In my last post, I wrote about a decision I made years ago that helped me navigate the self-critical voices in my head and challenge their disapproving chatter. As a result, my inner-landscape-thoughts turned in a new direction. The directional change was slow, but that decision led me to experience myself and the world as kinder and gentler. The outside world hasn’t gotten any kinder; but my inside world has.
A few years ago, I made another good decision: I started meditating on a regular basis. Meditation takes the learning from that earlier decision and deepens it. It helps me tap into greater equanimity and contentment. I feel more balanced, less tilted toward finding things wrong and getting upset.
Andy Puddicombe is my meditation guide, his lessons delivered via the Headspace app.
Bubba discovered Headspace after coming across a talk Andy did at Google in 2014. Andy is the voice and experience of Headspace, having spent ten-years studying meditation before being ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk.
Prior to finding Headspace, I tried to meditate. I wanted meditation to help me empty my mind; free it of thoughts. But no matter how hard I tried, my mind always had thoughts bouncing about. I felt like a failure and was too impatient to see if time and practice would ultimately clear my head.
Then I began using Headspace, starting with the three foundation courses. Each course has 10 individual sessions that introduce meditation concepts and techniques; Andy guides the sessions, interjecting reassuring comments and lessons about our minds wandering, making it clear we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens. “Just note the thought and let it go, then come back to the breath,” he’d say. Under Andy’s guidance, I worried less about doing it wrong; I could relax, and hear the wisdom imparted with his words.
Over time I realized an empty mind wasn’t the goal of meditation, mindfulness was. Mindfulness was about being aware of the mind when it wandered, not if it wandered. Because it would wander. Being aware of the wandering—noticing the thoughts versus being lost in them—and bringing the focus back to the breath was the goal, not attaining an empty mind. It was an important distinction.
Bubba and I operate under a premise we need to hear something 19-times before we start to get it. True or not, it takes the perfection pressure off when we’re slow at getting something. And makes repetition a good thing.
Meditating regularly allows us to hear Andy bring his wisdom over and over, delivered through a variety of meditation options: packs, singles, kids and animation videos. The videos—short and playful—explain concepts clearly and creatively.
Within the eight packs—which include topics like Health, Happiness, and Sport—there are sub-topics. The Happiness pack has eight sub-topics, including Self-Esteem, Patience, Acceptance, and Kindness. Subtopics run 10 or 30 sessions and most limit your meditation time to no more than 20-minutes; the six Pro Packs are an exception to the 20-minute limit.
Through all of the meditations and videos, concepts get repeated, yet feel new. I’m learning how to visualize and rest in awareness; how to scan my body and focus my attention. I practice noting my thoughts and feelings, characterizing them as pleasant or unpleasant; calm or restless. I practice letting thoughts go. I’m reminded my thoughts and feelings aren’t me. I’m reminded there’s something beyond thought and feeling, a blue sky that is always there, even when storm clouds hide it.
The lessons, repeated, have been sinking in. They’ve resulted in a growing awareness that there’s space between my physiological reaction to something and how I respond to it. The lessons are helping me enlarge that space.
One of the reasons Walk the Goats exists is it helps me understand the personal development path I’m on, in particular lessons about non-attachment. Headspace is a wonderful guide. It gives me a chance to practice sitting still, noting my thoughts and letting go. By imagining thoughts and feelings as characters delivering their lines in a play, I’m able to create distance from them; to be less attached. I see them less as me and more as different aspects of my ego, each one playing whatever role they’ve been cast to fill.
I have a growing awareness of space—like a breath—between my body’s physiological reaction and what I do with that reaction, just like there’s space between two musical notes. I sense it’s in that space where stillness rests; where inner calm is possible; where skill and proficiency are honed.
Photo sources: Headspace meditation
More Headspace Information:
- Andy Puddicombe Ted Talk (9 minutes)
- Guided 10-Minute Meditation with Andy Puddicombe
- Headspace Animations (1-2 minute videos; definitely worth watching)
- Andy Puddicombe talk at Google (1 hour, 25 minutes)
- Headspace YouTube Channel (various free videos and short meditations)
- Headspace Blog
- About Andy Puddicombe