I was never the sort of person who meditated. The idea of sitting or lying still thinking about nothing for any extended period of time just seemed impossible if I wasn't asleep. Not only did I assume that I would never be able to master this practice of silence and stillness, it just felt to me like time wasted; time I could have been spent writing, or watching TV, or pondering whatever existential crisis I was going through at the time (#millennial). Or reading. Honestly, who would willingly use a spare 20 minutes meditating when they could be reading?!
Then 2016 happened; and well, 2017, too. Add a few personal hiccups in to the mix and everything had started to feel... overwhelming. I knew I needed to make some changes. I've already talked about how taking a social media break helped my state of mind a lot, but also how it helped me become a better reader. But when I finally gave in and started meditating on a regular basis, I found that it not only helped with anxious feelings; it helped me read better, too.
Now, if you were anything like me you're probably thinking "Meditation is way to hippie for me" or "I can't sit still! Look at all these things I have to do!" And I feel you there, fellow reader, I really do. So let's break down those concerns, shall we? Meditation can err on the side of the "woo woo" for sure; there is chakra cleansing and chanting and lots of things you've probably never considered before. But a vast majority of meditation is, very simply, training your body to breathe deeply. Attempting to clear the mind. Focusing in on the present moment, and releasing any obsessions over the past or fears for the future. That last part is definitely the hardest by far; and I am the farthest thing from a meditation expert.
But, according to my Insight Timer App (if you are new to meditation, you absolutely need this free app in your life...the selection of meditations is so vast, you are sure to find something you like), I have meditated every day for the past 32 consecutive days. And I'm getting better, finding it more natural, and looking forward to the 10 to 20 minutes I spend on it every night. Meditation is not about mastering anything, but instead about building it into your life in ways that are helpful to your overall state of being. When things are feeling a bit much, I'm finding it easier to call up methods of relaxation I've been learning from my practice. And when that doesn't work, a guided meditation is always just a click away.
What has this done for my reading, though? In a similar way to my Twitter detox, meditation is helping to change my general state of mind from one of chaos to one of calm focus. No, that's definitely not true for every minute of every day, at least not yet. But I'm getting there, and with that progress I have noticed a massive change in my ability to read more, and better. Meditation is all about being in the present moment, and zeroing in on a singular focus; and carrying that method into my reading has made a huge difference.
Meditation is all about being in the present moment, and zeroing in on a singular focus; and carrying that method into my reading has made a huge difference."
By training my mind to concentrate solely on what I am reading (and not on Twitter, or the internet, or whatever book is waiting impatiently on the top of my TBR stack) I am better able to not only more fully enjoy the experience of reading again, but to really delve into what a book is saying, and making connections to other things I have read or knowledge I already possess, which isn't being hidden behind a wall of anxious feelings or stress. Since reading is more joyful for me now than it's been in a while, I just want to keep picking up more and more books; smashing my TBR pile even as it grows steadily larger (because isn't it always?)
If you've been looking for a way to feel more zen, or if you need help focusing on reading again, I highly recommend trying out meditation. We all need to find more peace in the turbulent waters...and if being able to do more of what we love is a additional result? Well, that's just icing on that book-shaped cake, right?