30 Day Brain Cleanse Challenge: Week 1 Report

Last week I announced my 30-Day Brain Cleanse Challenge, in which I planned to meditate every day for a month.  During Week 1 I planned to do two sessions per day, at 5 minutes a piece.  I’m happy to say that I only missed two sessions total all week, and I did manage to get at least one session in every day.  I hadn’t really expected much from a 5-minute session, but I looked at the first week as a simple lead-in to doing longer sessions, kind of like doing girlie push ups.  I was actually pleasantly surprised at the changes I noticed even after a few days, however.

Nothing transcendent happened–I am not completely serene and at one with the world.  Still, I did notice subtle shifts in my meditation over the course of the week.  For the first few days, I was happy to get through the sessions without totally zoning out or peeking at the clock, and I found myself looking forward to the little windows of down time.  By mid-week, I had started to feel like I was getting better at physically calming myself down more quickly and effectively.  I found it easier to slow down my breathing at well, and to let some of the tension out of my muscles.  Those skills don’t yet seem to be extending to times when I’m stressed or upset, but hopefully they will with more practice.

For the last few days, though, I’ve become much more aware of my thoughts while I’m meditating.  I’ve kept with the 1-2-3-inhale, pause, 1-2-3-exhale, pause, which sometimes seems to switch after a few minutes to “I am calm” on the inhale and “I am relaxed” on the exhale.  In the sessions I did in the past few days I’ve become a lot more aware of other thoughts that pass through my mind, even while the counting or repetitions continue.  When I’m more relaxed at the start of a meditation, they tend to flit around with the amazing swiftness and variability of free association.  When I’m more stressed, though, my mind seems to serve up a buffet of worries, one after the other.  The part of this that I find interesting is the readiness with which I can replace one anxious thought with another, the minute the first is dismissed.  “Deadline at work” appears, and as quickly as I can let go of the thought, there’s another–“did that lymph node seem a little swollen?”  It’s like my mind is insisting that I worry about something, and it’s prepared to offer and endless array of selections until something sticks.  I’m not sure what that means at this point, but it’s an interesting observation. 

This week I’ll be doing a 5-minute and a 10-minute session each day, which comes just in time for a deadline push at work.  My stress level always seems to increase in tandem with external demands on my time, and I’m curious to see if the meditation breaks can help me feel a little less pressure.  Here’s hoping!

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