“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” — Henry Ford
I have tried and failed at meditating more times than I can count. This time I’m beginning again more intelligently, and it’s paying off.
In my last post, I identified the three things I have found essential to incorporating healthy habits like meditating and running into my daily routine: 1) a strategy to protect top priorities (click here to read about my spreadsheet tool); 2) the right equipment; and 3) conviction that it’s worth it.
Why Equipment Matters
When I took up running under my doctor’s orders three years ago, all I thought I’d need was a pair of running shoes and a bottle of water. All sorts of sensory challenges made the new task more difficult than I had expected. Within the first few minutes of jogging, a maddening itchiness spread from my thighs all the way up to my shoulders. My nose ran non-stop along with the rest of me, my hair bouncing on my head drove me crazy, and underwear creep was a chronic annoyance.
My earlier attempts at meditating were just as uncomfortable. I would sit cross-legged on a standard pillow on the floor, trying to keep my back as straight as possible. Within minutes my butt bones hurt despite the pillow, my hip flexors strained, and my back ached from top to bottom.
As directed by the voice on the guided meditation tape playing in the background, I tried to focus all my attention on my breathing, but the rest of my aches overpowered the narrator. Even if I managed to focus for a couple of minutes, I couldn’t maintain an upright posture for very long. I’d allow myself to slump against a wall (or the door, if I was hiding from my kids in there), and I would usually end up dozing off.
How the Right Running and Meditation Equipment Made the Difference
I am neither a shopper nor an acquirer of stuff in general. But when I took up running, I learned that my equipment could make or break my experience. And I’m not even talking about the shoes (someday I’ll write about my foray into barefoot running). I’m talking about sweat wicking fabrics that keep my hives at bay, quality underwear, and the simple power of two handkerchiefs–one to tie my hair down, the other to blow my nose. By eliminating those sources of discomfort, I had no more excuses. There was nothing left to do but run.
With meditation, the revelation has been the bench. I had never heard of a meditation bench before, and stumbled upon it while searching Google for a book on meditation techniques (one of those “customers who bought this, also bought this” ads).
The bench works on the same principle as those funky desk chairs you kneel on if you have back problems. You fold your legs under the angled seat, which is about 8 inches off the ground and about 18 inches wide. The seat distributes the weight comfortably between your hips and shins, with the angle keeping your posture naturally upright with no effort at all. The bench eliminates every ache, every pain. No more excuses.
The other piece of equipment I’ve come to rely on is Zazen Suite, a meditation timer and mindfulness bell app on my phone. There are a number of timer apps out there. This one cost $2.99, and it’s been well worth it. You can choose between four different chimes, set an interval chime if you want to, and can pretend that a monk on a mountain top is marking the start and end point of your meditation session. I use it to time all sorts of other things too, including running.
(My initial experiments with setting the interval chime halfway through the session made me jump out of my skin each time, so I would suggest just sticking with the start and end bell.)
I will be writing more about my meditation learning curve in upcoming posts, including the techniques I’ve been reading about and testing, and, most importantly, how I found that third essential component to making meditation part of my daily routine: conviction.
How about you? How has the right equipment helped you sustain healthy habits?