Mo Horner explores her 100-day journey of meditation.
Since last Fall, when I committed to sit it out for 30 minutes a day, I’ve discovered something profound about meditation – it’s profoundly difficult to slow down my twenty-first century, tech-driven, high-speed brain.
For 100 straight days, I’ve been sitting, and squirming and itching to get up. At least 75 of those days, I needed some serious self-talk to stay in my seat. After all, in my everyday life, I’ve been trained to be ready at any moment for an incoming text, call, email, Facebook post, breaking news, or something requiring ‘immediate attention’. We all have. We’re in constant fight or flight mode, mobilized for everyday life like it’s a crisis we’re facing moment to moment.
Trying to meditate feels like slamming on the brakes in a NASCAR race. I’ve spent years trying to handle everything quickly, at a moment’s notice, raising kids in a soccer-mom culture and trying to keep my sanity without keeping up with the Jones’s.
And that’s exactly why I plan to keep sitting in meditation…on the floor, in a chair, on the couch…collecting my thoughts, and setting them aside for some emptiness and peace. I’ve become too accustomed to speed and instantaneous response times. I’m ready for the slow lane, and meditation is teaching me how to gently pull over and coast for a little while every day.
Do you have a daily practice that nourishes your health and happiness? I want to hear about your experience. Email me at email@example.com with your story.
Toulousse, My Relaxed Cat
Tonite, it took every ounce of will power to sit in meditation for 30 minutes. I spent so much time today working up close and personal with my laptop without taking decent breaks that I gave myself a tension headache. Which got worse as the day went on, until at meditation time it was shooting pain into my temple.
Talk about distracting. So, for the last 7 minutes, I let my cat curl up on my lap and did the quietest, most meditative thing I was capable of right then. I scratched her fuzzy little chin and thought of nothing else but her soft, smooth, warm fur and her soothing purrrrrr under my fingers.
I believe some of the benefit of meditation comes from just ‘being’. Being quiet. Being still. And ultimately, being happy. Well, my shortcut taught me this: pets are great tension-relievers. My headache vanished. As far as I’m concerned, mission accomplished.
My cat and I were happy for seven straight minutes. That’s what I call bliss.
Today’s blog is written by someone special to me, but more importantly, the person who inspired me to begin my 100-day meditation countdown. I hope his story sparks an idea for change or growth in your life like it did in mine.
I am a philosopher by nature. And I have no explanation why.
Maybe it’s my astrological destiny (Sagittarian). Or possibly it’s some evolutionary bi-product of an innate coping mechanism. Or simply, it could be my own way of attempting to understand this sometimes complex, confusing and confounding journey called life. Crazy.
Qi Gong, an energy healing practice, combines three elements for success.
Whatever thereason, I’ve gathered a collection of axioms I believe to be true. I keep them stored tidily away in my philosophical travel bag that follows me every step of the way. And when the need arises, I open the bag, sort through this pile of philosophical meanderings and find the one that fits.
One such “truth” that has served me over the years is the realization that everyone has something. By something, I mean issues or problems or dilemmas. Whatever the name we wish to assign, it still comes down to the premise we all have something.
And if we’re fortunate to live long enough, sooner or later one or more of these “somethings” will cross our path. I’m no exception.
Four years ago one of the se somethings bared its teeth and proceeded to firmly sink them into my behind. For about three of these years it did not let go. It was an uphill battle on a downward slope to think, to function, to live.
Since then I’ve managed to regain much of what I feared gone thanks to the miraculous work of those at Four Winds and the amazing healing power of herbal medicine. While the worst (I hope) is behind me, I’m not so dumb to think the next something isn’t laying in the bushes in wait.
Enter Qi Gong (chee gung). One hundred and twenty-two days ago I added this daily practice of Chinese energy healing to my life.
The “why” is simple. I want to live. Healthy and strong. Happy and long. And in my heart of hearts I know it’s possible through obvious lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, etc…) integrated with my new BF – Qi Gong.
Funny name. Great results.
You might ask, “Where’s the evidence, Sherlock?” Elementary, dear Watson.
My vitals from a recent check-up looked like this: Heart rate 72, BP 128/82 and temperature 98.6. No big shake until I compare it with my norms: Heart rate 80, BP all over the map and temperature 96.8. For the record, I’ve never had a body temp spot on with the norm.
It doesn’t stop there. On a physiological level, I’ve noticed improved sleep patterns, a decrease in digestive dysfunction, less anxiety, better circulation, improved skin color, fewer allergy-related headaches and there’s talk of decreasing my daily dosage of a required medication.
Physical improvements have been evident as well, including better balance, fewer body aches and wonder of wonders, an increased appetite that’s allowed me to add six much-needed pounds to my six-foot, two-inch frame.
And it’s all been so simple. Not easy, but simple. Not easy, because there are days where my heart isn’t always in it. There are days where my knees creak and my mind is cranky.
Over four months straight of waking each day, and regardless of my being or circumstance or mood, I’ve dedicated 20 minutes each day to the practice.
Twenty minutes. That still leaves 1,420 minutes each day to do what needs to be done.
As I asked Mo, “If we can’t dedicate 20 minutes to our health every day, what does that say about us?”
Note: The writer, Ken Kreiker, started his Qi Gong practice with Master Chen’s Tai Chi Qi Gong 18 Movements DVD, available at Four Winds or www.wudangtao.com. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.933.6444 for more information about upcoming beginner Qi Gong classes.
Persistent, daily practice is the real key to change
Almost two months ago, I started taking a rich, syrupy, herbal concoction made from whole roots, barks, leaves, berries and various other plant parts known to enrich, soothe and strengthen the nervous system and combat fatigue. One tablespoon every morning and evening in a cup of tea. It keeps in the fridge and has the feel and taste of an earthy, creamy dark blend of coffee, only thicker and without the kick.
About a month ago, I spiced that up with a daily dose of meditation, determined to sit 30 minutes every day for 100 days until my birthday.
Altogether, they compete for 31 minutes of time I probably would have spent in a technology haze. The quiet time is kinda nice, and my family seems almost protective of it, apologizing for calling half way through or honoring my practice by not objecting to the time it takes out of our evenings together.
What am I getting out of all this sitting and sipping? Honestly, I’m not completely sure yet.
Well, there IS that one thing….my blood pressure is consistently down by 30 points. Oh, didn’t I tell you? Stress is a major component in high blood pressure for many people. This was a stressful summer and probably the reason I didn’t notice it creeping up on me. Then I got quiet, sat still and sure enough, I could feel that pounding sensation in my chest. There were other signs I ignored, but meditation made me mindful again, and has gradually brought my BP down to a healthy range.
I’m still not sure what I’m getting out of these practices. But something is happening in my closet. I mean, suddenly, I’m re-discovering clothes that had shifted to a dark corner, because they hadn’t fit for a few seasons. It took me a while to figure this one out, but its gotta be that my evening snack ritual has been interrupted by a time-out.
Oh, and my tummy feels better than it has in a while. Everything around my belly button is working like it’s supposed to. I hadn’t noticed it was a problem, until it wasn’t. Funny how that works.
I guess it’s like a friend said the other day about natural healing: it’s not a pill, it’s a practice. I must have needed some healthy, daily practices that remind me to nourish myself. A cup of tea, half an hour of nothing but pure, simple breathing, and a subtle shift of energy starts.
Check out the Nebraska Zen Center, where I spent three hours this weekend learning about Zen meditation practices. My meditation coach, Sarah, encouraged me to explore techniques to enrich my practice. I’m happy to share my experience – contact or email me at email@example.com.
If I was a quitter, Day 18 would have been the last day of meditation for me. A tense, twisted knot in my upper back was nagging at me, my concentration was shot and my mind was all over the place. I was exhausted from a busy week of catch-up and it was the perfect excuse to say “I’m done. I gave it a good try.”
Then I remembered a phrase we use in herbal medicine to describe exactly what was happening to me: healing crisis. It’s the point where all your efforts to change and grow feel like they’ve come crashing down on you. Up close, it looks and feels like you’re having a personal crisis, in mind, body AND spirit. You tell yourself it’s getting worse, not better, this isn’t what you had in mind when you started. You wonder why you even tried and the effort seems like a waste.
Having made a public commitment to meditating EVERY DAY, for 100 days in a row, I had no choice but to push through, tolerate the discomfort, and give myself a pep talk. And then something unexpected happened.
Day 19 wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was a whole lot more relaxing than the day before. My back loosened up, my thoughts calmed down and 30 minutes flew by. Ok, not exactly flew by, but my impatience with sitting and ruminating was clearly letting up. Slowly, my healing crisis has eased up over the past couple of days.
Last night was Day 22, and those 30 minutes were sort of….nice. Yeah. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this.
I figured 100 consecutive days of meditation would be pure torture, and for the first 7 days, I was one twitchy, cross-legged breath away from quitting. If only I hadn’t made my commitment so public, told all my Facebook friends, blabbed it on my blog and promised I would follow through to the bitter end.
But then it occurred to me. My public pronouncement is the very thing that’s been keeping me going. Pure and simple, it’s shame that’s made me stay seated when my legs have gone to sleep and my knees and hips are burning with impatience. I can’t quit now. I discovered that people are paying attention to this ‘quest’, some watching for me to fail, even more cheering me on so they’ll have inspiration for their own journey, the way my friend inspired me.
My coach says daily devotion leads to discipline and to choose an intention each time I sit in meditation. I confess, my intention has been not to disappoint anyone. Maybe tomorrow will be the day I begin to practice for a greater purpose.
So I sit, night after night, struggling to stay still and resist the temptation to stretch, yawn, check my text messages, scratch my knee. I believe what I’m doing will yield a profound lesson. Otherwise, why would so many yogis, the dalai lama, all those faithful devotees of meditation keep practicing day after day, year in and year out, without needing public humiliation as a motivator?
I don’t know yet, but I AM starting to feel a vague sense of…….serenity. Maybe this meditation stuff won’t be so hard after all.
I’m like a kid in the backseat of my parent’s station wagon. Fifteen minutes into my 30-minute meditation and there goes my head, wandering, and wondering ‘how’s that Ryan and Biden thing going?’, ‘I need a drink of water’, ‘my leg’s falling asleep’….
Sarah warned me about this, my coach said ‘let yourself squirm, and re-adjust…let the day’s worries and random thoughts come up and then let ’em go’. I can find out tomorrow who ‘won’ the debate and how the football games ended up (just kidding, not a fan). I’ll scratch my itchy nose and straighten my legs and just keep sitting. And breathing.
I guess it’s sort of like herbal healing. I’m always saying to my clients “healing with herbs requires patience, but the effects are profound – hang in there”.
So I will. 98 more days. Stay with me….
100 days of breath awareness
If you’re trying to email, text, call, stop by my house, or otherwise get hold of me for the next 100 days around 8:30 in the evening, sorry, but I’ll be sitting on a pillow, wrapped in a scarf, with my cat, Toulouse, curled up on my lap, eyes closed and just….breathing. One hundred days from today, I’m celebrating my half-century mark. When I was 25, turning 50 was an age where everything important in my life was already over and the awful slide into old age started.
At 40, I was bald from chemotherapy and couldn’t think beyond the next week, let alone 10 years ahead. So, this big birthday is coming around, and the idea of taking a cruise or throwing myself a party might celebrate the struggle to get here, but I want something to be proud of when I get to 75. I want to remember 50 as the start of the best part of my life. So, inspired by a close friend, I’m committing to 100 consecutive days of meditation.
I admit right now, this feels impossible to do. I’m the squirmy type, the kind of person who’s checking email during a phone call. Doing one thing at a time just isn’t my style. Paying attention to my breath…boring.
I’ve tried this before and quit when the going got tough. My lame excuses ranged from “I have a cough” to “It’s too cold in here”, and let’s not forget the overused “I’m too tired”. Not this time. This time is for REAL. I’m putting down my evening snackfest and picking up a new habit. My meditation coach, friend Sarah, is promising to keep me accountable and provide support. So, FIFTY – here I come.
P.S. Got any helpful suggestions? Wanna join me (virtually, I mean)? Email me to share your struggles or ideas. Or leave a comment on my blog.