About a year ago, I started armchair yoga in which, no surprise there, I was meditating in the chair. But slowly, after 10 sessions, I quit because I couldn’t do some of the “moves” as a stroke survivor. But I always thought that meditation was the way to go until my son suggested Headspace, a meditation forum.
This is what Headspace promises to do:
“The life-changing skills of meditation in just a few minutes a day with Headspace. Find hundreds of sessions on physical health, personal growth, stress management, and anxiety relief. They are all designed to help you stress less, focus more, and feel better. Download Headspace to meditate anywhere, anytime, and start living a healthier, happier life.”
So Headspace was it and I kept a journal of my experiences. I went through it once as a participant, and then I went through it again and wrote the journal because I had to keep my eyes closed about 80% or more most of the time. And no, I’m not getting anything like money from Headspace. Just a fan is all.
Headspace has over 1,000,000 users and it’s free for just the tryout. It cost me $95.88 minus $23.97 for a one-year subscription through retailmenot.com’s discounted code.
Click here: https://www.retailmenot.com/view/headspace.comu=YYOW7IXZXJFYXOETYAVD4C4QMY
Headspace is moderated by someone I’ll call M (for Moderator). He has an even, British or Australian voice which is both soothing and inviting.
I’ll give you my opinion on whether Headspace was worth it after my journal.
Meditation in 10-minute intervals per session: Basics 1
With my eyes closed, the moderator (whom I will refer to, again, as M) suggested inhaling and exhaling while peeking to see how much time had gone by. I was so relaxed that after the 10-minute session, I fell asleep on the sofa for 2 hours.
Before long, M told me to close my eyes as I counted my breaths which should come to around 10 with the inhale-exhale. M said I should travel along my body and see if the outsides or insides of my feet felt more or less pressure, and the heaviness of my arms letting thoughts in my brain achieve comfort. I peeked again. Then the last minute, M said to open my eyes and let the brain be my focus once again. I still haven’t mastered the rhythm.
With eyes closed, M began with my “looking” in my mind at traffic when I came to a stop. No peeking, I decided. M then focused on my body, scanning it, and keeping feet on floor, and by the third minute, I was in a self-induced trance, letting his voice soothe me. I listened to him to regain focus and then opened my eyes. I believe that meditation helps, but I’m not convinced yet.
Always the breathing—in with my nose, out with my mouth. During this session, M allowed more time to let the mind wander, and it did. I heard from an old friend Robyn who says she is taking a trip to Alaska via a cruise, and I went from there to how hard it is to pack for a cruise. And then M interrupted my thoughts and said to go back to the body. He asked how I felt compared to the first session. Different indeed. I could control the mind better to things, and then to revert to the body, which happened several times.
M began with we overthink the process of meditation, and it delays it. Instead, enjoy the feeling of pausing to catch your breath and balance. Once again, M told me to breath and count the breaths, and lose focus by letting my mind do whatever it wants, and then regaining focus, as a sort of good mind control.
M said I have to be comfortable in the space around me. Breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth and count the breaths. Then close my eyes until you get to ten and then start over. It became easier to count the breaths. I believe this was the longest stretch of breathing, but by now, it was almost second nature. The operative word here is “almost.”
M suggested watching a mind video. The video was of a person with clouds forming, until those terrifying clouds produced rain. The session continued with my picturing blue sky all around me. Again, counting breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus on the body. Scan the aches. It’s become easier now to get into the swing of those sessions, without peeking until it was time to open my eyes. I feel good after a 10-minute session, and have not a bit of anxiety. I’ve already decided that my day will go well.
M said to sit comfortably, feet on the floor, an often refrain by now. After I got to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, I was told to scan down the bod, and after, let the mind do what it wants. Then I was told to focus on the body and scan again. I opened my eyes on command and M reminded me of the mind’s ability to be at peace. The mind is at peace when I finished the session.
This session started the same as all the others, but this time he told us to notice the sounds around us without passing judgment. He reminded us that the body strengthens on the inhale and gets soft on the exhale. I didn’t think about that before. He had us scan a couple of times—head to toe—and then let the mind be non-judgmental. M had me open my eyes, and this exercise, which was beneficial, taught me that I do have control over the mind. Day 9 was a breakthrough session. I HAVE CONTROL!
Again the blue sky analogy. Each day is a new chance to practice mindfulness and feel happier and healthier. Be aware of the environment with eyes closed. Basics helps me to get more clarity and calmness into my life. Maybe it is the power of suggestion, but I didn’t freak out with anger in the past 10 days and I had many opportunities to do just that. Personally, I think meditation and me are going to get along just fine.
Meditation in 15-minute intervals: Basics 2
This session was devoted to my own feelings and those feelings of those around me in an attempt to get us to see that meditation doesn’t just affect me. It affects everyone around me, too. M had me scan the body and listen to the sounds around me and then go back to the mind and concentrate. Then let the mind do whatever it wants and bring myself back to focus, all of which was an attempt to have control over my mind.
Much the the same, but I can control the mind better, letting the mind do whatever it wants to do, and then bring the attention back to the body. I feel happy today after this meditation because I finally realize that I have control.
Sometimes, we all feel like we have to do something else to make us truly happy, but that’s not necessarily true. I’m happy right now knowing I can control the brain–anxiety, most obsessive-compulsive behaviors (as related to anxiety), frustration gone, during the session and throughout the day. M said the same thing—noticing when I started and how I feel now.
Longer spaces to breathe, and then counting my breaths. M said to let the mind go, and then bring the focus back to the body. About halfway through, M said to picture blue skies, and I did until I opened my eyes at the end. It was a good session because, once again, I controlled the mind.
The mind is restless, but I know how to control it now. Blue skies and bringing the mind back to the body. Then M said to allow the mind to go free, experiencing the senses, and ultimately bring the mind back to the body. Again, there was more time to let me practice control.
M, as always, start with breathing—in through the nose, and out with the mouth. I didn’t realize it, after a while, that I didn’t feel the chair around me until he said be aware of the chair at the final comments. Well spent 15 minutes.
Restlessness, sleepiness, agitation completely gone. No resistance to sounds M wants me to hear. Deep breaths then returning to normal breathing with closing the eyelids and scanning again. It’s beneficial for me and those around me, M said. Count the breaths, but watch each one. Notice the differences. I let the mind do whatever it wants to do and didn’t feel the physical contact with the chair. Opening my eyes, M said meditation is a journey. I cannot disagree.
M started off with feeling the weight of the body and feeling the resistance. Breathing again and soon normal breathing. M told me to acknowledge any strong, obvious motion. Scan the body. Recognize those around me as well as myself. More familiar rhythm with counting breaths. Resist any pain in the body. Then let the mind be completely free to do whatever it wants to do and followed by refocus to the body. Comfort comes when you acknowledge the pain. And it did.
Obstacles arise, and one of the more obvious is daydreams. Mind wandering can be overcome by bringing the attention back to the body. Create distance, almost as if I’m looking at my body apart from myself. Scan the body. Count breaths. Notice the rise and fall with breaths. Come back to the body. Notice any sounds, and reflect back on thoughts–maybe pleasant, maybe not. Thoughts can be enjoyable, but if we let the mind wander whenever it wants, we miss opportunities to be mindful.
From a technical point of view, it makes the mind more flexible. Experience the weight of the body. Notice sounds. Then bring the attention back to the body. Scan down the body. Count the breaths. Feelings come and go, noticing if there is any sense of resistance. Let the mind wander off and then bring the focus back to the body. Apply these skills to everyday life.
Meditation in 20-minute intervals: Basics 3
There’s a way to tame the mind. Be present. Be aware of physical sensations and sounds. Scan the body, noticing any discomfort. Take a moment for motivation and the impact for me and others. Be aware of the rising and falling in natural rhythm. Count the breaths. If you find that a distraction occurs, focus on each breath. Rising and falling, said M, with each breath and bringing the mind back to the body. Then let the mind do whatever it wants to do. Bring the attention back to the body and into the awareness.
The more I do this meditation, the more natural it would be, the easier it translates to everyday life. Deep breaths and then regular breathing. The physical senses are becoming more familiar in the space around me. Check in with the body. Scan down from head to toe. Notice if there’s any mood or emotion that’s especially obvious right now while silently counting the breaths. M said to let the mind do whatever it wants to do, complete freedom for the mind, then revert the mind back to the body. Observe the weight of the body. Continue the exercise throughout the day. It’s all right if I fail. I’ll just resume.
M says to take breaths, in the same fashion, conscious of the space around me just settling in. Attention back to the body. Scan down the body, not lingering in order to become more aware. Let the mind go free and then back to the body—an exercise in controlling the mind. Notice how each breath was different from the last. Let the mind wander again, and then bring it back to the body. Notice the physical sensation and the space around me. Jog my memory to be aware during the day.
M told me that it doesn’t matter where I am. I can take long breaths without drawing attention. Then he started with taking deep breaths. Then close my eyes while becoming more aware of the weight of the body and sounds around. Scan down through the body for both comfort and discomfort. Start to notice any strong moods or emotions and any motivation including those around me. Then bring the attention back to the body, noticing how every breath is slightly different. I hear the sounds of the busy street, but they don’t bother me anymore. Count the breaths. Let go and give the mind all the space it wants. And then attention back to the body. The session was a particularly good one.
Another way to integrate meditation in your life is smell of food or atmosphere. Close the eyes and feel the weight of the body pressing down. Start to notice any emotion particularly strong right now. Scan down and remind myself why I’m doing it, for myself and those people around me. Maintain that focus and count your breaths. If any distraction, bring the attention back to the body. Let go of any focus and permit the mind to be free. And then bring the attention back to the body and feeling the weight of the body and noticing all the senses around me.
M reminded that you can do meditation during the day, turning it into a way of living, becoming more aware of the sounds around you. Check in with the body and scan down, noticing how the body feels and any strong emotions. Understand the mind clearly to me and those around me. Bring the attention back to the body, more aware of the rising and falling sensation. Count the breaths. The moment I realize that the mind is being distracted, bring my attention back to the body. And now letting it go and give the mind space to do whatever it wants. Bring the attention back to the body, noticing my feet on the floor and sounds. Gently open my eyes, maintaining my posture with quality of awareness instead of immediately jumping up.
If you’re like most people, you spend so much time lost in thought. Breathe and watch the rise and fall of the body. Settle in and notice sounds around me, how the body feels by scanning down. Continue down toward the feet, being aware of how the body feels and the emotional as well, being aware of the movement of breath, and the motivation and the relationships in my life. Let go of any thinking and where in the body I feel that rhythm. Count the breaths until 10, and start over again. The moment I realize I’m being distracted, bring the attention back to the body. No need to concentrate, letting the mind do whatever it wants to do. And then bring attention back to the body, the weight of the body and sounds transitioning. Be aware of sitting to standing, standing to sitting, because even though it seems automatic, we often forget to be mindful of those actions.
I need to be present in the automatic movement of standing and sitting, taking deep breaths and closing my eyes, separating the different physical senses. Scan down through the body, becoming more aware. Take a moment to clarify the positive impact on myself and those around me. Notice the rhythm of the breaths. Count the breaths. Bring the attention back to the breath if I find myself distracted. With the next out-breath, let the mind do whatever it wants to do. Then bring the attention back to the body. Make sure I am remaining aware of the movements.
It may seem repetitious, but this is the foundation for more easily accomplishing meditation. With the next out-breath, close the eyes and realize the senses around me. Scan down and become more aware of how the body feels while scanning down. Identify why I’m doing this exercise to have a positive effect for myself and those around me.
M said to just be aware and integrating meditation into my daily life with a calm and patient, not reactive, mind. Take deep breaths and close the eyes. Noticing weight of the body, settle into the space around you. Detect any sounds and becoming more aware of how the body feels. Not thinking, just noticing. Motivation is for myself and those around me. Count the breaths as they pass each time. At the next out breath, let the mind do whatever it wants to do. Bring the attention back to the body, feet on the floor, just recognizing the senses. Congratulations, M said, but this is only the beginning.
The end of the journal and my thoughts here:
Sure, it’s repetitious, but that’s what training is all about. My motto was, give the class a heads up by telling them what they’re going to learn, teach it, and wrap up by telling them what they learned in the session. I haven’t had anxiety or frustration in the past 30 days, and when it comes to depression (which I don’t have anymore after 8 years, decreasing slowly every year), Headspace will probably make a difference, too, if you follow all the words that M says exactly.
The Basics are a small part of what Headspace offers. There are the many sessions, for example on stress, sleep, health, confidence, self esteem, and happiness, and more–even emergency sessions if you find that you’re losing your grip with reality or just angry enough to start throwing anything that’s handy. Can you tell I’m a fan of Headspace? Indeed, I am!
Headspace is worth it, for its calming and relaxing effect which I need. Politics aside (or including), my hunch is that you need it, too, for this crazy world in which we are living.
As Headspace says, “Live a healthier, happier, more well-rested life with Headspace.” Who wouldn’t want that!
I'm a big advocate of meditation for stroke survivors. I found that the repetitive part of it builds the brain "muscles" and trains them for being able to break out of perseveration, for those that are experiencing that problem. I'd also say that meditation is an excellent tool in life generally, and Headspace is a great way in. Glad to find it's worked for you too, Joyce!