As ever, my New Year’s Resolutions were wellbeing-focused. New Year, new start, new me. But long after I’m back on the sugar (oh, and the gin!), I think there’s one that’s going to stick, for me – and it’s my resolve to stick to meditation. How do I know it’s going to stick? Because of the App that’s quite literally changed my life.
I’ve always meditated. Off and on. Well, more off than on, in truth – but it’s something I’ve always turned to, to restore calm in troubled times. I’ve done walking meditation, washing-up meditation (yes, really!), and even for a while turned a little corner of a spare room into an altar – which just gathered dust after the first few days.
But for 2015, I decided to check out an App that several people had recommended to me lately, and give it a go: Headspace. I’d actually downloaded it months ago but hadn’t got round to using the App (which tells you everything about how busy 2014 was, but is actually a shameful admission.) I started with the Take 10 programme: 10 days of guided meditations, interspersed with little films at the start about how meditation works on the mind, and tips and tricks.
And it flipping well worked. Like a treat. All it took was 10 minutes in the morning, listening to the middle-England tones of Andy Puddicome, the founder of Headspace (unlikely-but-true: he briefly trained at Moscow State Circus and has a degree in Circus Arts), and I had already become a much, much calmer person. By the second set of ten sessions (nudged up to 15 minutes, from the initial 10 days of 10 minutes), any stresses began to seem like mall bumps on life’s road. The key seems to be that the meditation focuses on breathing: counting the breaths, up to ten, and starting over. (No risk of losing count, then.)
I’m now over a month in and I think I can put my hand on my heart and say I’m going to be carving out 10-20 minutes for Headspace for – oh, the rest of my life… Actually, it’s addictive – and on the rare day when I can’t start the day with the meditation, I get that old feeling of wading through treacle.
I will admit to a slight bending of the rules: I do it in bed. Headspace tells you to sit in a chair with feet on the ground. But in my draughty house, in mid-winter, I’m going to find it nigh-on impossible to concentrate on my breathing when it’s misting up the windows, my teeth are chattering, and my lips are going blue – which they would, in my bedroom, if I sat in a chair at 7 a.m., when the heating hasn’t had time to kick in. So I simply pile up my pillows so they’re supportive and keep my spine upright, tuck my hot water bottle beside me for some radiant warmth, place my palms upright on my thighs (under the duvet) – and I’m all set. (Come summer, I’m aiming for a chair-based meditation.)
I’m reminded of the Kipling line: ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…’ Because that’s been me, these last few weeks. There may be a lot of headless chickens – not to mention turkeys – right now, but thanks to Headspace I’m not one of them. In life (not to mention at work), a cool head is one of the greatest assets you can have – but it’s hard to stay that way, amidst life’s frenzy.
Thanks, Headspace, for making it so easy.