June 11: Enlightenment, enlighten-not.

Day 11 is something I need to do again, unfortunately, as it was poorly done (I say that like my others days are done well or something). The challenge was 2 hours of straight meditation.


Why I chose the Challenge.

Meditation has a stigma. Like most others, if not all others, meditation’s stigma is misguided. When the majority of people think of meditation, what comes to mind is a shiny headed monk in robes sitting in one spot for his entire life, never moving. When asked “what is meditation?” a correct answer is scarce at best. Instead, at least in my limited experience, most people have vague notions of religion, spirituality and ‘nothingness’. I expect most people if they had to describe the act, would come up with sitting still and thinking nothing. That is only somewhat true.

I used to be a normal person once, (hard to imagine I know) so when I think of meditation I kind of think about that bald monk automatically. But each time I do, I check myself. Once I do that, meditation is many things.

First and foremost, for me it is brain training; it improves your ability to focus, it declutters your mind and genuinely makes you happier. This is not a pseudo-science, I’m not saying that rotating a quartz crystal 347 degrees clockwise while drinking carrot juice on the night of a new moon will double your life expectancy or anything, that would be crazy. I am saying that in our lives, everything wants our attention, whether other people, our phones, or the stories in our heads. All meditation does is focus your attention on what is happening where you are, when you are. Not tomorrow morning, planning out your breakfast, or that meeting in a week, planning what will go wrong, or the argument yesterday, planning out what you could have said, but right now, in this second.

For me, my brain starts getting slower and slower, more distressed and run down as life goes on. I don’t know if this mental strain happens to everyone, I rarely actually notice its ever-presence, maybe for others, it just goes away when they sleep. When I sleep, I get more energy so I can think in the midst of the fog, but there is still fog. Meditation not only gets rid of that, but it prevents it from accumulating in the first place.

This isn’t like lifting a weight off your shoulders, it is expanding the very thing you are. All ‘you’ are, is the thoughts in your head, and when you expand that, you expand your very self.

Note: there are a ton of science studies on Meditation’s benefits, both physical and mental health wise, but I will not cite them here. (Mainly because I am lazy and university has bred a hatred for science literature) But Google will give you a ton of results.


Execution.

Meditation is simple to do by nature. Sit on your Himalayan mountain peak, rainbow-colored hippie cushion or computer chair of choice, and let your thoughts go. I focused on one sensation, and when I noticed that I had stopped, I went back to doing so.


What I’ve learned.

I used to meditate on the daily, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The two-hour meditation really allowed me to see how far I have fallen. I would love to start a daily practice of it like I have wanted for quite some time. Perhaps a month challenge for it?

I would recommend meditation to everyone, really. It does not matter who you are, it will help you if you stick with it daily for about a week.

Two hours in one go, however, did not really get much done for me, and I suspect it is because I am so out of practice that I am at ground zero again. I definitely had bursts of a meditative state, but they were short and scarce. I would not have slipped into one if it were only for 20 minutes.


If you are someone that likes improving and being the best they can be, I urge you to try out meditation. If you would like to, check out an app called Headspace, and their ’10 for 10′ program. 10 minutes a day for 10 days.

You will see results.


 

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June 8: A long-awaited phone call.

Today’s challenge: call a relative that I do not usually call.


Why this challenge?

I rarely keep up with my relatives, and this kind of bothers me a little. Sure, I see them once a year at Christmas, but I don’t know anything about their lives (and, actually, often mix a lot of their names up, relying on my mother’s knowledge). I’d like to know a bit about their lives and learn all they have to teach. I am a big believer that no matter who you meet, there is something to learn from them. Whether it is learning about a certain experience you have never had or just some wisdom gained over a whole lifetime, you can learn something. Even if I think about someone my age, they have had the same amount of experience I have had, but for completely different things. It is literally a whole lifetime of knowledge within them, and I think that is great. It is the reason I like meeting new people, and the reason I want to learn about my relative’s lives.


Execution.

I called my mum first, not for the challenge, but just to get ideas on relatives I could call. She mentioned my great Aunt (my mother’s Aunt), who lives south, near the NSW border, so I called her.

We spoke about my university and how it is going, we spoke about my mum, we touched on parenting, and she told me she liked what I was doing, ie calling a relative.


What I’ve Learned

It is pleasant to catch up with people, and talking with my Aunty was delightful. I have often said that I dislike small talk, and many times phone call have wished to skip it and get straight to the “real talk” (this does not work by the way), but I have changed my mind.

Small talk is pleasant if you are interested in it, plain and long-awaited. If you foster a genuine interest in the other person and their life, you become sincerely interested in what they have to say.

I will be calling relatives more in the future.