I took up @Naval Ravikant’s 60 day meditation challenge and have been tracking it on Evernote. Below are all my daily scribbles, and some overarching reflections.
I’ve been meditating on and off for years. I get carried away with the enthusiasm of a new method, the music or voice on an app, the promise of what it might all lead to. Typically, after a few weeks, whatever I’ve imagined the promised outcome to be, hasn’t materialised, so I put it down, treating it as something I’ll come back to, whenever the time is right.
I turned 40 at the end of last year and went through a period where I felt the pressures of life from all sides: young children, one of who had just started at school, a contract in a workplace with a toxic environment, financial worries (exacerbated after the contract ended suddenly) and the general feeling of overwhelm following a year full of bad news. If ever there was a time to revisit my old friend meditation, this was it.
In recent years I’ve used the Headspace and Calm apps, as well as tried binaural beats of different kinds. I’d always wanted to try Sam Harris’s Waking Up app though, so decided to sign up.
I got on well with this approach, which is based more in neuroscience than other types I’ve tried before. And I used it (almost) daily for about 3 months, from 10-20 minutes.
Then life took over again, we entered the Covid-19 lock down phase, my children were at home, and I couldn’t seem to carve out any time during the day for meditaiton, despite knowing that it was one of the best things I could do to maintain a clear mind in the current time.
And that, perhaps, is the heart of it. Knowing it’s good for me, and making time for it in my life, are different things. I’ll come back to how I’ve tackled that in a different post.
One day, a couple of months into the lock down, I had a twitter notification of a post by Naval Ravikant, where he described his 60 day meditation challenge
What stood out for me was the length (60 minutes for 60 days), the timing (first thing in the morning, before doing anything else with your day), and the acknowledgement that it won’t be easy (which I took to mean that this will surface a tonne of bad stuff that you may have buried deep, years earlier, and never dealt with). But also that this will leave you with a feeling of peace.
I’ve always suspected that 10-20 minutes of meditation doesn’t really take you far enough, even if you practice daily. But then I’ve always tried to fit this in during the day, so it could never be much longer. Now I’m not commuting and my kids wake up like clockwork at around 7am, I have a timetable I can work with more easily.
The timing felt right, so I decided to set my alarm for 5.15 every day and aim to be up by 5.30. I’d also recently started a 30 day challenge to do 10 minutes of yoga a day (doyouyoga.com) and decided to combine the two – yoga first to stretch out and warm up, then 60 minutes of meditation.
As I write this, I’m just over half way through the challenge. I’ve missed three days through exhaustion, but overall kept going and enjoyed it. Things I’ve noticed so far:
- This has given me a lasting peace of mind during the day that I haven’t experienced before. I noticed this especially on day 28, when I was irritated throughout the morning.
- I’ve had some strong insights amongst all the random thoughts which have popped up. Most prominent of which so far is the focus of this blog (although hat-tip to my wife who held the mirror up to me early in lock-down and told me I should do something like this).
- I have surfaced my fears, watched my reaction to them, and they don’t look that scary. I can’t yet say if I’ve faced them all down.
- I’ve discovered an effective ‘reset’ process for when my mind wanders off (see day 23 for details).
60 days of detail, straight from Evernote
Start with 7 days. 5/5.30am start time
Things I’ve been thinking about during the sessions and later reflections
- 15/6 – 45 mins first session
- 16/6 – fears about money in short-term (now I’m about to take a permanent role) and long-term (retirement)
- 17/6 – having a vision for my life in my 40s and beyond. Strong behind the eyes visuals
- 18/6 – the anxiety I felt between starting university and my mid-20s, the thought of B dying. Throbbing in my temples, not unpleasant
- B noticed I was not tired at the end of the day, despite waking up early
- 19/6 – lots of mental movies. Temple throbbing.
- Whatsapped Rishi about kundalini after googling the throbbing. Chakras?
- In the evening I drove into London to dress the flat. On the return journey I noticed that despite being tired and hungry, my mind was calm and I was thinking very little.
- 20/6 – no main themes. Let thoughts go easily. Less throbbing in temples. Stopped after 50 mins as Dylan woke up and couldn’t find me or Bhavisha.
- 21/6 Showed up despite late night, hangover and it being father’s Day. A few anxious thoughts about not having a plan for later life, goals, finances. Otherwise thoughts coming and going.
- Later in the day. Took Dylan to football. My first time socialising with people since the lockdown began. Didn’t feel much awkwardness. Afterwards had a sense of peace and stillness which helped me manage two tired children through lunch
- Feel a tangible sense of progress after a week. Want to see what benefit a few early nights would add.
- 22/6 – busy mind. Had a couple of phases where I watched the thoughts pass easily. Otherwise they kept popping up and I kept getting caught up in them. Although eventually recognised this and returned to, well more my visual playground than my breath.
- One thought that stood out was ‘always prepared’, about having better conversations with people. Think of things ahead of time so I have something to ask about.
- Later thoughts, Im seeking clarity of mind. Hasn’t that always been my mission? Why I never noticed the chatter when hungover, but all other times. Why I went to China. Why I like bullet proof coffee. Why meditation and fasting interest me.
- Handled the kids well after they got back from school/trip grumpy because they both fell asleep in the car.
- Tired and grumpy in the evening myself though.
- Quite a few negative thoughts this evening – wondering where any good financial news will come from. If B and I will ever reach times of great income again. If we’ll fall out of favour with some school parents for XYZ reasons, if my future is secure. Lots of successfully beating myself up. B pretty down today too.
- Bed by 10.30
- 23/6 busy mind, trying to plan – work day and clear mind side project, imagining me giving talks, making videos etc.
- Felt good afterwards
- 24/6 – 10 days. Thoughts about the flat and the effort of re-letting it. About working in Wealth, whether it’s too small a market, if I won’t succeed because I’m not in a particular ‘group’ or liked by some god-awful recruiter in our industry. Thoughts about how mum and dad never seemed to push that hard for anything they wanted.
- 25/6 – only 30 mins as slept in. Thoughts came and went. I got caught up in some, not in others. Feel relaxed and clear headed, apart from the wine head 🙂
- 26/6 felt at peace today, although mind still not totally quiet. Even if I’m still and observing my thoughts, new thoughts can still emerge, like they’re creeping in through the back door to sit down next to me. I only realise they’re there after a while! Things that came up
- How I didn’t like the guy that interviewed me at a boutique DFM firm last year. How likeable am I?
- That I want to seek legal advice about the flat and losing rent – consequential loss
- Felt good all day, working outside on the sofa, in the shade, listening to music. Between 1 and 3 my mood changed quickly. Ate turkey breast, sweet potatoes and broccoli at 1. Joined a call at 1.30 about a new project where I was the only one who didn’t contribute. It also wasn’t clear if I was invited for any reason other than a BA I work with is joining the work. The weather is 30 degrees C. I then had B tell me how great it is that she has local friends, who she has a play date with after school and is out with this evening. I feel left out if I’m honest. Mood down.
- 27/6 – enjoyed today’s session! Mind felt very calm. Easily brought my attention back to the present, watched thoughts come and go. Still creeping up on me, bit easier to let go of them. It was raining when I first started, which gave me something to concentrate on, reducing thoughts. Runs against the Naval idea of not concentrating, but is a good lever to go deeper into the meditation.
- 28/6 – 2 weeks! Didn’t do yoga beforehand. Mind bloody busy today. Literally like a bucking bronco. I reset with 20 mins to go and 10 mins later found myself deep in thought about the flat.
- 29/6 – half an hour, woke up tired. Otherwise relatively clear session
- 30/6 – 45 mins as was interrupted by Dylan. I smiled and gave him a hug. Unusual for him to be awake and downstairs at 6.30am on a school day.
- Main thing today, imagined I was on a live call and someone saw I had mein kampf on my shelf! Then remembered getting it out during my A levels and not reading it. Thought about how useful it would have been to have been taught reading skills for GCSE/A-level. Scanning, note taking, expectation setting, etc.
- Went on to think about how I should have chosen psychology at A level. How doing that and a degree in it might have led to more friends and a much more fulfilling life. I’d have been far more interested than in economics. But the itch would have been left unscratched, no doubt. Not one to dwell on. But does say something about my long standing interest in the subject.
- 1/7 45 mins as called by the gang upstairs who had all woken up by 6.45
- Memories of being a grad at Accenture and annoying people
- More positive feelings about running a clear mind blog. Found the domain http://www.clearmind.co and thought I’d bought it, but as a premium domain the hosting company tried to charge me a fortune for it, despite this not being the advertised price.
- 2/7 back to a full hour. Thoughts coming and going. No overriding themes.
- found the clearmind.co domain for half the price through another registrar. It’s game on.
- 3/7 found it much easier to notice thoughts early today and return to a state of observation. Got carried away with a few thoughts, but spent most of the session noticing when they arose and letting them go.
- Proud of myself for being the first person to ask a question, in a session on approaching racial diversity. In front of a huge group of PBS people on zoom.
- 4/7 watched how subtly thoughts can appear and how they can linger and reappear, even after becoming conscious of them. Enjoyed the session
- 5/7 busier mind than yesterday. Some thoughts of not being enough for B, not having a big enough friendship circle.
- Worries about maintenance of the house. Passed on from these. Mind busier than yesterday, but still able to return to consciousness easily.
- Enjoyed the session again and was disappointed when the alarm went off
- 6/7 kept snoozing so only allowed half an hour. Mind quite busy, thinking about work, the other school parents, renting the annex on Airbnb. No major worries
- 7/7 felt unwell yesterday afternoon/evening so went to bed early. Still got up and did 10m yoga and an hour of meditation.
- Discovered a ‘reset’ process, for when I notice I’m carried away with thought. Ask myself:
- What I can see?
- What I can hear, and listen for a few seconds
- What can I feel? Do I need to adjust my position?
- What am I thinking? Let it go.
- Then return to my breath
- Makes me think of a baseball home-run: See pitch coming towards you, hear sound of bat connecting to ball and crowd cheering as you run to first base, feel the body kicking up a gear as you run to second base, think about the home run as you run to third base and feel the heavy breathing as you complete the run.
- Discovered a ‘reset’ process, for when I notice I’m carried away with thought. Ask myself:
- 8/7 45 mins.
- Thoughts of connecting with people
- It was raining so I opened my eyes and watched the drops bouncing on the patio
- 9/7 very hard to concentrate today. Mind all over the place. Finished 10 mins early
- 10/7 best session yet. After 10/15 of settling time, I found my way to a clear mind easily. Very enjoyable. Didn’t want the session to end.
- 11/7 mind more active than yesterday, lots of activity in the house. But enjoyable session again. Lasted 55 mins, stopped for Dylan.
- 12/7 actually missed this morning. Slept through alarm and had a lie in 😀
- Intend to pick up later
- Didn’t. Was irritated and tired throughout the morning.
- 13/7 mind restless for ~20 mins, then settled. Went in and out of focused state for 20 mins then became restless again. Tried mediating with my eyes open, but found it stayed distracted
- 14/7 tired today. Mind calmed after 20 mins.
- I’m responsible for the kids this morning. By 7.30am I’m fed up already. Things making this worse are:
- I don’t really have a plan for the morning
- I’m responding to work emails about my contract and on-boarding
- I’m thinking about the jobs I need to do for the flat (which didn’t worry me yesterday)
- I’m thinking about the creative work I’d like to do if I weren’t constrained by the kids
- I’m feeling envious of B for the social things she has coming up this week, play dates, drinks with neighbours. I’m getting no break.
- 15/7 forgot my alarm, but no bad thing. Took a break as worked until 22.30 last night. Long day. Also missed yoga as had to put the bins out and then Dylan was downstairs chatting to me.
- I have a free morning so may do it later.
- 16/7 – check, but amazingly busy mind. Toughest session yet
- 17/7 – maybe easiest session yet? Positive vibes, thoughts drifted in and out easily. I got caught on some of them, but body felt at peace, comfortable, had an underlying energy.
- Thought about yoga and how it’s making me feel like a kid again, strong throughout body!
- Also day 3 of fasting.until 12. Tried a cup of stock mid morning
- Also had Dylan’s school friends for the day, adventure in the woods, BBQ, movie, garden play.
- I held up well.
- 18/7 – lasted about 30 mins. B came in and wanted to spend some time together. I was more than happy to – some quiet time for us both where we weren’t exhausted at the end of the day and the kids weren’t at our ankles!
- As we sat down on the sofa, something from the Naval ‘How to Get Rich: Every Episode’ podcast I was listening to yesterday gonged like a bell in the distance – invest in 3 things before anything else and you’ll be happy: exercise, diet and close relationships (something like this – need to go back to source). It sat well with me that I was taking this time with B, over the meditation.
- 19/7 – stayed in bed as I woke up at 5.15 with a sore throat, headache and felt exhausted. Last couple of days catching up with me I think.
- But got online to write this post. I’m feeling the motivation and inspiration!
Leave a comment