This post is a follow up to Part 1, and something I don't do much anymore: a "how-to."
It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a way to organize a beginning approach to meditation. Because frankly, the staggering amount of information on meditation makes it challenging to know where or how to start - and starting is all you need to think about, if you're new to the process. I'm hoping to take some of the pressure off by giving you a little step-by-step (with the caveat, always, that you may devise another way to go about it).
And let's revisit the why. What does meditation have to do with an organized life?
It's crazy simple: my clients who meditate regularly see results. An enhanced ability to pause. A keener ability to observe and check in with themselves. All of which, in turn, leads to greater ease in making decisions. That's not to say that it's impossible to make progress with your stuff behind the stuff if you don't meditate. Still, it's another tool in the toolbox, like a solid and reliable hammer that helps you to build your structure.
Take the weight out of this - most of us are not training to be Buddhist monks. It is not about religion (although contemplative prayer is related and can be very supportive). There is no passing, or failing, or "Best Meditator" award. To begin, all you're looking for is
So, the following is Sara's How To Start Meditating, version 1.0. Pick a start, any start:
OK, you've taken a little bit of the mystery out and satisfied yourself that meditation doesn't have to be boring, scary, or heaven forbid, woo-woo. Next, I might suggest an app.
I never start out recommending meditation apps because they have so many bells and whistles and…choices. Meditation apps are usually digitally cluttered messes, so buyer beware. But kind of like when you dig through the Everest of paperwork on your desk and find that elusive set of notes from the conference, or the last letter from your grandma, or your passport, there are gems to behold and take delight in.
Set aside an afternoon to do some exploration and learn about the different features. No kidding - an afternoon. This process is as much a self-care piece as planning your meals or figuring out a workout routine. Reserve time for this. Here are my thoughts on three of the top-rated ones:
Headspace - Lots of folks swear by this app. It offers a "Basics" series of meditations that are very brief and approachable - we like brief and approachable. You can pick a male or female voice (ack - another choice - oh well). Headspace has a nice reminder feature, too. Skip the "Sleep," "Move," and "Focus" areas for now. Forget about "Buddies" - we are learning to meditate. We can make friends another time. On the other hand, all the wacky colors and smiley faces may not be your aesthetic. The notifications may become so ubiquitous that you'll eventually ignore them. Also, this is what it set up for my profile. What the...?
My take: This is a good one if you want to be directed and led gently into the process without a lot of seriousness. Good for kids, too. A fair amount can be done for free, or $95/year to unlock everything.
Calm - I think this app is the one that's trying to disguise itself as something else (what, I have no clue) so that you don't get turned off by the fact that you're actually meditating. The interface is slick and attractive, but it's hard to know where to start if you're a newbie. There is meditation, but also...music, breathing exercises, check-ins, stretches, and something called The Spark (which seems to be mini motivational speaking segments). The sounds and visuals are indeed, calming. Warning: anything with a lock icon will invite you to fork over the $69.99 after a seven-day trial, and almost everything has a lock icon. If you like the looks of this one, sign up for the trial and set a BIG reminder at five days to either let it continue or cancel the subscription if you're just not feeling it.
My take: It is well-named and seems to have solid content, but there's very little you can explore for free.
Insight Timer - I'm biased because this is what I use. Even so, I will say that it is really easy to get lost in this app. There are over 60,000 free guided meditations, plus a regular-old timer (for when you want to try something other than guided). Even the timer has choices. But, this one is all about mindfulness. There are some talks, live events, music, and many courses - but no one will be reading you bedtime stories or sending you push notifications reminding you to be kind to yourself. It, too, has a community, but I locked my profile down as hard as it could go because I don't care about connecting. I do like sending the occasional "Thanks for meditating with me" message to someone in Rio de Janeiro, or Omaha, or Vancouver. I like seeing the map pinpointing everyone who is using the app to meditate around the world. To limit your overwhelm on this one, go to the "Search" icon and then the panel for "Learning to Meditate." It's all right there, much of it free, but since I use it daily I pay the $58.99/year for everything..
My take: Well, you just read my take. It's my favorite. But I don't recommend it until someone has established a bit of a practice.
Once you have an app pretty well figured out, you can build from there. We'll talk about where and when in another post.
Things to consider when you test out a guided one:
Give it a start. See what happens. And if you've found another method or app that helped you to get started, share it with us in the comments.
Here comes one of those themes again. You know, the times where something comes up repeatedly across sessions that catches my attention. And while it's not exactly along the lines of decision-making, or meditation, that we've been talking about in past posts, it's definitely related. It's around the disconnect between what people think a space or project is, and what it actually is.
It's like going to one of those haunted house attractions that pop up around Halloween (hey, remember those? Gee, what's my favorite holiday going to look like this year?). Anyway, you know the drill - everyone goes in nervous and ready for a scare, but also with the complete knowledge that nothing they see will be real. The horrific zombies that jump out wielding machetes and chainsaws, courtesy of hourly-paid local actors and apprenticing makeup artists, are just that - local actors and makeup artists. Maybe even college kids just looking to earn some extra cash. They drive to work, clock in, get ready, do their thing, clock out, go home, and sleep. They probably are not particularly scary people absent their costuming and some strobe lights. We know all of this, coming and going, but in the middle…in the moment, we're terrified - or at the very least, startled. There's a belief, even if temporary, that what is happening is real enough to be afraid of.
So too you might look at a closet or the top of a desk and, even though you know that underneath the clutter there's just a closet, or just a desk, it looms SO large (ahem, did I hear someone say "Big Scary Goal"??). Despite understanding that individual piles of things are simply things, and that they actually belong to you, and that you suffer in terms of time and peace of mind when you don't deal with them - you freeze. Or flee. Or even fight. Yup, I do sometimes see the evidence of fights with stuff… it's rarely pretty and generally involves things hastily thrown away or stuffed in drawers or bins with no rhyme or reason. Regret soon follows.
It works the other way around, too: minimizing. How many of you have taken a skeptical friend to one of those haunted house affairs? The one who is convinced it's no big deal, and ridiculous, and insists they won't even blink when Freddie Krueger shows up. They're kind of annoying about it, and then naturally, they're the first one to start bawling. You might also look at a closet and think, "Oh, it's just a closet. No biggie. Won't take me long - nothing to see here." Au contraire. Start pulling that stuff out, and soon you're aghast at what you've squirreled away.
The truth about a cluttered space generally lies somewhere in the middle, between unapproachably terrifying, and so benign as to not warrant any care. So how do you take the mask off the organizing job, and see it for what it really is? What is actually true?
Part of the process goes back to the "L" of the LESS Method - "Learn." You can't know what all needs to be organized if you don't know what objects are there, and at least some of their stories. If you were to learn about the people in the haunted house, who they are, whether they like dogs or cats, and how they take their coffee, how frightening would they really be? If they turned all the lights on and took the masks off, what would you understand?
Could you similarly look at working through your space as getting to know your stuff? For instance:
"Alrighty, let's learn all about this paperwork, and see what trends we can uncover, what mysteries we might solve. Oh, THAT'S where the warranty is for the vacuum. And the receipt for the new tires...oh wow, and the key to the safe deposit box! I've been looking all over for that! I remember now...I was cleaning out the car before I picked kids up at school, and I stuffed all of this stuff in a bag in a hurry. Hmmm, I wonder how often I do that? If I'm tempted to do it again, could I pause and stop myself?"
Kind of takes some of the edge off, no?
Another approach might be to take just one small piece of the project to examine. Like instead of heading straight into the whole creepy corn maze, you first take a walk through a small pumpkin patch (sorry, I'm really on that Halloween roll now). So instead of the whole, massive, enigmatic closet, you could pull one bin to carefully deconstruct. And that might go something like:
"OK, I had no clue what was in here. Oh, it's a bunch of the kids' toddler toys. And Fluffy's old leash and collar - I miss Fluffy. But it's been years, and I think I can handle this now. I'm not sure why I avoided this bin, but maybe it's because I was afraid of the unknown. Now that I see it, the mystery has dissolved, and I can accept what it is. I even think most of this stuff can be donated, and that's going to free up a ton of space."
And when you get your decisions made, and the bin has some shape, purpose, and order, you might have the increased confidence to head into the rest of the closet.
Or not, but you'll still be further along than you were when you started.
How else might you look behind the curtain, peek under the wolf costume, or crack the creaky door open on that big, bad space?
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, dog-lover, author. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?