They say it takes 30 days to condition a new habit or behavior. The most challenging part of implementing a new routine in your everyday life is making it through the first month, especially the first days. When the new habit “sinks in”, your brain stops questioning (why I am doing this? It hurts! I want to watch TV!) and is not taking part in the decision-making process anymore.
I started meditating a few years ago as an answer to stress and anxiety. And the first few days were rough. I didn’t really know how to do it and I felt very uncomfortable sitting on the floor without back support. It took me some time to figure out how I should incorporate meditation in my daily routine but once I did, it started having lots of positive side effects like making my heart beat more peacefully, reducing sweat and clearing my mind.
I’ve recently taken part in a conference held by the CEO of Saje (a Canadian brand of natural healing products based in Vancouver) – Jean-Pierre Leblanc – who opened up about the importance of meditation to increase well-being and peace of mind. He explained that he had created the acronym R.P.M (Rise, Pee, and Meditate) to summarize his own morning meditation routine. What a humoristic way to be on automatic pilot from early morning!
What works best for me is a 10 to 15 minutes meditation session in the morning just before I leave home to go to work. I bought a comfortable round meditation cushion that looks about like this (mine is in the attic of my grandma, I didn’t take it with me when moving to Canada. Right now, I learn to sit cross-legged without back support). Depending on my mood, I play Zen music in the background and I repeat my morning mantra. At the moment, it is “I love being confident”. Starting with this meditation session really helps me set the tone of the day.
Likewise in the evening before night time, I plan a slightly longer meditation session. I make sure that I don’t have anything to do after the meditation but go to bed and eventually read a book. In my opinion, going through the home from top to bottom or doing whatever house chores are left undone after meditation kills the benefits of relaxation. At night, I use a different mantra than in the morning and right now it is “I love being calm”. I like changing mantra from time to time to keep my brain engaged in my relaxation. And when I am on vacation, I like finding myself a nice spot to. There is no place like the beach with the music of the waves, a bench in a garden with the birds singing or the top of a mountain surrounded by silence to recharge the batteries.
Another powerful habit that I combine with meditation is the 5 minute journal. What a change it brought to my life!! The 5 minute journal is a book with daily entries that you have to fill yourself and that helps you focus on positivity. And it really only takes 5 minutes a day. Plus, the book is full of quotes, I really like that! There are 5 sections you have to complete with 3 statements for each that I will describe here:
– What are grateful for? In this section, I often reminds me of the things I have and that I take for granted. Like living in a peaceful country with no war, having access to running and hot water, getting 3 meals a day or having a family and friends. Noticing all the great things we have in our lives really helps putting things into perspective.
– What would make today great? Depending if it is a week day or the week-end, I focus on what my plans of the day are and I reflect on how I would like to behave. It could be “being organized”, “making things consciously”, “go to the gym” or “say thank you more often”.
– Affirmation: today I am… Have you heard about self-realizing prophecy? Basically, the idea is that what you think becomes your reality. So in this section, choose carefully. What do you want to be today? My answers would typically be “calm”; “peaceful”, “a good listener”, “courageous”, “radiant” and it really works!
– Amazing things that happened today: When you had an amazing day, this section is easy to fill. I sometimes write more than only 3 statements if I had one of those very, very good days. The challenge comes when your day was crappy. But this is also an opportunity for you to get better at only focusing on the positive things. When I have a bad day, I focus on things like the great food I ate, how much support I get from my friends or how beautiful the weather was.
– How could you’ve made today better? Calling oneself into question on a regular basis is like cleaning your ears or taking a shower. It’s not always funny but it has to be done. Otherwise, how can you identify your areas of improvement? I’ll share mine here, no one is perfect: “I could have had more faith in the future”, “I could have been more efficient”, ”I could have been more grateful of what I have”, “I could have been more helpful”.
Doing this exercise every single day, you might ask how the heck you are supposed to find new things to be grateful for, or how you can find amazing things that happened when you’re working under pressure and all days look the same. Well, this is the exact purpose of the journal. To get you thinking more and more about the positive things in your life. Because there are a lot of them just waiting to be identified. Don’t try to find fancy things such as: I am grateful for my new sports car or I slept in a 5-star hotel. Look out for the simple things such as your breathing, the fact that you sleep under a roof, or the lively dinners you can share with your loved ones. The more you get into the practice of searching for positive things in your life, the better you’ll get at it. I am sure you can do this!
As you might have noticed, I didn’t really get into the details of what meditation is and how to practice it. I think the topic is quite complex and I felt I couldn’t cover it in one single blog post. This is why I invite you to read one or all of the following books that really helped me get a concrete idea of what this is all about and how to get started.
– Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn: this is a very practical book about what meditation is and how to practice it. If you pick one of the three books, chose this one!
– Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan: This book is about emotional intelligence and mindfulness. In particular, you will learn that “Meditation is scientifically proven to work! Mindful meditation is not about controlling emotions, it is about observing them at “higher resolution” and that meditation is just breathing”. Just like the R.P.M reminder from Jean-Pierre Leblanc, I loved the SBNRR acronym better known as the “Siberian North Railroad Strategy”. It is a clever way to help you respond to your triggers rather than reacting to them. Stop. Breath. Notice. Reflect. Respond.
– The power of now by Eckart Tolle: this book is a guide to spiritual enlightment that highlights the importance of living in the present and avoid thinking about the past or the future. Being present is actually the one and only goal of meditation.
What about you? Are you a meditation guru or did you just discover it? How does it affect your life? Do you think the 5 minute journal is something that could help you? I’d love to hear your thoughts, don’t hesitate to drop a line in the comment section down below. It is always a pleasure to read from you. Un abbraccio (a hug in Italian).
Note: The 5 minute journal was created by Alex Ikonn & UJ Ramdas. Further information can be found here.