February Monthly Challenge: Meditation & Free Writing
March is halfway over, so I should probably tell you about my secret February challenge, because I’m punctual like that.
In February I challenged myself to change my daily routine in 2 small ways: meditate for 10 minutes and complete 3 pages of free writing. Because I know myself so very well, I knew that I needed to schedule these changes into my day, or they wouldn’t happen. I chose to meditate first thing in the morning before work and free write during my lunch break.
At first, I used the Headspace meditation app to guide me through meditation. Their Take 10 program kick-started my habit and made it dummy-proof. However, the program ends after 10 days. Headspace offers other programs for purchase, but I wanted to learn to guide myself through meditation. I received Complete Meditation by Steve Kravette for Christmas in 2012, so I decided to crack it back open and actually use some exercises.
I started experimenting with different meditation positions besides sitting. Laying down, standing in star pose which felt fine until my arms lit on fire, and squatting which felt slightly uncomfortable at first, then flared into full on lower back agony. Although not suggested in the book, I fell in love with the yoga pose Legs up the Wall.
Especially for sore legs or joints, letting the blood flow out of my legs for 10 minutes releases the pain and ache. After this position, laying flat on the floor for a minute will allow the blood back into the legs before standing. Unless you enjoy feeling light-headed and falling over.
I have also experimented with silent mantras. Take 10 suggests counting breaths up to 10, but because of my bizarre angst issues, that makes me anxious. I especially enjoy the following mantras from Complete Mediation:
Inhale “I am,” exhale “loved”
Inhale “Re-,” exhale “-lax”
Inhale “hum,” exhale “so,” which means “I am the one.”
Meditation first thing in the morning has helped me relax and start the day with a reset, calm attitude. Even though it takes time out of my morning, it paradoxically feels like I have more time.
In February I meditated 23 out of 28 days!
As a creative writing major, I heard of practicing daily free writing many times. Most recently, an Ali Kamenova YouTube video sparked my memory. She started a 30-day challenge to complete 3 pages each day. For those unfamiliar with the term, free writing is completed by writing long-hand in a notebook and keeping the pen continuously moving even if it just says “Pen moving. Pen moving. Don’t know what to write.” No judgment. No concern for being coherent, concise, or even grammatically correct. Only minor concern for readable handwriting.
I have not produced much work over the last few years, as evidenced by the spotty posting here. I wrote more blog posts than fiction works, so you can imagine the pathetic state of my current fiction resume. My lack of production boils down to my bitchy inner critic. She vetoes all my ideas before I even write them! Turns out, an inability to create new material presents a problem for a writer.
Through the free writing part of my February challenge, I learned that I can silence that stupid critic. Free writing should be shitty, jumbled, incoherent and making no sense. Previous sentence obviously written in the free writing style… One day I felt so pissed that I just scribbled cuss words in huge capital letters. Counts as a page.
Topics I generally use for free writing: blog brainstorming, planning, creative writing exercises, and general whining writing in my personal journal about experiences and emotions. Each day I picked one and wrote furiously for 3 pages.
I found that free writing each day built momentum. Once the words and ideas were vomited onto the page, more ideas flowed in and branched out. I could then type of the insanely rough drafts and refine them until I could show them to others without complete embarrassment.
During February I used free writing to brainstorm 4 blog posts, finalize 3 posts, brainstorm characters for a short story, and capture issues and emotional states in my journal. I wrote 23 out of 28 days. Success!
March Monthly Challenge
Since both parts of my February challenge helped me so much, I decided to continue practicing them. For March I will conquer the Pinterest squat challenge!
I want to grow my butt and shrink my love handles. I used to have such a nice, round booty, and it disappeared! I want it back! I know, I know, lifting heavy weights will grow the muscle faster and more efficiently. But neither lifting weights nor being efficient has ever been my style.
Do you give yourself goals or challenges to keep motivated in fitness or other parts of your life? Wish I were more organized and gave you notice, so you could join me on my monthly challenges? Wonder how long this monthly challenge thing will last? Yeah, me too…