60x60 Meditation challenge

November 1, 2020

For the last 60 days, I meditated at least 60 minutes every day. It was hard but very much worth the effort. I discovered this challenge by Naval while reading Vishnu Mohandas' post about persisting as a solo founder and became inspired to try it. I have dabbled with meditation before for maybe a total of 25-100h but unfortunately the habit never stuck. My goal with this challenge was to get back into meditation and make it a habit that sticks.

The challenge

  • Meditate for at least 60 minutes in one session every day for 60 days
  • Eyes closed, sit comfortably, move as little as you can
  • No focus on anything, no music, no guides
  • Make no effort for or against anything
  • Surrender yourself to the moment
  • Let whatever happens, happen
  • Let your mind sort itself out

Naval's "no teqnique" meditation approach has many names and flavours: shikantaza (just sitting), do nothing meditation, and others.

The experience

The first session was by far the hardest. My mind felt like a raging tornado of thoughts and I wanted to quit about 5 times. After that it became easier and easier. In the second session, I only wanted to quit about 3-4 times. Few sessions in and I no longer had the urge to quit early. I was able to resist scratching an itch after 10 days and sit mostly still after 15 days.

In my average meditation session I experienced 3 zones/states:

  • 0-20m: very scattered mind
  • 20-40m: calmer mind, pretty relaxed
  • 40-60m: almost empty mind, very blissful

The times are not exact and varied from session to session. In the beginning, it felt as if there were barriers to break through at the 20m and 40m mark. The reward for breaking through them was a more relaxed state. After 2 months, it doesn't feel like barriers any more and I switch over effortlessly.

In the past I have meditated for a total of 60m a day but always split up into multiple sessions: 30m twice a day, 20m three times a day, 5-10m multiple times per day. In comparison I now realise that I never meditated for long enough in a single session to reach this third blissful state of an empty mind. Those last 20m of a meditation are what made me want to come back and do it again the next day and therefore made the habit stick.

Before taking on the challenge I had only ever done focused attention meditation, focusing on the breath or a visual image in my mind. The technique in this challenge is way easier. I never felt any guilt for doing something wrong, no matter how distracted the mind was. It's very hard to mess it up. The only thing you have to do is to just sit.

How I did it

I used Insight Timer app to keep track of the time and to log the sessions to Apple Health. It's a nice app I would recommend it. It primarily promotes guided sessions, but I have only ever used it as a simple timer and to log sessions. After starting the timer, I put the phone face down so if for whatever reason I opened my eyes, I could not tell how much time was left.

Session journaling. Date, start time, duration, rating 1-5. Various details such as where I sat (couch, office chair, bed) and where (in front of desk, bedroom, living room) or if I used any equipment (ear plugs, ear muffs, noise cancelling headphones, eye mask). I recorded a general description of how the session went as well as noting down what went wrong, why, and ideas on how I could improve. This journaling helped way more than I thought it would.

What worked best for me was meditating in my office chair at a fixed slight recline, with my hands resting on my lap with the left fingers cupping the right fingers and the thumbs touching and resting on the fingers. I used ear muffs most of the time. Sometimes I would also use ear plugs underneath for extra noise reduction. Doing 5 minutes of stretching started to help out a lot after a few days.

Mistakes were made

  • Forgetting to put on Do Not Disturb mode before a session. On all devices.
  • Meditating lying down, especially after just waking up. Fell asleep.
  • Meditating sitting in bed. Not flexible enough to maintain a good posture.
  • Meditating right after sitting for a prolonged time. Distracting because of inability to maintain posture. Best to stand up walk a bit and stretch before starting.
  • Meditating too close to sleep or if sleep deprived. It was unpleasant to drift in and out. Leave a bare minimum of 1h gap between ending a meditation session and usual sleep time. Take naps before meditating if sleep deprived.

Results & benefits

After 60 days of meditating I feel reduced anxiety and stress, but not to a large degree. It is more so that my mental working platform has become more firm and stable. I derive more pleasure and beauty from mundane things. For example, when out for a walk, observing the trees blow in the wind, a leaf falling to the ground, or an ant going about its business.

One major benefit I accidentally discovered has to do with working from home. I have worked remotely from home for the past 4 years and one of the challenges is mentally disconnecting when the workday is over. Meditating for an hour after work is hands down the best thing I have found so far to create this separation. It's like a clean cut.

For now I do think I achieved my goal of making meditation a habit. I will continue to meditate for at least 60m every day, 60m in the morning and 20-60m after work. Maybe try meditating for 2-4h in a single session. Do more stretches with the aim to improve the sitting posture. Maybe some yoga. Maybe aim to be able to sit in a full lotus some day.

I would highly recommend this challenge. Please get in touch at hi@jonrh.is if you did!

History & source