30 day challenge: meditation

I just finished up a 30 day challenge of spending 15 minutes a day meditating. I tried everything from traditional posture to sitting outside to lying on the ground. I experimented with keeping my eyes open vs. shut, breathing, counting and listening. My favorite was cat meditation, which is when you meditate with a cat lying on you, kind of like this:

Emmy and me

There’s something about a relaxed cat that really helps me relax too. Cats are zen masters.

Meditating was harder than I thought, in a few ways. First, it was difficult (impossible?) to turn my brain off. I’m accustomed to using my brain all the time, every day. I don’t like to turn my brain off. I definitely struggled with that all month. Someone recommended counting, for example counting leaves on a tree, as a way to help. That worked very well, but it also felt like counting was keeping my mind busy rather than clearing it out.

Also, it was surprisingly hard to carve out the time to do it. I ended up missing about six days altogether, partly because of some travel during the month. I think the fact that it wasn’t my favorite activity also played a role.

But I learned a few things, too. I became much more aware this month of how little irritations can snag your attention and pull you down. A few deep breaths would often help me get some distance from the irritation.

Am I glad that I meditated this month? Absolutely. But for now, I don’t plan to maintain this habit going forward, or at least not every day.

52 Responses to 30 day challenge: meditation (Leave a comment)

  1. rapidbox

    Haha that is VERY cute. The cats have its eyes closed <3

  2. Congrats, and good for you! I’m glad you experimented with it so consistently, even if it didn’t provide what you were hoping to get out of the experience.

    I’m going to a ten-day meditation retreat in December where you get up at 4am and meditate all-day, every day, until time to sleep. There is no talking the entire time. For someone like me, who is interested in meditation but never really got into it much – this is a daunting experience.

    I’ll look at it this way: Whether you try for ten days straight of 15 minutes a day for a month, what have you got to lose but time?

  3. I really enjoy your challenges and I might try meditating too, because I feel quite stressed lately.

  4. We all know how to meditate in reverse…….it’s called worry!

  5. Hi Matt,
    I am sorry hear you don’t plan to maintain this habit,
    it’s would help you in all facets of your life.
    When I saw you with the cat in your arms, I thought that you like cats …

    good lock for your next challenge

  6. Morris Rosenthal

    Matt,

    Instead of the cat, try a tribble.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribble

    Morris

  7. @morris and of course tribbles expose any Kilingon/Microsoft spies in the googleplex :-)

  8. Alex

    Hello Matt,
    Trying not to think can only lead to frustration, see this article – brain consumes lots of energy when you try not to think. Also meditation is not about “turning your brain off”. At it’s core, meditation is a practice of attention and it requires a lot of inner activity.
    Just like with a musical instrument, everyone is hopeless at this when they start and it takes quite some time to learn!

  9. Everett, I wish you luck. That sounds pretty extreme. :)

  10. Hi Matt, You can also take some of tips from “Art of Living” foundations. Art of Living is famous for mediation and yoga. They are also in USA.

  11. For those of us who are very technically-minded, our brains are “who we are” and we are naturally averse to “turning them off.” Frankly, even though it sounds bad, I’m almost glad to see you “fail” at it, too, as it makes me feel like I’m not alone.

    But, it does seem like just about every self-help book, even those written for business executives and everyone in a leadership position, says that we should take time to meditate. For that reason, I still try to keep my mind open to the possibility that I might take it up, but maybe I’m just not wired for it, just as maybe you are just not wired for it. (Maybe that means we are the ones who most need it?)

  12. The most known way to block out thoughts and keep your mind focus is to focus on your breath. This is very helpful and allows you to relax at the same time. And you will not get that frustrated if you get distracted, because it is very easy to turn your attention back to your breathing. This is the meditation technique I prefer to keep my mind still.

  13. Check out Esalen for the best in meditating-from-huge-concrete-tubs-whilst-staring-at-the-ocean. A bit pricey…but totally worth the experience. Great food too – they grow much of what they serve on site – organic. It’s hard to not zen out in this place.

    Definitely one of my favorite places when I am back home in the Bay Area. :-)

  14. Jessica, I agree.

    Matt, did you find your jogging induced meditation of a sort? I always found the rythmic pattern of running and swimming extremely relaxing as I would get lost in my thoughts and yet still relax completely. People would remark how boring it must be swimming length after length or running mile after mile and I would reply “yup, that’s why I enjoy it!”.

  15. Nanda

    Matt, You should find your guru first. Just listening and reading his thoughts will refine your meditation practice.

  16. Nice! I meditate daily, did retreats of 7 days, listened to meditation lectures, and recently I felt (I herd it before) that when your mind is agitated, if you try to slow down the breath the mind slow’s down as well. They are interconnected!
    Good info you have on the site!

  17. I agree Matt! Cats are Zen Masters! I have a black cat that I just love and adore…her name is Nola….of course, the dog (Karma) probably wouldn’t agree. ;) Thanks for sharing your tips and advice on meditation! Awesome post!

  18. Charlie McBride
    Kaukauna, WI but from Houston Texas.

    Love your cat Matt. I really like the picture it is bigger and better in quality. Thank you for sharing it.
    How do I get Found in search? Just Kidding, Hope you smile.

    Charles McBride

  19. I have never tried meditation, but a lot of people I know keep trying to get me on to it. They all say that if I first start, ill never stop..

  20. Matt I feel your pain in relation to meditation. I find it so hard to clear my mind. The best advice i’ve had so far is to try not to clear your mind but just try to relax and it will all follow.

    Best of luck with the challenge.

    Ralph

  21. Counting things in an attempt to try fall asleep doesn’t work for me either.. I can relate. It just keeps my brain more active. :)

  22. I’m with you. I’m either going 100mph in my brain, or I’m asleep.

    If I try to slow it down, I start dreaming up all sorts of new stuff.

    It’s how we are wired, why fight it.

  23. Awesome Matt! I just finished my 1.5 months without Facebook and it was a bliss – lots of good books read and a lot more work done.

    My wife loves cats. She has two of them. Perhaps I should ask her to lend me one for meditation. :-)

  24. I haven’t tried meditating… at least not yet. But you sure inspired me to go for it. At least a couple of times. Hope that nothing too divine happens to me :) But if I happen to get the answer to everything in the Universe, I’ll give you a call. And hopefully, the answer won’t be just 42. Cheers!

  25. Hi Matt,
    I’ve been practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM) since the early 70s. It is a very powerful technique because it is the opposite of hard. No effort, very easy to learn. Highly recommend it.
    Erik

  26. Meditate on the Lord Jesus then it doesn’t become so hard. =)

    28Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]
    29Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.
    30For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good–not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.-Matthew 11:28-30

    6Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
    7And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

    It’s a very cute picture, Matt. I had 3 cats. They all passed away. The picture gives me fond memories of my cats. =)

  27. Is it meditation or just having a nap?

    Anyway the real fact is how much this has improved your life? You mention that it helped you with a little irritation, but you do not plan to carry on meditating.

    I take this as it was not really that helpful to you?

  28. I have two of them sitting on me in the morning when I wake up! Doesn’t do much for my relaxation!

  29. I think the closest I’ve come to meditation was using the Wii fit yoga routine for 4 days then quitting.. It was nice for four days though, habbits are hard to keep – and my cat would probably shred my arm off after 2 minutes of lying still.

  30. Dear Matt,
    I came to know about you around 20-25 days ago when I was watching some videos (related to SEO) on YouTube.
    I saw you in one of the Youtiube videos ..I didn’t pay attention to that video at that time.. just thought .. who is this man.. I can explain this better than him.

    That night when I was going to bed.. I started thinking about that video.
    I was thinking “that man was very confident when he was trying to explain those technical things in front of camera … It was edited video or one shot movie.
    I suddenly woke up, switched on my PC started searching about you.
    from that day I am always reading your blog.
    TODAY I was searching for the “wordpress best related post plugins” & again found you at the top in Google search result.

    I started thinking about about your current picture in this post, How much happy is this cat with You & how much happy you are with this cat.
    I really liked this picture very much.. I love pets a lot & it forced me to introduced myself to you.

    So, How do you do Matt? This is Praveen from India. umm.. a bit jealous from you (the software & web world knows You & no one knows me ha ha..)
    [sorry for this unprofessional comment & being so much informal]
    [Sorry for my poor English also.. My mother tongue is not English]

    Love you for the knowledge you have
    and
    very jealous to you for the knowledge you have.
    Take care.

    Thanks
    Praveen Kumar

  31. Sri

    As most of the people already mentioned. Congrats Matt !
    I meditate regularly and its pretty simple for me at this point atleast to shut my mind and focus more on thoughtless ness. Its simple if you dont react to the thoughts as you already know most of the thoughts come from either past or future. So by not reacting you tend to be in present. Meditation is not that hard, if you take out the feeling that your spending sometime on it, rather just take it as the way it comes.

  32. I have tried meditation but I to find it hard to slow my brain down. My wife says I don’t have an off switch. I believe I do its just hidden under a pile of projects and task. :)

  33. You can’t leave out a relaxed dog. when my wild jack Russel terrier mix is relaxed its relaxing to me too. so maybe were talking about the same thing and Pets can be ZEN MASTERS.

  34. Matt,

    Glad to see your experiment with meditation. After going through the whole post and through the comments posted by your reader, I’d like to say that turning-your-mind-off to enter meditative state is just a myth. You should try meditation techniques that help you gain focus, techniques that stabilize your mind so it stops wandering. With practice, you’ll see an amazing boost in your ability to stay focused. It improves your health, increases productivity and works MUCH MUCH better than Pomodoro or similar techniques.

    Just take a moment to think: Thinking is one of the core nature of our brain. You (normally) can’t stop thinking, no matter how much you try. Your surroundings won’t let you do that. Stopping to think is like shutting down your C.P.U. As far as I know (in my 7-8 years with meditation), you can’t shut your brain off. There is NO way to do that (or if there is, there must be something that I still have to learn about meditation!). If you’re able to turn your mind off, you are almost dead. You can’t return back, without taking external help.

    Trying to switch off your brain is a dangerous brain hack, one that should be avoided, particularly in cases when you’re experimenting on your own.

    P.S. If you ever try it again, start meditating early in the morning, probably starting at 3:30 or 4:00 AM. Don’t try doing this in low temperature or you’ll not be able to concentrate. And if possible, meditate outside your house, away from noisy place. Meditate at a place that’s surrounded by nature (trees, etc.) so that you can inhale FRESH morning breeze. Start with focusing on your breath. Breath in… Breath out. Do it regularly but try to stay highly focused. Don’t put much strain on your mind. If you get bored of doing it, stop meditating the very moment.

    You can always do it again when there is no stress of any kind on your mind.

  35. I noticed over time that long periods of meditation that has been done improperly may lead to negative psychological or physical effects. Psychosis, dissociation and uncomfortable sensations are all possible side effects of meditation. Meditation often helps to release emotions perhaps some individuals also may experience depression, panic, anxiety or confusion.

  36. Dana

    Hi Matt,
    I’m new to SEO and love your stuff.

    You just need a good meditation teacher. Try checking out some of the YouTube discourses at http://www.dhyanapeetam.org/web/default.aspx

    Dana

  37. Hey Matt,

    good on you, I’ve tried the same with a dog lying on my chest, but unless I catch him when he’s real tired and sleepy, he just won’t stay still.
    I digg the idea of trying meditation on a 30 day challenge, I’m just coming to the end of 30days not drinking coca-cola (I was addictied to the stuff) and it has worked so far. I reckon I might try meditation for my next 30day challenge.

    Thanks for sharing

  38. dave

    To use the word “challenge” here is funny but inappropriate for it implies effort.

  39. It’s incredible, your cat is identical to mine :) My Micia is 4 years old and she likes to sleep on my chest like your’s maybe they’re brothers :)

  40. Sounds pretty cool. I actually have been doing some homework on TM lately as I want to give it a run for a period of time (not sure if 30 days is my target yet).

    I picked this up for Chapter 5
    Everything You Want to Know About TM — Including How to Do It by John White
    (got the Kindle version to read on my iPhone…it’s an easy fast read)

    then I went to the mothership (G) and searched for: free TM mantras

    I figure I’ll give the mantra (TM style) meditation a run for a while and check it against the ‘mindful’ quiet/head clearing version…

    I know there are benefits to both but want to experience them to see which one ‘fits’ best.

  41. Matt,

    What you tried to get was a deep sleep and not meditation. Meditation will happen to you but certainly not with the cat and posture of yours.

    Maintain a straight posture.. You can sit in a chair, no problem but let the backbone be straight, loose your shoulder muscles, let it droop. Do some rapid breathing and then breath normal. Watch your breath and you will feel the brain shutting down and feel light like sitting on thousands of petals of lotus..

    Anyway I recommend you to take it from a Guru if you are really serious on this..

    Good Luck

  42. My challenge is and was to lose weight and it is going pretty good. i really respect meditation and things people do to try to make themselves better. It is so hard to become slimmer, fitter, and simply accomplish something good like meditating when you have other responsibilities like family and work. I appreciate this post. Thanks.

  43. Hey Matt…try swimming lengths. You get to meditate at the same
    time as doing exercise. Not saying you need the exercise…but…;-)

  44. @Everett – Would agree with Matt, a ten-day meditation retreat sounds very intense. Never heard of such a thing but then again have only done meditation here and there and have not entrenched myself in it in a little bit. Best of luck with that though!

  45. violet

    I practice Yoga everyday which combines exercise and meditation, really a good way to relax my stiff neck and back from sitting in front of a computer all day long.
    My cat is just as chubby as yours!I love the feeling of having him lying on me, purring or snoring:-)

  46. People misunderstand the idea of meditation. Trying to control your mind only leads to frustration and further thoughts. The mind will quiet after some time, but if you think of that as the goal, you’re undermining your own efforts. Instead, just pay attention to inner and outer states – that’s it. If your mind begins to wander, let it – but pay attention to it. Watch where it goes, and use that attention to learn your own thought patterns. Over time, as the patterns become apparent, they will wind themselves down, and eventually, you may find that your mind becomes peacefully quiet.

  47. BillMarshman

    Thich Nhat Hanh mentioned smiling meditation. Simply taking a breath, let it out and relax into a smile. Its not the discipline of a long sit but it can be done many times during the day. A centering that is simple. It can also be done with cats, as the cat does smiling meditation naturally.

  48. You can’t learn TM from a book. Don’t bother. Go to a TM center and learn from a qualified teacher.

  49. Sorry to write in french, but my english is too bad. I suggest you to use this tool to translate from french http://www.google.fr/language_tools :)

    Oui, arrêter de penser est difficile. Mais ce n’est pas ce qu’on vous demande de faire dans la méditation. Ce qu’il faut, c’est ne pas s’attarder sur les pensées. Les voir passer dans son cerveau, mais ne pas s’y arrêter. Ne pas commenter. Juste reconnaitre qu’une pensée passe, et la laisser glisser. Voilà.
    Je vous souhaite beaucoup de bonheur, à vous et à votre chat :-)

  50. My first answer in french, was unfair, excuse me for this.
    So, the purpose is not to stop thinking : even blondes think, sometimes.
    The purpose in mediation is to recognize thoughts when they arrive in your mind.
    When a thought arrive, just say “it’s a tought, it’s not me”, don’t follow this thought, don’t make any comment about it, and it will disappear, leaving your mind spacious. Let slip the thoughts.
    I wish you much happiness to you and your cat. Mine died a month ago, I hope he will be reincarnated.

  51. Hi Matt,

    I really like your photo with the cat. As far as clearing your mind your picture is a good start, did you know that the purring of a cat slows down your heartrate and it makes you feel calmer and more relaxed. So the cat was and is a good idea. I see you are a animal lover, and also that is good in business, because if you are great in contacting with animals you are a great ‘people’ lover. Maybe that is why you are so good in what you do. Keep up the good work and take time of from time to time (with or without the ‘pussy’ on your belly (lol)!

  52. As a webmaster, I´ve been on your site lots of times, but this is the first time I write a comment. The topic here is really refreshing and that´s something I sometimes really need…

    Thank you for the post and for all the infos you´ve been posting here.

    Javi

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