My mom has practiced daily meditation and breathwork for as long as I can remember. Growing up, we always had a dedicated meditation room. I never had the patience for meditation and believed it just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until 2020 when I started dabbling with my own meditation practice. I started listening to Yoga Nidra tracks to improve my sleep, which evolved into a loose practice of guided meditations in my car during my lunch breaks. I’ve always known that meditation is good for us, but but as I delved deeper into the science of well-being, I could no longer ignore all the compelling evidence supporting a consistent meditation practice. I deeply desired to build a consistent meditation practice and struggled. In 2021, I even spent a week with a Buddhist monk and we would practice zazen meditation every morning for hours. Last year, on my birthday, I decided to fully commit to a daily practice. My desired identity was to become someone who is calm, focused, and present. I planned to do this through a consistent meditation practice. I set the goal of 100 days. Today I’m proud to say I’m at 365+ days!
So how did I meditate daily for one year?
Comfort is Key when Getting Started
In Yoga Nidra, an ancient form of sleep-based guided meditation, you are encouraged to lay down in a comfortable, distraction-free place with headphones, eye mask, pillows, and cozy blankets. Yoga Nidra has been an incredibly powerful tool on my journey towards better sleep and feeling well rested. It was also the first time I experienced deep meditative states. I began to practice other styles of meditation with the same level of comfort. Embracing comfort allowed me to relax and fully focus on my meditation practice without distractions. For my first 100 day streak I only meditated in bed, first thing in the morning! Instead of hitting the snooze button, I would pop on a 10-15 minute guided meditation and lay in savasana. It was too easy to NOT do. It allowed me to build the consistency and routine before I graduated to seated meditations, mantra meditations, and silent meditations.
Incorporating Movement, Breathwork, and Journaling
As I graduated from laying mediation to seated meditation, I learned to use movement, breathwork, and journaling as a ramp into my meditation practice. Using these practices allowed me to prepare my body and quiet my mind before settling into meditation. Sometimes I can just roll out of bed and sit down to meditate no problem. Sometimes my mind is racing and my body is full of wiggles. Allowing myself intuitively stretch, breath, or reflect helps me transition into a more calm and centered state. If you struggle with stillness, perhaps try meditating AFTER a workout or yoga class!
The Power of Creating a Streak (on your own terms!)
When I set my original goal, I foresaw that my main obstacle would be missing or forgetting days. My solution to this was to adopt a gentle and flexible approach. I decided that it was inevitable that I miss a day here and there, but that I would never miss more than one day of meditation in a row. If I missed a day, I didn't beat myself up; instead, I acknowledged it, recommitted, and double down on my practice the next day (I would literally meditate twice the next day). After I hit day #100, simply maintaining my streak became it’s own source of motivation. Technically speaking, I didn’t meditate everyday for an entire year, rather I meditated 365 times over 365 days! Not everyone is meant to thrive with rigid rules. Some people are more successful with flexibility. Set your own rules, practice on your own terms, and stop comparing your self to others!
Meditating in All Forms to Build Overall Mindfulness
Creating flexibility in my goals and methods allowed me practice meditation in various ways and in different settings. I didn't limit myself to just one form of meditation but explored different techniques, such as guided meditations, using mala beads for mantra repetition, walking meditations, dhristi candle meditations, silent meditations, etc. I meditated laying down, seated, standing. Eyes open, eyes closed. In planes, trains, hotels, in nature. This allowed me to cultivate mindfulness in all areas of my life. I learned to bring the skills I developed during meditation, such as awareness of my thoughts and emotions, non-judgmental acceptance, and diaphragmatic breathing, into my daily activities. You can turn anything into a mindfulness practice with the proper intention. Stuck in traffic. Washing the dishes. Walking the dog…. you get the point :)
The Practical Details
Okay, so now let's chat about the practical details. What does my actual set up look like? As I've mentioned, I started by listening to guided Yoga Nidras and meditations. Through another practice of mine, I learned that I need to charge my phone outside of the bedroom and avoid checking it first thing in the morning (read more about digital minimalism here). But I needed a way to use my favorite meditation app, Insight Timer. So I found an old first generation iPad, downloaded the meditation app, and only use it for that. No other distractions, notifications, or shiny things to pull my attention away from the goal of meditating!
A note on meditation apps: There are a lot of meditation apps (like Headspace, Calm, etc.). I love Insight Timer because it's FREE! With over 100,000 guided meditations, it has pretty much everything you want. Morning rituals, sleep tracks, sound baths, breathwork, some guided yoga. Tracks range from 2 minutes to 2 hours, you can filter based on your needs. I use this app for 15 minute morning meditations and before bed, especially if I'm having trouble falling asleep. I love that the app has a daily tracker with a check in question. It really helps you keep build the habit of meditation. I've created a playlist of all of my favorite meditations here.
A note on meditating around other people, on public transportation, etc: If I'm trying not to disturb my partner or wanting to meditate on a plane or even in my car during a lunch break, I love using this bluetooth eyemask/headphones! It has been one my best purchases to date. I highly recommend!
Another tool that has been incredibly helpful when weaning off of guided meditations is Mala beads! Mala beads are traditionally used in various spiritual practices, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, as a tool for counting recitations of mantras or prayers, typically made with 108 beads. During a Mala bead meditation, you hold the Mala in your hand and use your thumb to gently move from one bead to the next, reciting a mantra or affirmation with each bead. Sometimes I like to move at the pace of one breath, one bead. The repetition of the mantra and the tactile sensation of the beads can help calm the mind, deepen focus, and enhance the meditative experience.
Lastly, when shifting towards seated meditation it's important to create a comfortable set up. It really helps to prop up your hips about your knees using blocks, pillows, or even a rolled blanket. I've found my high-density foam roller to be the perfect height for me! No need to buy any fancy meditation pillows.
My journey of meditating 365 times in a year was not about perfection or strict adherence to a routine, but rather about embracing comfort and flexibility with my own unique touch. Starting small and easy (laying in bed, bluetooth eyemask), using tools (yoga, breathwork, journaling) as a ramp into meditation, allowing myself to miss one day but never more than two, and exploring different routines until I found what worked for me.
A year later, I do feel more calm, focused, and present. It’s much easier for me to drop in to a more mindful state through out my day. I’ve discovered that my favorite position is actually perched on my foam roller. I need to meditate BEFORE I check my phone. I really love setting an intention and following that intention for 1-3 rounds of my mala, one breather per bead. If I miss my practice, I can always find another mindful moment throughout my day to get grounded and present. It’s okay to make up for a missed meditation the next day (Yoga Nidra naps count!). I’ve got a long way to go towards my desired identity, but I’m incredibly proud of myself for committing to and showing up for myself in this way daily!