My dad bought me this book for Christmas. Thanks, Dad! The author, Andy Puddicome, is the creator of Headspace, an app that guides you in meditation. This book walks through the process of meditation, the science that supports the benefits of meditation, exercises for the reader to perform in between sections, and testimonials from people he has worked with at his clinic. It is useless for me to try to regurgitate all of his information, I would advise reading it yourself if you have an interest in meditation. I’ll try to just give you a rough idea of his ideologies and my thoughts.
Meditation helps people to become more mindful of their thoughts and their feelings. It involves a process of checking in with yourself and understanding your emotions, while also letting go of these things altogether and being able to see bigger pictures. If you’ve ever used his app, you will find that Puddicome uses a lot of the same analogies in his book, notably the idea that your thoughts are like cars passing by. We should not be running through traffic, but rather sitting on the sidewalk and watching the view. We can acknowledge our thoughts without getting overly caught up in them. The same is true for emotions.
I have always found the emotion side of this incredibly easy. From a young age, my siblings and I were encouraged to talk about our feelings. I imagine this is one of those skills that is quite challenging to learn as an adult. Admittedly, I cannot always control my emotions, but I am always very in tune with what they are and how they are affecting my outlook on the world. Being forced to talk about my feelings was a blessing in disguise. Thanks, mom and dad 🙂
Thoughts are a different story. I have always found it incredibly difficult to slow and quiet the millions of thoughts going on in my brain. I have not once had a sleepover (adult or as a child…) where I was the first one to fall asleep. I simply cannot slow my brain down as fast as every other person I know. The worst part is that I am also the type who can’t sleep if someone so much as breathes too loud. It’s an endless cycle.
Like I said, I always found it very difficult, however, I also never thought to try meditation. Even with the few short meditative sessions I’ve gone through, I find it remarkable how much it helps. Just the other night, after I finished about half of this book, I was having trouble falling asleep. As soon as I started to employ some of the methods from the book, I fell asleep instantly AND had one of my best nights rest in a long time. I was definitely not late to work the next day because of it…
One thing to note here is that the goal of meditation is NOT to fall asleep. Meditation can help ease the mind if you are an insomniac, but the goal for your regular, daily sessions is to become more mindful. There is a section in the book on using meditation for sleep and he strictly notes that this exercise should be used in addition to a daily one, not in its place.
I have already found countless times where I can integrate Puddicome’s teachings into my life. One of the important things he discusses is that meditation is not simply sitting for hours and clearing the mind. That is great, but it is far more powerful when you can integrate this feeling of mindfulness into your everyday life. Just yesterday I got mildly annoyed with someone on the elevator. I quickly acknowledged this and didn’t let the feeling follow me into my morning meetings. So often when something goes wrong in our day it turns into a snowball effect through the remainder of the day. Our outlook can be completely changed just from a nice or rude stranger on the Subway. It doesn’t have to, though, if we can recognize these thoughts and emotions as they occur and let them pass as quickly as they came.
The book also briefly touched on having a positive outlook on life. He says, “Have you ever noticed how much emphasis some people place on even the smallest amount of difficulty in their lives, and how little time they spend reflecting on moments of happiness?” YES, ANDY. I like to think I generally have a positive outlook on life, however, I am definitely one to join in with the complainers. I don’t want to be the odd man out by calling out the people who complain. 2019 though. New year, new me. Rather than calling out the complainers, I’m going to work to try to pivot the direction of these conversations. Sure, you can always find the negatives in a situation if you try hard enough. But you can also find the positives, and taking a moment to point those out is far more worthwhile and useful.
Puddicome wants us to be able to recognize our feelings, recognize our thoughts, and be happy regardless. But remember, there is a big difference between the happiness he talks about and the short-term happiness we receive from going out with friends to a bar. The goal is to be more mindful in our everyday life and thus have more control over our thoughts and emotions. This, in turn, creates a greater, more fulfilling sense of happiness every day.
As the cover states, meditation can help you “switch off after work, fall asleep at night, feel less anxious, sad, or angry, control your cravings, and find a healthy weight.” If any of these things sound like something you want, I highly recommend buying this book and downloading his app!