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20 Minute Meditation "Retreats" - The Real Happiness 28 Day Challenge

As you may have guessed, I am a proponent of meditation.  The reason I love meditation is that it is a spiritual practice with very down-to-earth effects.

Meditation works. On the days that I meditate (and in the weeks and months that I maintain a regular meditation practice, even if not daily), my life runs more smoothly, with a greater sense of grace and flow. I am more open to the possibilities in front of me, rather than caught  up in what I need to get done by the end of the day or the end of the week.  I am calmer, more present, and more easily able to focus.  I am better able (and more likely) to respond rather than react when challenges present themselves or someone says something that ruffles my feathers.  I more often notice when I am taking on the energy of other people, so that I can put up my shield and mitigate its effects.

What do I mean by "meditation"?  Simply a focused time of silence and openness.  Sometimes that might mean paying attention to my breath.  Sometimes it may mean gazing into the light of a candle, and inviting light to flow into and through me.  Sometimes it may mean - gently and with genuine curiosity rather than judgment - watching my thoughts or exploring my emotions.  And sometimes it is something like prayer.

My clients often ask me how to get started with meditation, or how to keep at it when their lives get busy.

One excellent resource is the book Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg, which also includes a CD with four 20 minute audio meditations to help you get started.  This book was published in the UK under the more descriptive title: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Programme for Real Happiness.

I have been recommending this book to everyone I know:   Here's why:
  1. It's a simple, secular, "how to" manual for getting started with a meditative practice in 28 days.  Note:  you do not have to meditate every day to "succeed" with this program.  In fact, only three 20 minute periods are "required" in the first week of the program.  And if 20 minutes is too much, you may do 10 minutes, or even 5.  The important thing is not the amount of time but your intention to meditate regularly.

  2. It includes suggestions for a dozen or so different ways to meditate, so you can find one that works for you, or mix it up depending on your need or mood.

  3. It does not require a certain set of religous beliefs (or any religious belief).  It is a practical, down to earth guide that provides a road map from one who has gone before - and taught countless others (include brief bio of Salzberg).  Patterns of how we can trip ourselves up.

  4. Most of all, for the constant refrain of "it's never too late to begin again."  If you set aside 20 minutes to meditate and realize on minute 18 that your mind has been wandering the entire time, you simply begin again with the next breath. 

  5. The hard copy book (but, alas, not the Kindle version) includes a CD with audio instructions for four of the meditations, for those who prefer to learn auditorily.
What I found from following this program last September:
  • Reading just a few pages every now and again helped me digest the material and helped keep my attention on my intention.

  • The audios reinforced the reading, and gave me practice "cues."

  • I became much gentler (more compassionate) toward myself, and started extending the compassion I extend to others also to myself.

  • I became much more aware of how critical and negative one of my inner voices is, and learned to see the critical tone as a signal that part of me was feeling neglected, or worried, and to listen for the positive message seeking to be expressed.
I am feeling the need, as I do periodically, to be more intentional about my meditation practice, so I will be taking the 28 day challenge again starting February 1st.   I invite you to join me.  The challenge does not require you to meditate for 28 days straight.  In fact, the first week "requires" that you meditate only 3 times, and only for as long as seems possible.  Five or ten minutes three times a week is enough to make a difference.

I'd love to know if you will be joining me.  Please comment below and let me know.

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