Ever since I listened to The Angel Philosopher podcast on Farnam Street, I was intrigued by the practice of meditating 60 minutes a day for at least 60 days consecutively. I had been wanting to try that for some time, but the thought of sitting alone with my thoughts for an hour seemed daunting at first. My favorite tweet from the famous tweet storm
In an age of mental gluttony, meditation is fasting for the mind.— Naval (@naval) May 16, 2020
Before paying a therapist to listen to you, listen to yourself.
Before clearing your inbox, clear your mind.
And, another one.
Realize that at this moment, you are the only person in the world and there is no one to instruct you, praise you, or judge you.— Naval (@naval) May 16, 2020
I have tried using apps like Headspace and Calm a few years ago. Those are really good for bite sized sessions to practice mindfulness, and also come with a lot of other perks. The usage of apps, choosing a session from the myriad choices and the typical distractions that come with using smartphone (I end up opening another app habitually before opening Headspace or respond to some notifications that are vying for my attention) turned out to be somewhat deterrent to the primary purpose for which those apps are built. I even bought a subscription with Headspace to use the longer sessions included in the paid subscription. I stopped using it after a few months, maybe because I didn’t enjoy it much.
On a random evening couple months ago, I was just sitting by myself overwhelmed with many things (some under control, some not) going around me. The part of me that had been dodging the 60/60 challenge magically sprung to my mind and wanted to get started on it immediately, at least for that day. I didn’t think about anything else at that moment. I put my phone on Do Not Disturb, set an alarm and sat in complete silence for the next hour.
From the distant past to the present, worries about the future to happy memories of the past, how much time left?, work, family, pleasure, health, unresolved arguments, fun, music, sex, chores, covid etc. - thoughts from all corners of my mind bounced back and forth, much like the one below.
Observing our own thoughts without any attachment is quite a task. I occasionally caught myself when getting completely lost in a train of related thoughts, noticed the wandering moment and came back into the present. When I opened my eyes at the end of the hour, I felt a bit of relief and mixed feelings that I couldn’t exactly describe.
Bitten by curiosity, I continued practicing this every day since then. Some observations after going through 60+ days of this challenge.
- Duration - A minimum of 60 minutes is very much needed, at least in the beginning until the clutter is processed if not resolved fully. It usually takes about 30-40 minutes to settle down to a comfortable state of observation. There were some days where I quit early due to other commitments. I took it easy, focused on the process instead of outcome.
- Timing - I was more comfortable doing this first thing in the morning after I freshen up in the morning. I have done this at other timings of the day too, but I felt it tougher and more disturbed the later it gets. I think doing this first thing after waking up makes it starting off a fresh canvas each morning.
- Environment - Sitting in an upright posture, on a couch or floor whichever is comfortable but make it consistent so any environmental discomforts are avoided. Silence all external sounds especially phones.
- Habit Stacking - This formed into a habit after a few weeks into the challenge. It naturally stacked up with my morning routine. Fresh up -> Meditate -> Stretch/Workout. Once habitualized, the resistance to sit for meditation goes down as well.
- Better sleep - Since I enjoyed doing this more in the morning, I started optimizing my sleep schedule to go to bed early and looking forward to the challenge in the morning. On days where I had a good 7+ hours of sleep, I had better clarity of thoughts.
- Fight with thoughts - This is the most gratifying experience of this challenge. I let so many emotions and thoughts go through me. Anger, sadness, rejection, happiness, fear, frustration, disappointments, desire (fulfilled and unfulfilled), love, jealousy, past failures, mistakes, success, traumatic experiences and so on. It was so intense in some days that I almost wanted to come out immediately. I made peace with some of my thoughts, let them go away and still holding on to some unresolved ones.
- Closer to oneself - With no apps, no guidance, no mantra and no external stimuli, I was with myself for an hour everyday for 60+ days. There were no external dependencies to ask for an excuse. No friction in getting started. This is one of the best things about this whole exercise. As Naval puts it, meditation is indeed our natural state.. I became better at knowing myself and more conscious of my actions. I started enjoying boredom gradually where I would have otherwise fallen back to infinite scrolling on my phone checking news, twitter feed, messages etc.
Meditation is your birthright. It's your natural state.— Naval (@naval) May 16, 2020
It requires no one, needs no thing, and has no technique.
If something requires a guru, a mantra, or a teaching, it isn't universal, and it won't free you.