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How Meditation Changed My Life

Meditation

In this busy world we live in, there's one essential thing people don't make time for anymore: doing nothing. Not thinking about what happened yesterday, or what's planned for tomorrow. No Facebook, no YouTube, no texting. Nothing. Just being present; in the here and now. That's what I've been doing for 15 minutes a day over the past six months.

No Facebook, no YouTube, no texting. Nothing.

Six months ago, while wandering around the Play Store, I came across an app promising to demystify meditation, making it accessible to anyone willing to start. Having been curious about meditation for quite a while, I immediately installed the app. What could have been just another app on my phone would later turn out to be so much more.

The first thing the app offers is a series called Take10, comprised of ten 10-minute sessions. At first, my practice was a bit erratic: I did around two sessions a week, with no real commitment. After reaching the fifth session, I noticed the app wasn't as free as it looked like: only the Take10 series was available for non-paying users. This disappointed me a little; at least initially.

Headspace Timeline
The app displays a timeline showing all the series you have already done.

In spite of my disappointment, I continued the series and committed myself to practising a little more regularly. When I eventually reached the end of the tenth session, I didn't hesitate one bit: I pulled out my credit card and got a one-year subscription. That's something I would have never imagined myself doing just a week or two earlier. What convinced me are simply the effects of those ten meditation sessions. It's a little hard to describe, but you just feel amazing after completing a session; I'll get back to this in more detail later on. Regarding the price (€5.99/month for a year, reduced to €4.74/month via a voucher received by email), it may seem expensive at first, but it's actually not that much. The price of a sandwich or two per month seems perfectly reasonable for what the app does for you.

When I eventually reached the end of the tenth session, I didn't hesitate one bit.

Having unlocked the rest of the first pack — called the Foundation Pack —, I finished the two remaining series composing it. As its name indicates, the goal of this first pack is to lay a foundation to build the rest on. The three series in the Foundation Pack are each comprised of 10 sessions of 10, 15 and 20 minutes, respectively. Once I had acquired the basics, I gained access to the rest of the content, divided into seven main packs:

  • Health, addressing topics such as stress, anxiety, sleep and self-esteem
  • Brave, addressing topic such as regret, anger and restlessness
  • Happiness, addressing different aspects of it, such as appreciation, acceptance and patience
  • Work & performance, addressing themes such as creativity and concentration
  • Sport, addressing themes such as motivation and focus
  • The Pro pack, meant to deepen your practice

At this time, the app offers 620 sessions, divided into 40 packs (eleven 30-session packs and twenty-nine 10-session packs). This represents between 100 and 210 hours of content, depending on the chosen session duration.

You just feel amazing after completing a session.

Single sessions — sessions that aren't part of any particular pack — are also available for specific situations, such as falling asleep, cooking, commuting, fear of flying, etc. There are also four 3-minute S.O.S. sessions to use when you're having a bit of a meltdown, as well as mini sessions ranging from 1 to 3 minutes, to use throughout your day.

The founder of the company behind the app, Andy Puddicombe, gave an excellent TED talk on meditation:

Note: What follows may sound a tad cliché, but it is absolutely true.

Ever since I've been meditating daily, I sleep better, need less sleep, am generally less stressed, have a better concentration and can deal with stressful situations significantly better than I used to. In short, I just feel considerably better than before — not that I was feeling bad back then, but I just feel better. After a meditation session, I feel energized and have a sense of clarity in my thoughts; a feeling of knowing where I'm going.

I didn't meditate daily at first, but that's something which changed overnight. One morning, I was woken up an hour before my alarm clock by a noisy neighbour. After turning around in my bed over and over again for half an hour, I decided to do something productive with my time. You guessed it: I got up and did a meditation session. I got through the day without any feeling of tiredness, despite the fact I was lacking around two hours of sleep , due to the joys of getting lost on the Internet in the evening.

The app offers various statistics about your practice.

After that day, I did some research and found the Sleep vs. meditation post on the Headspace forums, confirming my experience. What Andy says in his answer makes sense: while sleeping, we don't control the state of our mind; this is why some nights can sometimes feel so restless, for instance. Meditation, among other things, allows you to control that pretty well, which is why it makes up for the sleep time 'lost' from getting up earlier. Ever since that day, my alarm clock has been going off 20 minutes sooner every day, just so I can meditate. It's one of the best decisions I took in 2014, if not in my entire life.

If you're persistent, you'll earn badges and vouchers for a certain amount of days to give to your friends (30 after 15 and 30 days, then 90 after 90, 180 and 365 days).

A few months ago, I was contacted by a recruiter from Google. After a couple of phone interviews, I visited their London office to attend my final interviews. While those interviews didn't lead to an offer, I still consider them a positive experience. I am convinced I would have never gotten that far in the recruitment process, had I not started meditating six months ago.

It's one of the best decisions I took in 2014, if not in my entire life.

If you want to try meditation, the Headspace app is available on Android, iOS and in your browser. Here's the video presentation:

Note that this is not a sponsored post; it's simply an experience I wanted to share.

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