I absolutely, totally and completely loathe meditation.
But because nearly everything else about me points to a person who loves to meditate -- I exercise regularly, eat tons of kale, enjoy long hikes and am a certified yoga teacher -- I find myself in way too many situations where meditation comes up.
Whether it's in a yoga class, workshop or at the suggestion of a friend, I consistently panic when it's time to meditate.
"OK," I try to tell myself. "It's only a few minutes. I can do this."
I've always been an anxious person. When I was in high school I was so afraid of turning into a miserable failure I obsessively studied and memorized my way to a 4.0.
When I got to college, I would sit in my dorm room for hours coming up with plans and lists for everything in my life. From getting a boyfriend and doing well in school to getting an "ideal body" (trust me, I'm not proud of what 18-year-old me valued), my brain was always in overdrive, anxiously devising plans for how I could get exactly what I wanted.
To this day, sitting or standing still for a moment feels like a waste of time. And in case you're not familiar with it, that's exactly what meditation is.
For me, a typical five-minute meditation means a to-do list I can't do anything about flooding my brain.
Here's my typical "I'm supposed to be meditating" inner monologue:
This is horrible. Why haven't I learned my lesson? I should just leave yoga early. I don't think the teacher would get that offended. I wonder if Tanya texted me back about our Saturday dinner plans yet. Ugh, I wish I could check my phone. I wonder if those succulents I Instagrammed got more likes during class. Do these pants look good on me? OK, so after this I'm going grocery shopping. I need kale, spinach, dark chocolate peanut butter cups -- oh man, could really go for one of those right now -- chicken, bread... When is this going to be over? I don't have time for this.
When I mentioned my hatred of meditation to a coworker, she suggested I try meditating every day for a couple weeks.
I was pretty resistant to the idea. She brought it up in October and I didn't get around to it until two weeks ago, and I consider myself a pretty efficient person.
Now that you have a thorough understanding of just how much I dislike meditation, I'm sure you're interested in how my little experiment unfolded.
First, let's start with the basics.
Here's How It Worked
Because of my hatred and fear of meditation, I knew I had to start small. So I applied the same mantra I do to all difficult things that don't require very much time: "You can do anything for three minutes."
I say that to myself when I'm holding planks and sprinting, so I figured it would work for meditation as well.
Every night, once I had done absolutely everything I needed to do before going to sleep, I sat up on a pillow on my bed with my eyes closed and my palms up. I then turned down the volume on my phone and set a timer that would go off after three minutes.
I took three deep breaths, tapped "start" and started meditating.
Here's What Happened
Meditating was not magically easy.
It came as no surprise to me those first few meditation sessions were extremely antsy ones. Why was I willingly subjecting myself to something I hated?
I would be lying if I said those first three days were anything but three minutes of obsessive thinking. But by day four, I noticed I was starting to get sick of myself and my useless thoughts. I estimated I was thoroughly clearing my mind for a good 90 seconds before the thinking began, which I considered impressive progress.
By week two, I remembered the "body scan" meditations I had attempted in the past. Whoever had been guiding those meditations had asked us to bring awareness to each body part individually. I figured that wouldn't be too hard to try on my own.
So starting from the tips of my toes and ending at the top of my head, that's what I did for all of week two -- and I was surprisingly successful.
I was even more shocked by the fact it wasn't making me unhappy. Actually, I was starting to look forward to the three minutes in my day when I didn't have to think about anything.
While I don't know if I felt calmer overall, I can tell you one thing for sure:
I slept so much better.
In addition to being anxious for as long as I can remember, I've always been a troubled sleeper. Depending on what's going on in my life, I'll have weeks where I'm lucky if I get more than three hours of sleep.
I had exactly zero sleeping problems during my two meditation weeks. How cool is that? Instead of lying down and facing tons of anxious thoughts, I just put my head on my pillow, moved around until I got comfortable, closed my eyes and passed out.
It was awesome.
Will I continue meditating now that my required two weeks are over? I'm undecided. Last night I was reveling in having one less thing to do when I got home from work, but it's good to know meditation can have such a positive impact on my sleeping patterns.
If you hate meditation, take it from me: Three minutes is a very short amount of time, and it can make a big difference. Give it a whirl.