Since mindfulness is one of the latest trending topics, I decided to learn more about it. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness is the psychological state of awareness, and through meditation, one can practice being fully present in a current situation.
Story by Jacqueline Martinez
Illustrations by Sonia Margolin
There are different ways to connect to your mind and body. “For me, mindfulness is a practice in slowing down and simply paying attention,” meditation and yoga instructor at Wanderlust Yoga Studio Kate Waitzkin says.
With this newfound knowledge in mind, I decided to do a five-day meditation challenge. I googled several meditation guides, picked the easiest to follow and decided to start the upcoming Monday.
Day One — Breathing Is Distracting
Although I was not thrilled about waking before sunrise, I was up and ready for meditation day one. Prepared to focus on a breathing exercise, I read the directions from the guided challenge I found online and tried to pay careful attention to my breath. I went back to my breathing exercise and found myself counting my breaths: in 7 seconds, hold 10, exhale and repeat to keep from getting distracted.
Remembering to meditate in between classes was a challenge, so I only remembered when I was on the bus ride home from school. I tried to control and elongate my breath, while concentrating on allowing the worries I accumulated during the day to leave my body. Finding peace in your head is a persistent challenge.
I meditated in bed. As I concentrated on my breathing, referring to the instructions from the exercise I did this morning, I fell asleep.
Day Two — Visualizing Flowery Fields
I read the instructions and laid back down. I was instructed to breathe deeply and visualize a flower field with my favorite flowers. The instructions proceeded to tell me to smell the field I was in, but no matter how hard I tried, this sensory task proved rather difficult.
I concentrated on my breathing, inhaling deeply, holding my breath and then exhaling slowly. I should have devoted these five minutes of my day to this exercise, but I found myself planning my dinner and the homework I was determined to conquer that night.
Too tired to practice imagery meditation as I got ready for bed, I fell asleep before I could picture the field of flowers.
Day Three — Mindfulness
I woke up excited for this next challenge. The key to mindfulness is to be in the present and focus on what is happening right now. I climbed out of bed and sat on my rug with my legs crossed and gazed at the floor with my eyes half open. I paid close attention to my breath without changing it, and this time I was allowed to let my mind wonder. Instead of forcing thoughts out of my head, I was instructed to observe them.
During my midday break, I decided to sit and relax outside and work on my breathing again. I decided to be more mindful, so as I breathed, I listened to my surroundings. In five minutes, I actually did feel calmer and ready to continue with my busy day.
I sat on my rug ready to be mindful, but instead all I heard was my roommates talking, a TV in the background and the pitter patter of our weenie dog’s paws as he chased his ball around the apartment. In my defense, I was definitely present and observant of the now.
Day Four — Breathing
At this point, I felt like I was constantly being told how to breathe, and I couldn’t help but get distracted. It was definitely harder than it seemed.
I was instructed to lay down and “feel how my body expands as a sponge as I breathe in, and feel how the air exits my body through the pores.” No matter the concentration, I only felt my breath exit through my nose not the pores I was supposed to picture.
This final breathing exercise of the day was meant to destress me, so I would not have a bad sleep, but as per usual, the only thing on my mind was the growing list of things I had to do the next day.
Day Five — Body Scan
I was excited for the final day of the challenge. I was instructed to lie down and release any tension in my body starting with my toes. I tried my hardest, but I still could not demand my muscles to release tension.
It was time for another five minute breathing exercise to charge me up for the rest of the day. I was thankful for this because after a long stressful week, five minutes of catching your breath and relaxing is what I needed to make it home.
Again, I was challenged with the body scan exercise, I still felt like I failed. However, on the bright side, I did get enough relaxation to quickly fall asleep.
Mastering meditation requires a lot of skill and practice. In five short days of meditating, I realized a couple things:
First, I am not very well connected to my body. I realized rather quickly that I do not have the control to tell my body to release tension and to concentrate solely on breathing, because I was so easily distracted.
Second, I’m not very good about living and paying attention to the now. I also realized that I am always making lists, and anxious about things to come, and things I have to do. Taking time to reflect on what is going on in the current moment is important, and I definitely need practice.