What 1000 Consecutive Days of Meditation Can Open Up for You
Before seeing what 1000 consecutive days of meditation could open up for me, I always thought of my racing entrepreneurial mind and energy as an absolute competitive edge instead of a double-edged sword. Well before I learned to ground a racing mind with meditation, it was in my first year of business school that my anxiety attacks crippled me for a semester. I got lost in my thoughts and believed so hard that I wasn’t good enough to be in an elite business school that my body physically tightened up so much that I couldn’t even lift weights at the gym. The mind to body connection was real and it became really scary as my mind wandered to dangerous places and my grades started to spiral. Luckily, with the help of family and medications, I got back to normal but I still could not control my mind’s pollution of distractions that I inherited with my family’s history of mental illness. A few years after graduating, my trigger to finally start to meditate revolved around entrepreneurial burnout - since then I have not had a single anxiety attack.
Only now do I realize that if I would have taken up meditation and read this study by the Harvard Medical School on how meditation eases anxiety and mental stress, the chances of my breakdown being avoided would have shot up.
Every benefit of daily meditation I reflected on when I hit one year of straight meditation still rings true. I experience a daily increase in my creativity, gratitude, empathy, willpower and decision making. What initially hooked me besides the Headspace apps cleverly engineered day streak counter, was the sensation of feeling my feet and bottom sink into the chair I was meditating on. When I only focused on this, I got a very tangible fuzzy feeling in these parts of my body and it got me curious about what other everyday sensations that I took for granted were right under my nose.
Since hitting this milestone shortly before my 30th birthday, what has changed since 365 and 1000 days of meditation has been my ability to focus my life better and prioritize other wellness habits which I dismissed in the past.
Best-selling author of Sapiens (a book praised by Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, and many others), Yuval Harari, beautifully relates meditation to focus; “First of all, it's the ability to focus. When you train the mind to focus on something like the breath, it also gives you the discipline to focus on much bigger things and to really tell the difference between what's important and everything else. The entire exercise of Vipassana meditation is to learn the difference between fiction and reality, what is real and what is just stories that we invent and construct in our own minds. Almost 99 percent you realize is just stories in our minds. This is also true of history. Most people, they just get overwhelmed by the religious stories, by the nationalist stories, by the economic stories of the day, and they take these stories to be the reality.”
Harari religiously goes on 60-day silent Vipassana meditation retreats to get clear on reality and the fictional narratives our minds and society drown us in daily.
Meditation is like daily flossing but for the mind. It will give you unbounded precision in your daily focus and will push your body to new limits and sensations within the world of biohacking - something I have recently stumbled into. The endlessly fascinating and untapped realm of biohacking is an approach to scientific learning that involves building or changing things quickly in regards to your nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mind (meditation mainly) and then, monitoring what happens. For me, it started with combining meditation and sleep.
About a year ago, I supplemented morning meditation with meditating when I was going to sleep. The body scan worked incredibly well and as I was at a recent biohacking meetup in Toronto, I started to get educated on how better sleep positively spills over into literally every other aspect of things you can biohack. UC Berkeley neuroscientist Matthew Walker and his new book, Why We Sleep, is leading the charge in sleep and its amazing the amounts of podcasts and wellness retreats that have soared in popularity in the last five years.
I recently went to my first wellness retreat courtesy of Neo Retreats, and this is when I realized how meditation is a gateway to so many other crucial yet sometimes imperceptible lifestyle changes you can make in your daily life to avoid mental illness and daily distraction. As written in my follow up article, 10 Biohacking and Wellness Hacks to Reduce Stress in Business Leaders, monitoring exposure to different kinds of light, being around nature, infusing certain herbs into your diet, and engaging in various breathing techniques outside of meditation can improve just about every aspect of your life both in the moment and in the many years to come.
I never imagined I would get to 1000 consecutive days and I can’t tell you how many days I almost missed a session before my internal alarm clock went off moments before the clock struck midnight. Travelling was tricky to keep my streak alive as well so I had to learn to meditate in public spaces whether it was on a bus, plane, or right at work. When I hit my 1000th day on a sunny Sunday, riding Toronto’s streetcar, I remember feeling a tear slide down my face. Yes, it was a happy day but what really made me feel great was how the simple act of feeling the sun on my face and observing the world around me was something I could fully appreciate. The Paul of the past would have been lost in his phone worrying about the things I don’t have in life or stressing about all the things I need to do in the future.
You don’t need to wait 1000 days to fight mental illnesses and the never-ending assault of distractions and worries - it can start today. Meditation is the first domino to improve your well being and ability to focus on the things that matter most when you’re most in control - now. Take a deep breath through your nose, close your eyes, and observe your mind and stress declutter as you slowly exhale through your mouth.