can remember, my mind has always raced 90 miles a minute. Looking back in school, even elementary, I was fairly high-strung. I can even recall some behaviors that are the classic signs of OCD, but I never thought much of it until revisiting those memories.

I remember being in kindergarten and having an obsession with washing my hands, turning the light on/off in my bedroom and this insatiable craving to count patterns in words and letters. Every time I read a word, I’d dissect how many letters it had and suddently group them in sets of 2’s or 3’s and find a pattern. Never could I not find one. This made me feel good.

There’s only one other person I’ve ever told about this and that was one of my best friends last week.

The funny thing is that I somehow just grew out of this neurotic behavior.

But when you’re growing up through grade school, you don’t understand being placed in rooms with other groups of kids to work on random projects while your peers did regular schoolwork.

Later in junior high and high school, I found myself in classes with kids older than I taking taking higher lever math courses. Before I’d graduated high school, I’d taken enough college-level courses to technically be done with my first semester of university.

Funny thing is college always bored me. I’ve dropped out twice and could never manage to sit still long enough. I’d eventually scrape the material, skip lectures and go ace the tests.

My mind was always racing.

So wtf am I getting at?

The truth is my mind never shuts off. I’ve had many friends and former lovers tell me they can see that while I remain calm and cool, they notice there’s always something going on in the background. It seems that no matter how focused I am or what I’m doing, they can see the wheels churning in my mind.

I’ve laid in bed with girls to hear the words “when you’re kissing me, does your mind stand still? Does it calm you?”

This has happened so much that I know it’s NOT them. It’s me.

Now, I’m not upset or ungrateful. I’m actually very grateful.

My life is a product of being unsatisfied with mediocrity. I woke up 3 years ago with the aim to change my stars and I can say with utmost confidence I’m doing just that.

But now, something is different.

When I look at that picture… when I look into my own eyes in the mirror, I see the hamster wheel slowing down.

I’m finding peace in the daily, menial tasks I participate in.

I’m slowly starting to realize that living in the moment is better than I’d ever imagined.

TL;DR Version:

I can feel my mind quieting and I’m getting way more out of meditation so far than I’d imagined.

It’s 7:30 a.m. and my flight leaves for Boston about 1:30 this afternoon.

I’ll be there for 16 days to hang out with my friends and to just get away for a while. Even though I’ll be in an unfamiliar place, I plan to keep up my daily meditations. At the end of the month, I plan to increase my meditation time slowly.

Since I’m doing about 5-6 minutes daily now, I’ll up it to 8 minutes the first week. The second week it will be 10 minutes. 3rd week 13 minutes and then the final 4 weeks will be 15 minutes.

The goal is to get to a solid 20 minutes daily for at least a month before I try to increase the time.

My Birthday Month Meditation Challenge

Since I started rambling here, I’ve been getting lots of questions on how to start meditation or if I think it’s beneficial for [insert your reason here].

The truth is, I’m no guru. I know nothing. All I know how to do is sit and count my breaths and I suck at that so far.

The interesting thing is that I can already feel a difference. Something in my brain is changing. I’m finding more clarity and the ability to focus is improving. This might be the cure for my ADD.

Instead of celebrating my birthday (August 4th) only, I always celebrate birthday month. I love that I’m in existence so much that I extend the celebration from 1 day to an entire month.

So here is what I’m asking from you. A birthday month present of sorts…

If you’re interested at all in meditation, join me in a 30 day experiment. All you need is 5 minutes daily and a written promise to yourself that you’ll do this. If you’re interested in learning more about yourself, set aside some time and do this.

I was chatting with Leo Babauta over the phone the other day about habits and how to create them. He said that the easiest thing you can do is set aside 5 minutes to do something. It doesn’t matter, just do it for 5 minutes. Starting is often the hardest part, but once you get going, it usually goes fairly well.

And I’m living proof. I fought this for so long until one day I was like “hey, if I think I ain’t have five minutes, I’m lying to myself.”

First let me clear some objections

  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t know how to start
  • I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong
  • it’s too hard

And this is my answer to all of these objections:

You’re making excuses. Stop it.

Everyone has 5 minutes per day to spare.

Starting is easy. All you have to do is get your but on the pillow (or wherever you want to sit and relax).

You can’t really do it wrong as there’s no right way to meditate. Just find a comfortable, quiet place to sit. Close your eyes, and then begin counting each breath. Count 1, 2, 3, 4 until your mind wanders. Sometimes I think about pizza, training, walking the dog, having sex in the bathroom, whatever. After you catch yourself in the thought of something other than your breath, refocus and begin counting again.

Set a timer for 5 minutes. When it goes off, you’re done for the day.

I agree that it can seem difficult. However, the benefits far outweigh the mental chaos.

Will you join me?

If so, I want you to do this.

Commit to only 5 minutes daily beginning August 1st (or you can start now).

Commit to keeping a journal and updating it daily or every few days. Write about everything you experience, how hard it is to focus on your breath, and whatever else you experience.

Drop a note in the comments if you have questions or if you’re ‘in’ as I’d like to know who’s doing this with me.

Remember. Meditation isn’t some daunting task meant only for those in some far off monastery. It’s for ordinary folks like you and I as well.

There’s only 2 things you must do…

Begin and Continue…

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  1. JC,

    This is a great thing you are doing, thank you for sharing! I am doing something very similar with finding time each day to be still and to pray – and I think meditation will help me too – so I will join you πŸ™‚

    I too, had OCD type behaviours when I was maybe about 12 or 13 … and thankfully I grew out of them, but I understand that hamster wheel in the mind – I have made it my mission to stop living my life in the future, because that was the source of many of my discontentment: each time I came back from a day-dream, I was more dissatisfied with “now”.

    Anyway, this is a great idea and I love that you have been honest with yourself.


  2. I too started a journey of quieting my mind a few years ago, the benefits are AMAZING. I have only so far managed perfect peace once ie absolutely nothing. In that one moment I have never felt so in tune with life. It really is beautiful. I still work at keeping the mind chatter quiet, but a day without meditation for me now does not exist. SUPERB article and I am definitely in for the 30 day duration . . and the rest.

    Wishing you all the success in the world

    With thanks and appreciation.

    Cathi x

  3. Exact same washing hands/OCD stuff starting when I was 6 (teacher couldn’t keep in the classroom in grade 1 and 2, had to keep washing hands lol). I’ve noticed similar things about my hamster wheel since then, it wouldn’t even stop during sex – then I was just worrying about a different set of issues. I’ve found meditation to help in the past but have fallen out of practice, so will definitely be joining you on this challenge.

  4. Challenge accepted! You’re right, everyone has 5 minutes and I will enjoy seeing what happens along this journey.

  5. Ah it’s refreshing to hear of someone else celebrating their birthday month. I do that all the time! I just don’t get people who “don’t celebrate” their birthdays.
    I’m in for the 5 minutes of daily meditation for August. Looking forward to a little inner peace myself.

  6. You knew I would be joining you on this, JC…count me in. My jaw almost dropped when I saw you mention the OCD stuff. Truth is, there is proof that it is heritary (my dad suffered from it). Couple that with the “hamster wheel” brain that I, too, possess, and you have a recipe for distress. That’s what first brought me to mindfulness in the first place.

    But, during weeks like the last few, I can get caught up in my “real” business and my “brain” business and then I realize I have gone days without meditating. Not good, esp. for me.

    So, I’ll join you, friend. I’ll start with baby steps – again- and make the commitment. After all, that’s what mindfulness is all about – starting again, right?

    Good luck on your journey πŸ™‚


  7. Thanks for this reminder JC. I’m a huge believer in meditation. I fell out of my daily meditation habit a couple months ago (I still do it randomly) and this is a great reminder to get back into it on a daily basis.

    I like to tell people you actually “gain” time by setting aside time for meditation as one can gain greater clarity and direction and thus be less likely to “waste” their time spinning their wheels going nowhere with their work.

    I find it helps to do it first thing in the morning or before bed when one doesn’t have as much other stuff going on. Those two times are great too because it helps one either prepare for the day or unwind after a stressful one.

  8. Im in! Thanks for the opportunity to get back to meditation and journaling. I knew something was missing.

  9. Sounds like a great August activity. Gives me something to focus on and try to achieve. So I’m in.

  10. I don’t often take time to just sit and let everything be. I should do it every day. My awareness of the reality outside my thoughts feels pretty dim most of the time.

    It’s summer, so this is a great excuse to get outside. I can take a break in the park after my workouts. Today I ran back over there after my nap to sit down for a while.

  11. Hey everyone – thanks so much for your responses. Had no idea everyone would be so interested.

    I’ll post another update closer to the end of my 30 days.

  12. Im in. I have noticed several of the same things as you have growing up. Thanks for posting!


  13. Thanks for this brief primer, JC. I’ve always wanted to try meditation. One question, though: have you tried it out on a moving vehicle? I take 1h bus rides to commute to and from my workplace and meditation could be a good idea, but I’m afraid the atmosphere may not be “zen” enough. I always read about being in a quiet, soothing place. I’m expecting a “try it and see if it works for you” answer, but it’d be great if you have any experience on this. Thanks, and it’s a great new blog you’ve got here.

    1. No experience with this, Clement. I always meditate in a quite place – either my bedroom, or living room free of distraction.

  14. I’ve found my best to be on the kitchen floor first thing in the morning while coffee is brewing. The coffee pot noise is just enough background not to distract me and my mind is generally most “available” first thing in the morning. I may try evenings but there are a lot more distractions in my house (3 kids, wife, dog, etc).

  15. Recently came to terms with my inability to focus. Something has changed in recent years that has made it much harder to multitask. I pledge to find 5 minutes a day to turn off my brain – hopefully it will help me to put the blinders on and focus on one task at a time till completion.

  16. I’m in. Just did my first 5 minutes so I know I can do it.

    I could not get higher than counting 3 breaths before something would pop up. Scenes from random TV shows. Whatever. And then it got to be me wondering what would pop up. Or how high I’d count. Or if I’d stop breathing.

    The timer idea is good. I never saw anyone “permit” that before and the idea of trying to sit and guess if I’d made five minutes was so stressful I never wanted to actually attempt it.

    My mom told me (when I was 40 years old) that when I was a little kid I would wash my hands 100 times a day. She said that with pride as an example of her good parenting. Not even worth argueing with that.

    Like flossing my teeth, I’ve been being told to meditate for forever. Thanks for the right push at the right time. August is also my birthday month, except I’ll for some reason be turning 46.

    1. Glad you’ll be joining us in the challenge, Eric.

      I think having a timer is good for starters, as it gives us a bit of a push, and serves as a guide.

  17. Too bad I missed this! I’ll spare you the similarities save for being in higher math classes ;). Are you still meditating? I started just with a few minutes recently. Honestly, one minute is tough! Have you heard of Vipassana? http://www.dhamma.org/

      1. I happened to read your more recent blog after which revealed that you still practice. Cool. Thanks for the inspiration. πŸ™‚

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