How a Month of Meditation Helped Me Win at Life

Writing today for #IBOT

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”  Amit Ray, Yogi

At the end of 31 days of meditation for the Mindful in May meditation challenge I am feeling focused, well rested and thoughtful.  Did I win at life? I'm not sure I can define 'win,' but I do feel that life is and will be better and easier in many ways than it was before.  That's a win, right?

I have learnt a lot, I am sleeping better, I have had a very focused and productive month and I am far more mindful and aware of being 'in the moment' than I was one month ago.  I can quickly recognise and relax those parts of my body that are tense and I've got better at letting anxious or unnecessary thoughts 'wash' over and out of my mind rather than lodging within in it and repeating in an endless and unhelpful loop.

For those who don't know about the Mindful in May challenge, it was started by Melbourne-based Psychiatrist Dr. Elise Bialylew in 2011.  Mindful in May encourages people to raise money for clean water initiative Charity Water by practising mindfulness meditation for at least 10 minutes a day for one month. When you sign up you receive audio guided meditations each day via email to use for your meditation practice.

In a recent interview with Rafael Epstein on ABC 774 in Melbourne, Dr. Bialylew said, 

"It's really aimed at people that are completely new at meditation, to help them develop more effective techniques of managing stress, finding more calm and clarity in everyday life."

Dr Bialylew said there was "compelling scientific research" into the benefits of mindfulness meditation. "It actually can transform, change the structure and function of your brain in ways that are very helpful," she said.

"I like to explain it to people as being analogous to physical exercise, but it's a type of exercise for the mind." 

how a month of meditation helped me win at life mindful in may potential psychology blog

I practised my meditation mostly at night, just before bed and I have had the best month of sleep I have had in ages without the three am wake up and stay awake that's plagued me recently.  Initially I found it difficult to wind down, to locate the points of tension in my body and relax these and to get my mind to settle and not jump from thought to thought and distraction to distraction.

As the weeks passed, however, I noticed that once I put my ear buds in to listen to the audio and lay down my body seemed to know exactly what to do and I sank down into a physically relaxed and focused state very quickly.  A great way to get ready to sleep.

The audio guided meditations were great, with a range of different types from short simple body scans to longer lovingkindness meditations that required thought and attention to ourselves and the people in our lives as well as focus on our bodies and breathing.  

There were the standard weekly meditations voiced by Dr. Bialylew (each week there was a different theme, from the simple to the more complex as the weeks progressed).  There was also a bonus meditation each day.  A mini 'keeping the habit alive' 2 minute meditation one day.  A longer 20 minute 'appreciating the miracle of breath' meditation on another.

Along with the meditation program those participating in the challenge were also privy to many videos with some world renowned experts on the science of happiness and wellbeing (several of whom I have mentioned on this site in months past).  People such as:

BJ Fogg talking about developing habits of mindfulness.

Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, a philosopher and psychologist whose Wholebeing Institute Potential Psychology is partnering with to provide Positive Psychology and Happiness courses

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson who is a world leader how micro moments of love and connectedness nourish our wellbeing.  

Susan Kaiser Greenland, an expert on kids and meditation whose book The Mindful Child helps parents teach their kids to be mindful, more thoughtful, resilient and empathic.

Dr. Craig Hassed, a Melbourne-based GP, Senior Lecturer at Monash University and great advocate of applying holisitc, integrative and mind-body medicine into medical practice.  

Mindful in May was not a solo pursuit for me this year.  I had a wonderful team of experienced and first time meditators join me as the Potential Psychology Stress Less team.  We kept each other on track, shared our experience, joined together in our fundraising efforts and generally just enjoyed this experience together.  

Many thanks go to Lisa from Twinkle Little Soul, Shannon from My2Morrows, Stacey from The Veggie Mama, Carly from Smaggle, Kate from My mOther Life, and Cathy from Peregrination Gourmande as well as Vanessa, Renae, Amy and Dominique for joining in the fun and meditative bliss and for helping to keep me on track.

Of course the benefits of Mindful in May reach far beyond those of us who participated.  So far this year the challenge has raised over $280,000 for clean water projects in less developed parts of the world to help the one in nine people on our planet who don't have access to clean drinking water.  The goal is to reach $300,000 as this will provide clean water to 8,500 people in communities in Uganda.  Donations are still open.  You can donate and support our team and this great cause here.

Will I continue my meditation based on what I've learnt in May? Absolutely. It's onwards and upwards from here and I'm already looking forward to Mindful in May 2016.  Will you join me?