On March 11th, 2013 I began the 21 Day Perfect Health Meditation Challenge hosted by Deepak Chopra and Oprah.
Why 21 days? Probably because popular belief dictates that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Apparently this idea originally came from anecdotal evidence in Maxwell Maltz’s self-help book Psycho Cybernetics. Personally I’ve found there to be a good amount of proof in that particular puddin’.
But before I go off on another food tangent… I should probably mention that up until that point in my life, I had never meditated before. Part of me always thought it was a little too woo woo, but I decided to put those feelings aside and give it a shot.
I’m really happy I did
There are many forms of meditation, but what I liked about this one was that it was guided every step of the way. A few words of wisdom in the beginning, and an introduction of the mantra for the day. Then some very soothing music, and a soft bell to indicate that it was time to stop. I felt as though Deepak was holding my hand through the entire process.
Interestingly enough, meditating actually reminded me of something I learned from Sid Efromovich in his happiness workshop. He talks about taking 10 minutes and simply sitting in silence. Not quite the same as meditation, but still very relaxing, and surprisingly helpful. He described it as a disk de-fragging for the mind.
For those of you who don’t know, computers store information on spinning discs (a.k.a. hard drives). When new information gets stored it is recorded on different areas of that disc. Later, your computer’s mechanical arm has to move around in order to access it. The more scattered the information, the more inefficient and time consuming the retrieval process becomes.
That is why every so often, it is a good idea to de-frag your hard drive. In other words, taking related information that is currently fragmented in different parts of the disc, and placing them next to each other. Less movement = faster, more efficient data retrieval.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no neurologist…but I believe something similar (at least in concept) might be happening inside my brain. When I sit in silence for 10 minutes a day, it seems to take all the chaotic, disparate elements and organizes, sorts, and brings them closer together for faster, more efficient recall. It also ends up being a nice way to de-clutter my mind.
Pretty cool right?
Back to meditation
I noticed that when I spent those 15 minutes per day meditating, I had an easier time focusing, especially during my prime productive time when working on my Wildly Important Goals (a.k.a. WIGs).
By this point I had already formed a habit of working from about 12-2 pm, eating lunch from about 2-3, and then meditating before going back to work. It helped energize and focus me for that 2nd round of work, which was typically more challenging than the 1st.
A particularly moving meditation session
Duration the first 9 minutes or so of the session (on the topic of breathing), I had a very clear vision of myself in the future.
I was laying in bed, in my high-rise condo in NYC. The one with the fully stocked bar, dance floor, and recording studio that I’ve been dreaming about for years.
On this particular serene Sunday morning, I was next to my gorgeous wife, holding her snugly in my arms. Just as the sun began peaking through the curtains I drew a deep, soothing breath. The recently cleaned apartment left a hint of pine sol in the air, along with a natural freshness created by the assorted plants that I kept near the window sill.
The sun lightly touched her face, and with her eyes half open she gave me the warmest smile I’ve ever seen. In that moment I was overcome with joy and gratitude. I felt very much like Richard Dreyfus’s character in the last scene of Mr. Holland’s Opus, when he is surprised with a school-wide assembly to honor his lifetime of hard work as a music teacher.
After all, my vision was not just some random hallucination. I felt as though I was looking into the future, and that it would only be a matter of time until it would turn into the present. All my hard work, personal and professional growth, overcoming countless setbacks and challenges, would eventually pay off.
Other benefits of meditation
If that wasn’t already enough, here are some other things meditation has done for me:
- Inspired 4-5 new daily affirmations.
- Lowered overall level of stress during the day.
- Improved productivity.
- Improved quality of sleep (positive correlation of meditation and sleep cycle quality data…more on that in a future post).
- Increased ability to focus on the present moment, and enjoy every part of it. Overall happiness definitely increased as a result.
This original meditation challenge has become a keystone habit for me (learn more about these habits that start a chain reaction in my post New Habits).
Since then I have already completed 3 other meditation challenges, and am going to finish my 4th today.
So what have you got to lose?
15 minutes of your day? As far as I’m concerned, those 15 minutes allow me to gain back time because I am more productive afterwards as a result.
Check out Deepak Chopra and his library of meditation resources. You’ll be happy you did!