What a Week of Meditation Taught Me

For those of you who are not aware, October is Emotional Wellness Month. There are numerous definitions for emotional wellness, but the one I decided to focus on was: Acceptance of one’s feelings and the ability to manage them in healthy ways. To celebrate Emotional Wellness Month this year, I decided to do meditation 10 minutes everyday for one week straight, and here is what it taught me:  

Saturday

Saturday was my research day. On this day I came to the realization that there are actually many types of meditations. With this newfound discovery, I decided to select a different type of meditation for each day, starting with a more beginner-friendly meditation and ending the week with what I see as the most complex type of meditation. I also decided, since technology is so prominent, that I would try to use two different types of meditation apps just to see if I felt any difference using an app rather than going with the more "traditional” route of meditation.  

Sunday

Mindfulness meditation is what I have researched as one of the best beginner forms of meditation. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise. To perform mindfulness meditation you sit up straight with an unsupported back and focus on your breathing while also being aware of what’s going on around you. You don’t add to what is going on, you simply remain aware of it; if you find yourself getting distracted then you bring your focus back onto your breath.

Pros: I felt the benefits immediately after the session.

Cons: Since this was my first time meditating, it was very hard to focus. I found myself constantly thinking about homework, classes, and noises rather than focusing on the meditation. What was very interesting was that, even though I did feel the benefits right away, I was so calm that it kind of felt uncomfortable, almost like an “out-of-body” experience.  

Monday

The first app that I decided to try this week is called Headspace. The app is not entirely free, it consists of ten guided meditation sessions (ten minutes each) that teach you the basics of meditation, and after the 10 free sessions you do have to pay a monthly fee if you wish to continue with the app. Each month separately is $12.95, a year is $7.99/month, 2 years is $6.24/month, and forever is a one time purchase of $419.95.

Pros: It was very easy to sign up for the app: all you have to do is give your name, email address, and create a password. The ten minute session was amazing. The instructor made the environment calm, relaxed, and enjoyable. After the 10 minutes was done I did not feel uncomfortable like I did the day before, I just felt “zen”. I felt no stress, no discomfort, my mind was no longer wandering a mile a minute, I felt completely at peace.

Cons: The price - it is unfortunate that you have to either pay a monthly subscription or hundreds of dollars to be able to use the app forever. Because of the price, I don’t know if I will purchase a subscription with the app, but after this week I will definitely be using my nine other free sessions!  

Tuesday

Zen meditation is a type of Buddhist meditation. There are many technical rules to this type of mediation: you are to be seated with good posture, mouth is closed, and your eyes are lowered staring at the ground in front of you. There are two types of ways to do this meditation and I chose the meditation that focuses on the breath. To do this, all you have to do is count every time you inhale (so your first inhale would be one) and continue this until you get to ten. Then you count backwards, and continue this pattern for the whole meditation session.

Pros: Focusing on the breath really helped keep my mind at rest which made the session much more enjoyable than Sunday’s.

Cons: Some of the technicalities of the meditation were odd for me. For example, keeping my eyes open made it hard for me to focus so at the halfway mark I closed them. Another point I would like to make is that I did not feel as relaxed as I did with the guided meditation on Monday. My mind and body felt at rest, but it was not the same “completely at peace” feeling I was left in after the guided meditation session.  

Wednesday

The second and last app I decided to review this week is Take A Break: Guided Meditations for Stress Relief. Unlike Headspace, this app is completely free and there are many more meditation options. For example, you can choose stress relief meditation or work break meditation, and if they don’t have the type of meditation you need they list some other free meditation apps that you can use. This app also gives the option of having music in the background, and you control how loud or soft you want the music to be.

Pros: It’s free! As college students, hearing “free” is music to our ears so this guided meditation app being free is definitely a benefit. Another pro is the fact that there are so many options for all different types of people.

Cons: The instructor’s voice was very mumbled, so I spent most of my time focusing on what she was saying rather than relaxing. Also, even though you are able to control many things within this app, the one thing you can’t control is how long you want the session to be. The only choices I had were 7 minutes or 13 minutes, and personally I find it important to be able to control how long your session is. Overall, I didn’t really like this app, I couldn’t get comfortable, I was disappointed in not being able to control the time, and I felt that I would’ve had a much more pleasant experience if I just did another Headspace session.  

Thursday

On Thursday I tried vipassana meditation which is a much more complex form of meditation than the prior ones I tried. A summarized version of the steps are to first focus on your breath, then become aware of your sensations without letting them distract you, and finally focus on an object. The object is usually a body part, so for example, you focus on the abdomen and how it expands and then relaxes with each breath. You focus on how all of the senses affect that object, and while you are doing this you are not letting yourself get distracted by any background noises. If you do hear, for example, a motorcycle, you just think of it as “hearing” rather than a motorcycle so that you don’t lose your focus on your object of choice.

Pros: I chose to focus on my chest, and I really enjoyed being able to have something to focus on that wouldn’t obstruct my session. Having this focus helped me stay on task with the meditation, but it wasn’t too distracting. I was still able to have a free mind even though I was focusing on my chest and how my breathing affected it.

Cons: There weren’t too many cons, though the only one is that I prefer guided meditation rather than doing it on my own. Still, I know that if I’m ever in a situation where I can’t have that guided meditation, I will surely use this form.  

Friday

On Friday, my last meditation session was loving-kindness meditation. Since it is emotional wellness month, I felt like this was the perfect way to end my week because to do loving-kindness meditation, you sit down with your eyes closed and start developing loving-kindness towards yourself, then progressively towards others and all beings.

Pros: The only pro that I could think of for this type of meditation is that you had your eyes closed, which is what I enjoy when meditating. I thought I would like this form of meditation a lot, but overall it was very difficult.

Cons: It was very strange for me to be thinking while I was meditating. All of my other meditation sessions focused on either your breathing or just letting your thoughts naturally happen, so having to actually focus on something other than my body was very hard for me. I felt like I didn’t receive many benefits because I wasn’t able to fully relax.

 

Recap

Overall I really enjoyed this week. Something I realized is that meditation is extremely necessary, especially for the college student. Some days I felt like skipping my sessions because I was extremely busy but I forced myself to do them and after the meditation I felt so much better about the rest of the day. What I love about meditation is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time doing it for it to be beneficial. I did meditation for just ten minutes every day, and I was immediately able to feel the benefits for most of the meditations.

Meditation is key in emotional wellness, and if I could only say one thing that I learned after this week it would be to keep calm and meditate on!

 

Cover Image