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Meditation Challenge Wrap-Up and December’s Challenge

I’ve just wrapped up a month of meditating almost every day. My intention was to do it every day of the month but between other work and long days, I didn’t feel up to it some sessions. The goal was to learn as much as I could and see what it was like. I’ve read so much about meditation and the benefits to anyone doing anything so I decided to give it a try.One of the biggest encouragements to try was through Jonathon Fields book Uncertainty. After reading through the examples of people using meditation as an anchor in their hectic lives to keep them grounded and live a creative life, I was convinced. I had to try it.Initially I had a few questions, I’ll answer them here as best I can but I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on meditation. I did it for 30 days and that’s about it. I will say right now that I like the practice very much if for nothing else than the relaxing few minutes of the day I could look forward too.What do I think about?I’m not sure which style I was focused more on while I was meditating. Vipassana or “insight meditation” is about just sitting, there is no thinking or focus involved just sitting. I read a bit about Zazen as well or the focus on the breath. I found this to be the easiest to do because it gave me something to focus on. I count to 10 and then start back at one. When you reach 20 or 30 you know you’ve been thinking about something else and can restart your count.What time of day should I meditate?I tended to sit and meditate when I got home after work. That was the time that worked best for me. Sometimes I would have too much coffee or my brain would be spinning from everything that happened that day and it was hard to slow everything down. I guess that’s one of the benefits of meditation is it can help you relax and organize your thoughts from the day. I’ve heard many good things about meditating early in the morning soon after you wake up. This helps you be present and mindful for the rest of the day instead of focusing on it near the end of the day. Early morning can be a peaceful and quiet time to sit as well.How long do I sit for?I used a recording from Blissitations and sat for 15 minutes each day. I found some days I couldn’t go a second longer than that, and some I took my time and ended up doing 25 or 30 minutes. I’ve read that anything more than 5 minutes can give you some benefit in terms of relaxation and starting to organize your mind but many say that 15 minutes would be he bare minimum you’d need to actually meditate.Do I listen to anything?I didn’t plan to listen to anything while meditating but sometimes it’s helpful to screen out sounds from around me. I’d get listening to something in my house and start thinking about the things I had to do around the house. I’ve read that listening to soothing sounds and counting at the same time splits your attention and that’s not really the point of the exercise. I found that I’d either be actively listening to the Blissitation or I’d be counting and not really both anyways.Did I listen to music? I didn’t listen to any music while I was doing it. The Blissitation I was using was 15 minutes long and a relaxing recording of the rain. I find that sound very relaxing to begin with so it worked well.  A lot of what I read said that music can be very distracting although there can be times where just listening to the music and only the music can be meditative.What’s a Binaural Beat?I ran across these things called Binaural Beats during my research. Apparently certain sounds can induce your brain into certain states. When you are meditating you want to get your brain to slow down and get into the states where the brain waves move slower. Delta is the slowest. Some people that have been meditating for a long time can get into that state from meditating but most can’t. Binaural Beats can help you get into that state by just listening to them and experience the benefits without having to meditate for years and years. One I came across was called Holosync and I saw a few different recommendations for it.  I did see some information about it causing “upheaval” periods so I decided not to try it now until I got more information about it. It was on the expensive side of the available products as well so it will have to wait.Should I sit or lay down?I tried laying down at first because I thought it would be a great time to catch up on my napping and that’s exactly what happened. I would fall asleep. I have read about people doing “napitations” which start as meditating and end up being a short nap. They can be beneficial if you need to catch up on your sleep at the same time. I ended up sitting for most of my sessions. I had troubles sitting in the lotus position or even cross-legged for 15 minutes. The indian position worked well or just sitting on the edge of a chair or couch. Sounds like whatever position that is comfortable to sit in for 15 minutes is ok.Should I close my eyes?I closed my eyes for most of my sessions. That lead to falling asleep when I was laying down but it was fine when I was sitting up. The traditional way to do it is to have your eyes slightly open and focused a few meters in front of you. This prevents you from falling asleep. The whole idea is that you are awake and present the entire time. You don’t want to have to close your eyes every time you want to relax during the day!Meditating before or after exercise?I ran a few times before and after meditating and both orders felt great. When I ran and then meditated I had to be careful to stretch and then get into my position for meditation or else I would stiffen up while sitting. Running is almost meditative for me anyways so the two went along well. I found I would be a lot more present on my run if I meditated first. I want to experiment with this more and see if there is more of a difference I missed the first few times I did it.What’s the next Spark Challenge for December?I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a Guitar challenge but wasn’t sure if I should just start on my own and see what happens or go take some lessons. I feel like guitar is one of those things that you can get some pretty bad habits engrained if you start practicing in earnest without having had some formal lessons.I’ve got a marathon training clinic coming up in January so I didn’t want to start any lessons that I’d only take for a few weeks. I am still doing the guitar challenge but it will be with a book and DVD set I have called “Learn Guitar in 24 Hours”. It sure sounds hokey but so far it’s been really good.I think almost any learning methods would work for guitar as long as I practice a ton. I’ve been doing about 15 -20 minutes a day so far and I’m sure feeling it in my fingers. Each day I go to practice, I feel it less though. I’m not sure how long it’s going to be before I can play as long as I want but I hope to keep up the practice as long as I can and get to a point where I can at least play a couple songs before having to take a finger rest!I’ve got a couple easy songs in my head that I’d like to learn how to play so the first couple weeks of December are going to be practicing chords and getting the basics down and then the last week, I’ll be trying to get a song or 2 learned.Anyone else doing a Challenge for December? If you are let me know so I can check out your progress!