I am a leaf on the wind, a zen master, and a techno-guru who inspires calm and balance in all those who gaze upon me. Okay, I’m actually a slow-motion train wreck. But I spent 30 days with the Headspace app, meditating my ass off, in order to fix that.
That’s another lie. The truth is, I set out to meditate for 30 days straight and failed miserably.
In one month I managed to complete a 10-minute meditation session 11 times, including one stretch that lasted for five days straight. Carving time out of my day is difficult, breaking decades-old habits is excruciating, but the practice of meditating is surprisingly easy.
Essentially it consists of a very simple concept: someone tells you to breathe in, then breathe out, and you think calm thoughts. I’ve been breathing for most of my adult life, so I’m half-way there right?
The app itself was a marvelous experience. It’s all very smooth, with disembodied voices describing nice things in pleasant tones. You are a gently flowing river, a ripple in a pond, a softly cresting wave – now you have to pee. I’m making this up, but you get the gist: it helps you focus your thoughts.
I wondered if I really needed an app for this. The short answer: yes, absolutely.
Headspace reminded me about upcoming sessions, congratulated me on completed ones, and sent me helpful information between. Which is good, this wasn’t something I was going to accomplish through calendar reminders alone.
The app took me by the hand, and each session spent less time explaining the process than the one before. It never took the training wheels off, but it didn’t bore me with its insight either. I never felt alone with my thoughts, which is important.
I’m sure there are people out there who can sit still for 10 minutes without losing focus – I am not one of them. I needed to be told what to do, especially since I was supposed to be doing nothing.
What I like most about Headspace is the approach it takes, treating meditation as a growth process. The app consistently reminded me that this wasn’t a pass/fail exercise. Still, in spite of that, I think I managed to fail exceptionally.
With shamefully infrequent regularity I fired up Headspace and set about meditating like a dog chasing a car.
The simple act of beginning meditation sends my brain into pandemonium! “Hello, and welcome to day three.” Ahh! Am I doing it right? A few sentences later, the voice would say, “and on the next breath, if you’re ready, go ahead and gently close your eyes.” This, of course, caused me to go into full-fledged panic mode.
How do I gently close my eyes? Did I do it too hard? Am I supposed to be looking at the back of my eyelids and noticing the blackness or should I zone out? Has it been 10 minutes? Are we done yet? Who the hell is in charge here? It’s been an hour, did my phone die? Should I check?
Inevitably the next thing I’d hear was “Good, now let’s begin,” causing me to realize the 10 minutes hadn’t even started yet.
Three days in a row I opened the app, set my phone down, and immediately got sucked into work. The first day on which I actually started the session — I didn’t make it all the way through. A couple of minutes in I opened my eyes, saw a message on my laptop screen, and zoned out with work, again. I decided to myself that day two would go better.
And it did! I was able to relax a little bit, and I managed to pull off five days in row. It was very exciting; I felt a bit less tense to start my day. My anxiety seemed almost bearable, meditation actually helped. Eureka!
Unfortunately, like any treatment, it only works if you use it. That’s the part I sucked at.
I wanted to meditate, I enjoyed it, so why wasn’t I taking the mere 10 minutes out of each day? For the same reasons I need to meditate. I’m anxious and stressed-out and sometimes ‘take 10 minutes for yourself’ doesn’t register on the priority-meter very highly. It should. Maybe I’m just American, or perhaps it’s the human in me. Meditation is simple and difficult at the same time.
While I can’t report that a meditation app fixed all my problems and made me a zen master, I can say that just 11 days with Headspace has me seeing lots of room for personal improvement.
Even though I didn’t ‘properly’ use the app every day, as directed, I can still hear that pleasant voice telling me:
“It’s okay if your mind wanders off, that’s perfectly normal. Whenever you realize this has happened just gently bring it back.”
So that’s what I’m doing – I’m going to gently bring myself back to the app, but I’ll do it tomorrow. I was too busy writing this story to meditate today.