It’s been almost 5 years since I published something here. I totally didn’t realize that until I logged in tonight to write and publish this. Bananas. I think I redesigned the whole site and didn’t tell anyone, and also didn’t publish anything. Hilarious. But that’s a topic for another day. Hopefully not a day too far away from now.
So, what have I been doing for these last five years? Well, meditating, for one thing, as you may have guessed from the title.
It’s currently 10:22pm on Thursday, April 27th, 2023. About a half hour ago, I sat down to meditate for the two thousandth day in a row. I did 10 minutes, guided, in my desk chair for some reason. Honestly, I was pretty distracted the whole time because it’s so wild to me that I hit this milestone.
2,000 days. Two thousand. It doesn’t matter how I spell it, it still feels weird to write that sentence; like it’s true but feels like it’s about some other person.
You see, I’m not what I’d call a real big meditation guy. *gasp* It’s just something that never came easy to me.
I always liked the idea of meditation, even as a kid. I had even tried to do what I imagined mediation to be several times as I was growing up. Close your eyes, chill out, maybe think about something or try not to think and instead focus on your breath. Something like that, maybe in a pretty place or in nature, or maybe in your car or couch. In fact, meditation is not complicated. That’s kind of all there is to it. Meditation is pretty light in the barriers to entry department.
Sounds lovely, you must be thinking. But not for me. See, I have a little condition I like to call being distracted as fuck and incapable of not thinking about every actual thing all of the actual time. ADD? A busy mind? Madness? Genius? If you say so. Still, for me to sit still for 10 minutes with nothing to do except quietly keep myself company, it can unpleasant. Challenging.
Still, the hero prevails. You’ve already read the title. So I won’t hype up my burdens beyond this point. Arguably we’ve already gone too far.
Anyway, perhaps not unlike yourself, I always liked the idea of meditation. I have above average skill at anxiety and overthinking, but those things aren’t as fun as the idea of being zen or chill or self actualized or whatever. So, I decided I’d do it as a 1 month experiment. I read a book called Mindfulness in Plain English. Good book. I was convinced. So, I sat down on the first of the month, got comfy, closed my eyes, remembered I didn’t set like a timer or anything, opened my eyes, set a timer on my phone for 10 minutes, closed my eyes, and just tried to notice stuff in the room and in myself. Mostly I noticed that ten is a larger number of minutes than I had previously realized. But also, it felt kind of nice. After the timer went off and I silenced Still D.R.E., I noticed that the volume on the background noise in my head had been turned down. Way way way down. Interesting.
So, the next day, I sat down again, closed my eyes, and drifted into a state of eternal bliss. Just kidding, the second day I spent the whole ten minutes thinking about the way I had felt the day before and how I was going to make this a daily ritual so I could use my super zen powers of calmness and peace to change my entire life and only make good decisions and never procrastinate and build a super empire of some kind and maybe become like a superhero or a bond villain or something. The timer went off and snapped me out of my cognitive dizziness.
I can’t remember if I made it to day three that time. I couldn’t even tell you what year it was. I repeated an iteration of that cycle many times. Start and stop. Stop and go, but mostly stop. Eventually I downloaded the Headspace app on my phone and figured I’d give that a try. I liked it. There was a free 10-day basics course. I did the first day. Good stuff. Second day. Also good. Third day, good stuff but distracted self. I kept at it. I actually do remember where I was for day 6, on the rooftop of my apartment building, in the sun, low angled light, late summer, seagulls gathering by the ballpark, noisily waiting for the game to get out so they could gorge on dropped concessions. That was something like 7 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday, because for the first time I had really managed to be present and notice things instead of thinking things. I plugged into everything around me, and the volume upstairs got muted. It was a really amazing feeling.
The next day, I tried to recreate the experience. I was not successful. That’s how it was for me. Meditation was inconsistent, boring, sometimes amazing. I didn’t love it. Which meant that doing it consistently wasn’t natural. I had to force myself to do it. Which is why it took so many tries to actually make it to 30 days in a row. It actually took several tries to make it to 10 days in a row.
Eventually, I pestered a friend into doing it with me. Meditation buddies. Woohoo! One month, every day. I don’t remember if my friend made it the whole month, but I knew from the start that I would. I tricked myself by taking advantage of the fact that I know I would never let my team down. Let myself down? Easy. My team though? You’re thinking of someone else. I assume playing team sports mildly shapes children’s characters?
Anyway, I made it. I meditated every day for one month. I was so proud. I wasn’t ready to pay for the Headspace app because that’s not how I rolled. So, I just repeated the free 10-day Basics course three times. It wasn’t always something I looked forward to, and some sessions were better than others. Some were even enjoyable or left me with a sense of peace afterward.
As the end of the month approached, I knew I would have to make a decision about whether to keep going. The experiment was ending and, with it, my commitment to the team. I knew my track record. I was proud of myself for making it to 30 days, but this was something I had a history of repeatedly quitting because I never loved really it. I still didn’t love it after 30 days. I decided to go 60 days. After 60 days, I noticed that 100 days is only 40 more days than 60, so it seemed silly not to at least aim for triple digits.
The Headspace app keeps track of your meditation streak. If you meditate every day, your streak tally increases right after each meditation session. They even had fun badges that you could earn for hitting milestones like 30 days, 90 days, 180 days, and 365 days.
After hitting 100 days, I decided to finish the year.
Looking back, that’s a pretty striking detail that I didn’t appreciate at the time. It had taken me several attempts to do this every day for 10 days, and it wasn’t long ago that I didn’t believe I could actually hit 30 days and, in fact, failed several times to do so. Now that I had hit 100 days in a row, the idea of doing another 265 felt as simple as making the decision. After I had decided, it was just a matter of letting the days pass by. That’s not to say it was easy. I didn’t adopt (and still haven’t) a scheduled time of day that I meditate at. That means I set alarms on my phone to remind me to meditate. Early on, the number of daily alarms could be substantial. 9am, noon, 5pm, 8pm, 10pm, 11pm 11:30pm, 11:45, 11:50, 11:57!!! Sometimes I would just put it off out of naked procrastination. Other times, my days were hectic and I was distracted. Weeks would go by where my daily meditations would all be 1 to 3 minutes, just before midnight. Other times, I woke up early and had a nice long session as the sun rose, and that turned into a wonderful day. Meditation is inconsistent.
Still, I kept the streak alive. The habit got stronger. I hit 365 days and decided to go for 500. I hit 500 and it was obvious that the meditation was having an impact on me. I didn’t get flustered like I used to. I was calmer and felt more peace. I hit a thousand days and felt proud; but it didn’t feel nearly as big a deal as when I hit that first 30 days.
Those early wins felt more momentous because they felt like they came against the odds. I had let myself down so many times by not taking a serious approach, and not making and keeping those commitments to myself. I had stopped believing in myself. I think this is an easy cycle for humans to fall into. Which makes me wonder… what if it could be an easy cycle to break out of too?
Easy is the wrong word. It’s not actually easy. Simple is more accurate.
How do you build up your belief and confidence in yourself? That’s the most important thing I learned by meditating every day in a row for 2,000 days. You have to keep your word to yourself or your faith and self confidence can start to erode. Conversely, if you want to build your confidence and self efficacy, you must do what you commit yourself to doing.
No one else even has to know about your commitments to yourself. They are for you, and they are one of the most important aspects of your relationship with yourself.
I meditated every single day for 2,000 days, for a total of 20,000 minutes. I changed from someone who didn’t know if he could meditate every day for 1 month into someone who easily meditated every day for over 65 months. That’s the crazy part. Once I hit 1,000 days, there was no question in my mind that I would hit 2,000 days. It was easy because I already knew I could do it.
I don’t know if meditation has made me a better person, but I know keeping your commitments to yourself is what truly changes you. Everything else is secondary.
Do something challenging every day for a month and see what happens. I promise you won’t regret it.
View all posts in this series
- Clean your Teeth, Clean Your Mind - November 19, 2012
- The most important thing I learned by meditating every day for 2,000 days. - April 28, 2023