Discover Yourself Mindful in May Wellness Wednesday

5 things I learned about Meditation, Mindfulness and Myself during the Mindful in May Challenge

June 27, 2018
5 things I learned about Meditation, Mindfulness and Myself

 

Do you meditate or take time each day to be more mindful and present in your life?

Do you feel sometimes that your mind is over-loaded, and you just can’t focus?

Do you feel anxious and stressed?

Then the practice of meditation and mindfulness each day might be just what you need!  Even a few moments each day can have a positive affect on our life.  Morning meditation can set you up for the day or Evening meditation can help to relax and calm your mind which helps us to achieve a better night’s sleep. Spot meditations throughout the day keeps us focused.

I recently started a challenge called Mindful in May to learn more about meditation and being mindful.  I had always thought that things like yoga and meditation were for those who lived an ‘alternative’ lifestyle.  Certainly not for someone like myself who has always lived my life more on the conservative side of the spectrum.

However, life seemed to change when I turned 50 and suddenly I was trying new things and experiences.  By my late 50s I had learned that I love to run and keep fit, even though in my younger years I was never very athletic.

My personal trainer suggested I try yoga to help me both physically with my back pain as well as mentally and spiritually. To my surprise it was totally different to what I expected.  I fell in love and now practice 2 – 3 times per week.

As a person who loves to keep active, I find that relaxing my mind and living in the present does not come easily to me.  I decided to join the Mindful in May Challenge.  The idea of the challenge was to form a habit of daily mediation and mindfulness.  Participants received daily guided meditations and interviews with experts in mindfulness and meditation. At the end of each week, I wrote a summary and shared my thoughts which you might like to read HERE.

5 things I learned about Meditation, Mindfulness and Myself during MIM

 

1. Be Open to New Experiences

For most of my life, I have lived on the conservative side of life. Participating and learning more about meditation has helped me be more open in my thoughts to new experiences.

Learning mindfulness means living in the present, rather than living with regrets of the past or longing for the future.  When we live in the present, we are more aware of new opportunities and experiences which can enrich our lives.

2. Your best is enough

I can’t sit still for 5 minutes and am usually quite active.  Taking the challenge of sitting quietly through a guided meditation for up to half an hour was not easy.  I struggled, especially in the first couple of weeks.

I decided to write my thoughts on the MIM Challenge Facebook Group and was overwhelmed with the response.  How I felt, was the same as many of the participants and the lesson I learned was that ‘my best is good enough’. 

If I know I am giving my all and that means some days not being able to complete the full challenge, then that is fine.  There is no need to beat myself up if some days my best is not as good as other days.

This proved to be easier said than done, as I found I was approaching meditation with a mind whirling with thoughts and then feeling guilty, so perhaps this is a WIP.

3. Using Wise Speech

The way we communicate and connect with others is important, especially within our relationships with family and friends. Sometimes our communication skills can cause confusion or have a detrimental affect on others.  Rick Hanson, Ph.D.,  a clinical psychologist, neuropsychologist and New York Times best-selling author, explained that using ‘wise speech’ will assist in positive communications.

Using Wise speech means asking ourselves these questions before speaking:

  • Well intentioned speech – is your speech coming from a place of being well intended or to tear the other person down?
  • Truthful – is what you are saying truthful?
  • Beneficial – is what you are saying helping your or the other person?
  • Not harsh – is your tone clean rather than nasty or harsh?
  • Timed – are you choosing the right time for a discussion?
  • Wanted – does the other person want your advice?

4. It is all about the breath

‘Coming back to the breath’ is a term I have heard used throughout the challenge.  When I first started meditating I found it difficult to stop thoughts entering my mind.  It seemed that once I told myself to clear my mind, thoughts just flooded in.

I’ve learned that it is okay to welcome thoughts during meditation, but to use the tool of focusing on the breath to help clear my mind.  Again, I found that this doesn’t happen immediately but takes practice.

When we feel anxious or stressed taking time to focus on our breathing has a calming effect.  Simply breathing in for 4 and out for 6 and concentrating on the number will clear your mind.

Many studies show that meditation does make you more resilient and able to cope with stress and  for ordinary depression, mindfulness can be just as effective as medication

5. You CAN slow down the aging process of your brain

We all know that our brains and reaction time slows as we age.  However, studies have shown that exercising your brain can help to slow down and, in some cases, reverse the aging process.

Daily mediation as well as brain exercises such as crosswords, sudoku, learning and creativity, gives you a mental workout like a physical exercise. As little 5 – 10 minutes of mindful meditation will have short-term beneficial effects, especially with your ability to concentrate.

My thoughts on the Challenge itself

After completing four weeks of the challenge and I am grateful for these 5 learnings, however, I did feel at the end that the Challenge was completely overwhelming due to the amount of information provided.  I found that the information overload made me feel stressed and I had difficulty during the meditation sessions.

This was reflected in my weekly summary, however, I do believe that meditation is worthwhile and I’m not giving up on making part of my lifestyle.

 

Do you practice daily meditation and mindfulness?

What are some ways you use to reduce stress and anxiety in your life? 

Would you be willing to improve your daily mindfulness and live in the present?

5 things I learned about Mindfulness, Meditation and Myself during the Mindful in May Challenge

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This post was first published at Sixty and Me

 

 

 

 

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47 Comments

  • Reply The Widow Badass June 27, 2018 at 04:18

    Hi Sue,

    I tried the Mindful in May challenge a few years ago, and I found it a bit overwhelming as well. I got behind and never completed it. There are many good meditation apps and YouTube guided meditation videos, that are free and easy to access tools. I even found mindful yoga videos, which kills two “alternative lifestyle” birds with one stone…LOL! Like you, despite my difficulties in slowing down my mind, I do find meditation to be a helpful practice. I hope that others who read your post give it a try.

    Deb

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 06:34

      Oh I’m glad someone else felt it was overwhelming because I certainly found it an overload of information. I don’t think they needed the videos but anyway I gave it a try. I did gain some learnings from the experience and wouldn’t rule out trying meditation in the future. Perhaps I should try an app as you suggested. Have a beautiful day, Deb x

  • Reply Candi Randolph June 27, 2018 at 04:28

    I work at not being too hard on myself when I feel like I haven’t accomplished enough in a day. Like you, I don’t sit still for more than a few minutes, even though doing just that might be the best thing for me at the time. I really like the thoughts about using wise speech, as I (and I’ll be a few others) tend to start talking without considering all of those things. Great post!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 06:27

      Hi Candi, I think we can all be hard taskmasters on ourselves, however, I’m learning that if I give my best then that is good enough. I’m trying to take some quiet time each day and not feel ‘guilty’ about it, like I should be doing something. Glad you enjoyed the post and have a beautiful day xx

  • Reply Karen Hume June 27, 2018 at 05:46

    Hi Sue,
    I’ve practiced meditation off and on (far more off than on) for a dozen years. I definitely see the benefits and I have also experienced the full range of challenges that you’ve mentioned. I think the most important of your five learnings is “Your best is enough.” If you can embrace that one, that alone will change your life.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 06:25

      Hi Karen, as you know I really struggled with the overwhelming amount of information. It was not a good introduction for me but at least I gave it a try 🙂

  • Reply Terri Webster Schrandt June 27, 2018 at 06:53

    It is interesting that you say you experienced information overload during this challenge, Sue! Seems so counter-intuitive! I always view meditation as peaceful, although I don’t practice much. My brain races too much and if stilled, I would just fall asleep 🙂 I get into a bit of a meditative state when I practice yoga, being able to focus on the journey of each pose, but the athlete in me just keeps strategizing the next position. Like you said, at least you tried!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 06:58

      Yes, Terri I think there was just too much information on the video interviews to be absorbed as well as longer meditations. Like you I prefer the meditative state we can find in yoga. I also find that if I’m running on my own I can find a level of calm, even if my body isn’t feeling it! 🙂

  • Reply agnesknowles June 27, 2018 at 07:59

    I love my Meditation habit and can usually “get into the zone” fairly quickly if I’m consistent. I discovered its benefits after I turned 60 and was broad-sided by dismay. Adding Gratitude and Mindfulness into my life at the same time reaped so many benfits and I feel their loss if I let Life guide me instead of the opposite.
    Visiting via #MLSTL and looking forward to sharing your lessons learned!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 15:05

      Hello Agnes and so pleased you linked up this week. I was interested to read how you were ‘broad-sided by dismay’. Sometimes I feel that way too but I find exercise as well as being grateful for my life certainly helps. I do think that Meditation requires practice and I don’t think the challenge Mindful in May was the best way to introduce myself to the process. Have a great week and thank you for sharing xx

  • Reply Jennifer June 27, 2018 at 09:46

    One of my meditation teachers compared it to trying to train a puppy to stay on a mat. You can get the puppy to stay on the mat for a little bit, but the puppy gets bored and wants to investigate things off the mat. Your job as the puppy trainer is to continue bringing the puppy back to the mat. Not to punish it, just to bring it back. Each and every time the puppy leaves the mat your bring it back. Your mind is the puppy. Each time your mind wanders it’s your job to bring it back to the meditation. I still need to bring my puppy back to the mat and that’s ok.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 15:09

      Oh thank you Jennifer that makes me feel so much better. My puppy just would not stay on the mat! Your teacher’s idea is a great way to view meditation and a wandering mind. I’m going to think about you and this idea now whenever my puppy runs off the mat! Thanks for visiting and have a great day! xx

  • Reply Denyse June 27, 2018 at 10:11

    As I saw you and Min join this I thought ‘great’ and then as I saw updates about it I also realised it was a LOT to be taking in. I hope that you get the videos etc you have paid for as downloads. That said:
    1. I started meditation daily via the headspace program in March 2015. I criticised myself for ‘not getting rid of the thoughts’…I wondered why meditation did not have instant effect on me!
    2. As 2015 went on, I continued to meditate and learn over time (still learning) that thoughts and emotions will come and go if we do not interact with them
    3. In 2016 I was “still anxious” and needed to learn much more about mindfulness. My husband had become a self-taught mindful person through experience and the counselling degree he was doing. I embraced reading more and learning more from teachers on CD such as Tara Brach, Rick Hanson and Jack Kornfield.
    4. In 2017 my anxiety escalated but I still did as many mindful things as I could: go outside, look up, walk on the beach, take photos and continue meditation.
    5. May 2017 my cancer diagnosis saw a shift from endless anxiety to ‘anxiety about’ and that was when the Headspace pack on Cancer for 30 days was terrific.
    So, what do I do now? I was due to renew Headspace next week but was getting bored with it so I now have the app called Calm (paid) and it to date the best change I could have made.
    I have many tools to help me now and can call on them as needed. It is a S L O W learning and once anyone like me can do it…you can too!!
    Denyse x

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 15:15

      I’m so pleased I’m not the only one that struggled with meditation Denyse. We did’t get to keep the videos and to be honest by the end I was so over it all, I wouldn’t have absorbed them anyway. Meditation isn’t as easy as it sounds and I have seen Calm advertised on Facebook so perhaps I might give that a try. You have given me encouragement by saying it is a slow learning process because I just thought it was me! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Denyse and have a beautiful week. xx

  • Reply Natalie June 27, 2018 at 10:23

    Hi Sue, I meditate every morning when I wake up and at night before bed. I also practice deep breathing. I find both meditation and deep breathing great techniques for stress management and self-awareness. Thanks for sharing your MiM experiences.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 10:57

      It can be so calming can’t it Natalie. I find though I’m fighting against it sometimes – my mind isn’t in the right place so I go for a walk or a run to help me relax. x

  • Reply Min@WriteoftheMiddle June 27, 2018 at 11:03

    Those are 5 very excellent takeaways from doing the challenge Sue. It WAS a lot of information and overwhelming which did defeat the purpose of being relaxed and calm. I got through it all, watched all the interviews, did the meditations, did my weekly posts but I was stressed too. The only meditation I have done since the challenge is when I go to Yoga on a Friday. Life has been busy but life is always going to be busy, so obviously I still have a way to go with regards to incorporating meditation into my daily life! xo

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 15:17

      Thanks Min! I really was over it all by the end and felt it was stressing me out more than helping. I know they suggested not to worry about watching the videos but then what was the point of having them? I’m like you and have just meditated during yoga or walking. I’m not beating myself up about it though as I think we all find our own way eventually. xx

  • Reply Jennifer Jones June 27, 2018 at 11:15

    Like you Sue, I’m always on the go. It’s only been recently that I’ve started thinking about mindfulness when following your MIM Challenge. So far active mindfulness is all I’ve managed. I was really interested to read the 5 lessons you learnt. Using wise speech really resonated with me. Very good advice there

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 15:20

      I Jen, I think as long as we are mindful we have to find it in our own way. Active mindfulness can be just as valuable and I think that some of us just aren’t made to sit still for long periods. That might seem an excuse but I feel that whatever works for the individual should be the gauge. Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful week. xx

  • Reply Michele June 27, 2018 at 12:17

    I don’t do yoga and don’t love the term meditation because it sounds so official and serious, but I do relish my quiet morning hour to myself. It is my form of meditation. I usually read, with plenty of time to think, and often get my best insights then. I have come to treasure that hour.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 15:26

      Hi Michele, I love yoga but the jury is out on meditation – perhaps because of my recent experience. I do a similar routine each morning as you and that is a form of meditation. I agree that the word does sound serious, a little like ‘exercise’ can sound like hard work and a chore, so I would prefer to use the term ‘movement’. Thank you for sharing your wise words with me xx

  • Reply Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au June 27, 2018 at 14:00

    I love that we can keep learning new things all through our life Sue. All the things you’ve taken away from the May Challenge are going to have ongoing benefits for your life – the thoughts about breathing and thinking before you speak and being in the moment are all so powerful and useful. And we’re off to another great start for #MLSTL – I’ve shared this on my SM xx

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 15:29

      I agree, Leanne and it doesn’t matter if we succeed or not, as long as we have a learning to take away is most important to me. I particularly liked the Wise Words takeaway and also the breathing. We make a great team and are building a community of bloggers with similar ideas which was our goal. Very happy with #MLSTL. xx

  • Reply Jan Wild June 27, 2018 at 14:11

    I recall when you were doing the challenge that it seemed like a lot of information and ideas for you to take on. But having said that I love your list of 5 things you learned. I always find focussing on my breath challenging although I do know that slowing it down works really well when I am feeling under pressure.
    I used to meditate every day but I have slipped in my practice lately. I do always do a mental 5 things I am grateful for at the end of every day; it really helps me to slip off to sleep and it is good to be reminded how wonderful life is. Sharing this xx

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 15:33

      Hi Jan, it certainly was information overload and in retrospect I would not have undertaken it if I had known how much was involved. I’ve never been good at meditation and thought the MIM might help. However, I did take away some learnings and like everything it was certainly a new experience. Thanks for sharing, my friend xx

  • Reply Jo June 27, 2018 at 14:14

    Some hugely interesting thoughts here Sue and relevant for me right now. I need to have some difficult conversations and the tips about thinking before you speak and coming from a place of good intention, not being harsh and good timing are things I definitely need to remember.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 27, 2018 at 15:34

      I’m pleased that the post may be helpful to you Jo. Not so pleased that you have to have difficult conversations, though. I’m never very good at that. Good luck xx

  • Reply Denyse Whelan June 27, 2018 at 15:58

    Thanks Sue, from what I know everyone who meditates and practises mindfulness finds days which challenge them. My thoughts are to never give it up completely but to work on ways in which it might help you. I take a lot of notice of what I see when I am out and about and that is mindfulness. I too, as Natalie says below, practice breathing more evenly when I notice more stress or shallow breathing. it really is a long term thing and you have had a taste of it. I reckon you would be very mindful holding your new grandson. Taking in how he looks, feels and what you hear. Staying connected in the moment now as much as you can helps. I am pretty rubbish at it but can bring myself back to the present far more easily now instead of going down the future path of worry. Denyse

  • Reply samfiftysomething June 27, 2018 at 19:00

    I’m someone who has always seemed to go about life at speed, with a million and one things to do and another million and one things waiting to be done. Since I started to take a step sideways, have a little more time for myself and do the things I want to do rather than have to do, I have started Yoga which is absolutely wonderful and as you know, so incredibly beneficial is many ways. The other thing though, which I have been conscious to find time for is meditation and you have got me started Sue, by reading your posts I have found the time most days to find that quiet space, but I have to admit it’s not every day. Reading this today is helping me to again, find that time for me 🙂 Thank you

  • Reply thatblogwherecheriemovestogermany June 27, 2018 at 19:48

    I meditate daily, but I would like to add an evening meditation as well. Haven’t managed that yet as our evenings are so packed full and seem to go by so quickly.
    The breathing always helps me if I am feeling stressed or anxious. Good stuff 🙂

  • Reply Victoria June 27, 2018 at 23:06

    I do need to live in the moment. I have a tendency to live in the future. Yoga didn’t work well for me though I do need to stretching and the slow movement it made my joints hurt more than other exercises. I tried it twice a week for about 3 months. I have tried meditation before and I seem to drift off to sleep but since I feel I really need this right now and I am going to try again.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 29, 2018 at 11:28

      I think we all can fall into the habit of thinking and living in the future, Victoria. I’ll be happy when…. etc. I’m sorry Yoga didn’t work but perhaps Pilates might be a better option? Meditation certainly isn’t as easy as it sounds but glad that you are going to give it another try. Have a lovely weekend and thanks for stopping by xx

  • Reply Trisha Faye June 28, 2018 at 09:33

    I used to meditate quite regularly 4-5 mornings a week. Then with a change of work and change of routine, I got out of the habit. I need to reestablish this morning practice. I found that life went smoother and I was more in tune with myself and those around me when I did. Thanks for the post and this reminder!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 29, 2018 at 11:32

      Oh you are good Trisha Faye, I really struggled with doing it every day. Life can certainly get in the way can’t it and it is so easy to fall out of some of our good habits. We can always get back on track though! Have a great weekend and thanks for stopping by xx

  • Reply Christie Hawkes June 28, 2018 at 12:19

    I can relate to your experience with mediation, Sue. When I first started meditating, I thought the purpose was to clear your head and sit completely still. I found that impossible and stress inducing. Then when it was suggested to me to just acknowledge the thought and turn my attention back to my breath, I was able to relax into it, and now I quite enjoy it. I’ve been meditating daily (usually in the morning) for over a year now. Some sessions are more rewarding than others, but I do think it helps with my overall mindfulness and my ability to calm myself with my breath when I start getting tense. I am actively working to improve my mindfulness, and I appreciate you sharing what you learned in your mindfulness challenge.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 29, 2018 at 11:34

      Hi Christie, I like to achieve and because my mind kept wandering I was getting so frustrated with myself, which defeated the whole purpose. I find I enjoy the few moments at the end of my yoga sessions and can certainly feel the benefit from taking a few moments to just breathe, relax and be mindful. x

  • Reply Debbie Harris June 28, 2018 at 19:00

    I’m glad to read your positive post on this experience Sue! You are right to focus on the breathing, I know this helps me at times, although I don’t actually meditate. Great recap of your course!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 29, 2018 at 11:36

      Hi Deb! I really strugggled with the whole concept really so I’m not sure if meditation is the way for me. I find I can be mindful when I’m walking and use breathing if I’m feeling stressed. The course certainly was an experience and we can always learn something even if we don’t enjoy the experience. x

  • Reply Molly June 28, 2018 at 21:54

    I do try to find joy in the present – but I’m not sure I could manage a thirty-minute meditation without the monkey mind taking over 🙂 I love the idea of Wise Speech – especially with regard to my own self-talk. My inner critic speaks so harshly and I never think of standing up to her. I would never allow anyone else to talk to me that way! I think I need to practice Wise Speech with my internal thoughts.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 29, 2018 at 11:38

      I struggled with the 30 minute plus meditation Molly. Like you, I think the best learning I took from the course was Wise Speech. Our inner critics are our own worst enemies aren’t they. I’ve just read that chapter in Julia Cameron’s book about The Inner Censor – mine works overtime I’m sure 🙂 Have a great weekend xx

  • Reply Donna McNicol June 29, 2018 at 03:35

    I really need to make time to try this…thanks for a great article. #MLSTL visitor (shared on SM)

    • Reply Sue Loncaric June 29, 2018 at 11:41

      I hope you gathered some inspiration Donna but as you say it isn’t always easy to fit everything in is it? I found I struggled with the meditation but have found other ways to focus on the NOW. Have a great weekend and thanks for sharing xx

  • Reply Elizabeth July 8, 2018 at 00:53

    Hi Sue,

    I don’t practice meditation, yet, but i’ve been wanting too for a long time. The things you’ve learned are help and this helps me get motivated. So far I generally read to help me de-stress. Trying to calm my brain down and focus my thoughts is really hard for me but as with anything, practice makes perfect. 🙂

    Blessings,
    Elizabeth

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 9, 2018 at 07:06

      I love reading Elizabeth and find it does reduce stress when we can get lost in a good book. Meditation isn’t for everyone but even trying to calm the mind when you go for a walk can help. Have a great week and thanks for stopping by xx

  • Reply Joanne Sisco July 18, 2018 at 21:05

    I’m late to this email, but its message was really relevant for me. Meditation is one of those things I’ve always regretted not ‘mastering’ a long time ago in my youth. More than even exercise, my impression is that it would have seriously helped me through the roller coaster ride of motherhood and career.

    I have tried – oh I have tried. Why is it SO HARD to just let go? However some time ago I realized that certain activities gave me a zen-like oneness with myself … like running and swimming. Concentrating on just my breathing while eliminating every other thought was so easy then. So I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this is my kind of meditation. Walking now has replaced running and yoga has replaced swimming, but I still get the head clearing benefits. I guess it’s just a matter of finding what works for us as individuals.

    For me, I need more work on sitting still.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 19, 2018 at 15:41

      Hi Joanne, I’m with you and found meditation very difficult. I much prefer my own form of meditation when I run or workout. I always feel great after physical activity and I do feel I clear my mind to focus on what I’m doing. I agree that we need to find what is best for us rather than feeling guilty because we meditation isn’t our thing. Have a great week and thanks for stopping by xx

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