Read Lift’s How to Meditate guide for more tips and free guided meditations.
Lifter Alyson Madrigan holds a 91 day streak in Meditation on Lift. She told us about her first experiences with meditation, why she committed to building the habit, the benefits she’s received from practicing daily and shared some tips for beginners.
Transcript after the jump.
How did you get started meditating?
I was working on a start-up that was related to happiness and mindfulness and I was learning a lot about it but I wasn’t necessarily practicing it. One night I was at a party, and I was talking to a friend about meditation and I practiced it in terms of yoga classes but I hadn’t done it on my own to much, and I just decided that I’d been talking about this a lot, I need to actually start doing it. I chose, at that point to just start. I remember the day distinctly. That’s when I began and I just committed to it. A lot of times, I’ve seen the changes that I’ve actually been able to make (in terms of habits) have happened when I made a very deliberate choice.
Were you scared at first? What were your initial assumptions about meditation?
I don’t know that I was scared, I think it was more hesitation around carving out the time and wondering whether I was really going to get anything out of it.
I carved out the time by making meditation a cornerstone of my morning routine. I read somewhere that having a really strong morning and evening routine kind of form parentheses for your day. I try to start my mornings with meditation just to clear my head and get myself focused. Then I write down my priorities for the day – my top 3 tasks. That kind of helps me focus on what I need to get done that day and how to make sure I’m prioritizing what matters. I think it’s easy to get distracted by the amount of things that are going on, the amount of information that’s thrown at you, the amount of requests. If you are constantly reactive you are going to limit your ability to move forward on the things that matter.
So you decided to start meditating. How did then go about doing it?
When I first started, I didn’t have any app. I would just sit down for 10 minutes at a time, set the timer on my iPhone and do breathing exercises like I might have done in yoga, that was really the only gauge I had. That worked, but over time, I’m not sure how much progress I was making. Then I heard about Headspace on Lift, I saw that everyone in that habit was using that so I was curious and I checked it out. I really like using the app because it helps me more deliberately develop the practice. It has become something that is a really important part of my day.
Was there a breakthrough moment for you when it got easier? Were there any times when you struggled?
There still are days when I struggle, when I’m really busy or I haven’t slept as much and I don’t have the same level of focus. But I do think that 30 days after I started meditating daily it got to that point that I look forward to it and crave it, the same way that happens with exercise. I do look forward to it in the morning.
Do you have any tips for people new to meditation?
Be patient and give yourself room to explore with it. One of the things that I learned is that there is a common misperception that when you meditate you are supposed to have this experience in that moment that changes you, but a lot of it is about setting yourself up throughout the day, making good decisions and not being reactive. The benefits of it actually play out throughout your entire day. I think that is one of the reasons why it is important to do it in the morning. I would also say, I prioritized meditation over some of the other habits because I know if you focus on too many habits at once it is really hard to make change. So if you can just focus on one to begin with, that helps. I chose meditation because I saw it as the cornerstone for all of the other habits. If you practice meditation, it allows you to make more deliberate choices for yourself, so whether that’s eating healthy, or exercising or being more productive and prioritizing your tasks, it trains your mind to be focused and be deliberate and intentional in what you do throughout the day.
How has meditation affected your professional life?
I think it’s really important because if you want to do extraordinary work, that means pushing towards your boundaries and you have to have a strong foundation in order to do that. If you’re not rested, if you’re not clear on what you’re focus is, if you’re not clear on what your motivation is, it’s really easy to get distracted and not really know how to course correct. I think having a strong practice in meditation allows you to cut away the stuff that’s not essential and just really hone in on what matters and be able to listen to yourself when you need to pause and take a break.
In what other ways does your meditation practice show up in your day to day life?
So one of the things that I had been wanting to do is pay more attention to the little joys throughout the day, rather than always focusing on big goals and tasks, because I found that I was constantly racing to try to get the next thing done. I made up this habit called “take a picture of 1 little joy.” I’m taking one picture every day for the whole year of something that brings me joy and it’s been really interesting because it’s a reminder to pay attention throughout the day. I think it’s pretty much impossible to get to the end of the day and not have even one little thing that can bring you joy. It’s just a question of being aware and being observant. Some days for me it’s as simple as when I peeled my clementine in one whole piece and I was really excited about that. Other days it’s spending time with friends or some of the more obvious happiness strategies. And then some days it’s as simple as when the muni comes on time and that’s awesome and that’s all I got today. But if I get to the end of the day and I haven’t logged a little joy, then to me that is a red flag of how I’m showing up and how present I am being throughout the day.
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