A month ago I started meditating. I’ll get to that in a minute.
I recently returned to Apple with an iPhone 6. It included the Heath App, which I had not seen before. It’s basically a pedometer although it has other features as well. I was curious about how far (or actually how little) I walked each day. I discovered I was only covering about two miles. Simply having that data propelled me to walk more.
It’s addictive! I started using stairs and going the long way. Anything to get a few extra steps in. I realized though that I didn’t always have my phone and felt my numbers were inaccurate. And if I forgot my phone then I didn’t want to walk too much because I wasn’t getting credit.
This led to me purchasing a fitbit in mid-May. Since then I have walked at least 10,000 steps everyday. While having a personal goal (five miles per day) is a driving factor the thing that really motivated me was the leaderboard. You can connect with friends and see how many steps they are taking—the app keeps a weekly tally and offers additional challenges. This social aspect made walking fun: less lonely.
I’m averaging over 90,000 steps (45 miles) a week. I want to get to 100,000 by fall semester.
It’s been transformative. I am consistently looking for ways to get more walking in throughout the day. I intentionally park far from my office. During lunch I walk a mile across campus, typically visiting a different building or location each time. Twice a day I walk every floor in my library – a good opportunity to chat with our staff and students. And every night I walk 2 miles around my neighborhood.
Combined with eating more vegetables I’ve drop seven pounds in five weeks.
And while that’s cool I’m actually more proud of a different habit I acquired during this time: daily meditation. I’ve never mediated before. I’m more comfortable with Camus than with Buddha. And that’s because I erroneously associated meditation with spiritual enlightenment, chanting, Zen experiences, or something along those lines. But it doesn’t have to be.
When I started walking I had more reflective time to myself. I wanted to learn about rhythmic breathing and ended up looking for videos on YouTube about meditation. I dabbled with that for a few days but I always felt I was doing it wrong.
That’s when Lauren Pressley introduced me to Headspace. This is an app that bills itself as a gym membership for the mind. It is a guided meditation sequence that offers a foundational package along with thematic series on relationships, health, and productivity. This is more my speed—training the mind so I could be calmer, more creative, and more effective.
I started a month ago. Every morning (after a brisk walk) I do a ten-minute session and then open my laptop and dive into the awaiting emails. I started 30 days ago and can’t imagine not doing it now. Again, it was having data that mattered— the app tracks your sessions and that motivated me to keep coming back.
Of course it’s not easy. Some mornings I’m very impatient because I know there is a situation I have to handle – always one pressing matter or another. But that’s part of the training. No matter what’s happening around you—you are in control of how you respond.
The combination of intentionally walking a lot and daily meditations (and eating salads) has had an impact on me. I’m much more present and energetic. And I’m seeing and hearing more too.
I’m actually considering starting all of my manager’s meetings with a three minute meditation session just to get us all into a shared space before we jump into matters. We’ll see.
Oh and by the way, Blacksburg is a beautiful place to walk.