Barely Breathing – Getting Started

I am one week into my Zen project. I am hoping to learn how to use meditation and mindfulness to decrease my stress, learn self-regulatory strategies and become more present in all elements of my life. My ultimate goal is to calm my busy mind with the hope of increased hours of sleep.

So far, I have done a lot of reading and online research. I listed the resources I have located in my previous blog post. I have been only using two of the resources so far: Headspace and Stop, Breathe and Think. I definitely prefer the Headspace app. I am dreading finishing the free 10 sessions as I am fairly certain that I will end up paying for a subscription to this service, as I am enjoying and learning a great deal from it. I am learning more about myself and what I need as I learn about meditation as I explore the tools that I have found.

My needs:

  • A soothing voice
  • Clear instructions, with specific things to focus on
  • Sequential lessons, building slowly in complexity
  • A focus on self
  • Metaphors that I can understand and that work for my busy brain
  • Simple steps
  • Guided meditation – I am nowhere near ready for independent practice yet – I still need direct instruction!!!

A key difference between Headspace and Stop, Breathe and Think is where you are asked to focus your attention. Headspace encourages me to consider my breathing and the thoughts that wander into my focus as I learn to meditate. Headspace has been very gentle in its guidance, so far. The voice is incredibly soothing, and even after long pauses, it does not intrude. There are simple explanations and metaphors for how we think and how we attempt to wrangle our thinking. I can see my thoughts as “traffic” – a busy street with all of my thoughts rushing by. I can see myself attempting to direct that traffic, control it, and I can even see myself running (screaming) after a wayward thought-car. Having that picture in my mind makes it easier to step back and imagine myself sitting at the side of the road, observing the traffic of thoughts, but staying less involved. Headspace encourages me to be gentle with myself, and it even gives me time during a meditation to allow my brain to wallow in the crazy if it wants to. Stop, Breathe and Think has not been enjoyable. In fact, I stopped my last session with 3 minutes still on the clock because I had become irritated. I find the voice to be a bit more intrusive, and the pace is ridiculous! The meditations flit from one thing to another, and I can’t keep up. The ideas are HUGE, and I cannot relate. In the space of a less than a minute, I am asked to imagine myself filling with peace, then I need to fill the room with peace, and then I need to see that peace spreading over the world. What??! I found myself feeling panicky at the end of these meditations, like I had not yet done my job. One feature I did like from this app is that it encourages you to perform a check-in for mind, body and emotions before it offered customized meditation options for you. I may look at this app again when I have more experience, but for right now I need to walk away.

Going forward, I need some measurable details. Since my ultimate goal is increasing my hours of sleep, I will be looking at my weekly averages.

Baseline average: 5 hours 22 minutes of sleep

First week (January 18 – 24): 5 hours 54 minute of sleep

 

A one-day snapshot of sleep efficiency as captured by Fitbit Force. Is it nap-time yet?

A one-day snapshot of sleep efficiency as captured by Fitbit Force. Is it nap-time yet?

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5 thoughts on “Barely Breathing – Getting Started

  1. My friend, I had no idea sleep was so hard for you. What a great inquiry for you to do. I have tried meditation and didn’t find it easy to quiet the mind. I look forward to reading more of your journey to zen. The Headspace app sounds really lovely, especially for someone who is just learning. Isn’t interesting how the tone of someone’s voice can disrupt the thoughts and peace of mind.

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    • Thank you for your comment! Sleep is difficult for me. It always was, but never really impacted me until recently. Now, I notice when I don’t sleep, and I struggle on the days that I feel really tired.

      The Headspace app is lovely, and I have suggested it to others. Voice is important, I will never forget the sound of your lovely singing voice in December!!! I think that someone who moderates a meditation or other guided calming activity needs to have a voice that is perceived to be soothing. I wonder how they could screen for that?! You would do a great job. 🙂

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  2. Good for you for doing something for yourself! I tried wearing my fitbit to bed and had the three worst sleeps of my life. Was convinced that the fitbit was keeping me awake or perhaps constantly worrying about it was waking me up. The Headspace app sounds great. I look forward to reading more of your posts and relaxing vicariously through you 🙂

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  3. Love reading about your road to Zen. The power of voice is incredible. I noticed this in yoga classes; same type of class in the same location with two different instructors. First instructor had a voice that brought a sense of calm to the room. Next instructor had a sharp voice that projected and pierced the silence. Much harder to focus and find peacefulness. I agree with
    Alison…good for you for doing something for yourself! We all need that in our lives.

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    • Thank you for your comment! I think that the joy of our #tiegrad learning projects is that most of us have chosen something to serve ourselves. The range of projects include fitness, cooking and learning an instrument. All of these projects ensure that we make 50-100 hours to focus on learning something for ourselves. I think that some of these projects will continue long after the course ends, and may end up changing lifestyles. That is what I am hoping to achieve with the mindfulness lessons.

      I am glad that I am not alone in needing a particular sound/voice to guide my progress. I have recently also learned that I don’t like the meditation “bell” sound that some apps or online lessons use! Too intrusive! But, it makes me wonder… how many students find my voice piercing and difficult to learn through? Upsetting thought!

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