'; Tobi Elkin | Christmas cCHALLENGE
I'm a writer, editor, daughter, sister, loyal friend, independent thinker, advocate, creator, cat mother, and nature lover -- not in that order!
My challenge
Meditate for 15 minutes each day

Day 27: Radical Change is Possible

Each day, I “sit” in meditation a little bit longer — for example, this morning I sat for 25 minutes. Although, to be honest, I know the time will vary from one day to the next.


Today, I’m inspired by the challenge’s text on the power of thought and radical change: “…when we flip our mindsets, adjust our beliefs, and understand what motivates us, we can meet any challenge with our heads held high. We become solutions-oriented, see connections, and never give up.” I think that’s true. But mindsets don’t flip overnight. Change takes time — but even incremental changes are worthwhile. In the case of planting the seeds for a change of behavior or habit, I’m paying attention to the widespread belief that it takes about 21 days to create a “habit” — a behavior change.


Is anything making my challenge easier? Attending the meditation retreat helped, reading to support my interest, and taking part in this challenge.


I’m particularly interested in the inspirational nugget provided in today’s text from C-Challenge. It’s from Roman Krznaric who, in a nifty illustrated video, speaks about “outrospection” vs. introspection and the power of empathy to create a “revolution of human relations”. If you haven’t watched the video, it’s worthwhile.


What he means, I think, by outrospection is to cultivate an understanding of empathy that offers us the ability to step inside someone else’s world view. To inhabit it. To attempt to understand it. He says this can generate a kind of grassroots empathy — empathy on a mass scale.


Krzmaric envisions integrating empathy into social institutions, workplaces, etc. and bringing about a truly interactive and experiential empathy. It feels as though he’s talking about bringing empathy into the public square, so to speak, where people can interact in meaningful dialogue, to inhabit someone else’s experience/world, or walk in their shoes. He advocates for bringing empathy into everyday life in a “habitual way”. What would this look like?


Perhaps it’s place-based, interactive projects and demonstrations produced by culture workers, non-profit organizations, artists, activists, and students that invite us to participate in a dialogue.


Perhaps manufacturing experiences will help us understand what it’s  like to live in the shadow of a sulfur dioxide-spewing coal-burning power plant.


Or what the daily effect of widespread pesticide use on agricultural workers is in the U.S. since a ban on one of the most dangerous pesticides was overturned.


And less about sustainability — what is a day in the life of an undocumented person like who’s in detention? What is it like if they’re not in detention? What is it like to be in ongoing and perhaps permanent limbo?


Day 26: Post-Meditation Retreat Practice

After a short hiatus and nearing the end of the Challenge, I’m back on Day 26! I hope you’re all enjoying your holidays. The race to year-end has been frenetic for me and everyone I know. And it’s all the more reason to prioritize self-care and setting positive habits for the new year that’s just a few days away. 


I attended a weekend meditation retreat 12/14-12/16 where I learned more about how to meditate. It was a wonderful experience and chance to join with like-minded people who are interested integrating meditation into their daily lives. The people at my retreat were eager to use meditation as a tool for self-care and to create positive change in the world via their professions and volunteer activities. While I’ve meditated on and off for several years, attended workshops, and practiced as part of my yoga practice, I haven’t fully integrated it as a daily  practice.


Allowing the mind to quiet down and to just “be” and not “do” — literally — is a gift.


In reading about the “Ripple Effects”, I would say the most direct ripple effect I see since establishing my daily meditation practice is the relationship I have with myself. I have committed to the practice as a form of getting to know and be comfortable with myself. In so doing, I hope to cultivate more compassion, empathy, and understanding for others. This can have a far-reaching impact in truly understanding other points of view, listening with attention, and fostering trust. These are valuable assets in all our relationships — in teaching, participating in social movements, dialogues for change, and other forms of transformation. Bringing a clear and steady perspective to challenges — like the ones we’re talking about here — can make a difference.


I hope to cultivate my meditation practice both as a “reset” and an opportunity to gain more clarity about the actions I take and the decisions I make — how I spend my time and the values I want to extend into the world.


I read that it takes about 21 days to form new habits — whether that’s composting food scraps, eliminating paper, toxins from the home, sugar from the diet, etc. One day at a time.

Day 8: Morning meditation, just breathe…

This morning I sat for meditation after I woke up. I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes. I had some company — my cat, Espy, sat next to me purring loudly. I breathed in. I breathed out. I listened to my breath. All I had to do was breathe. My mind wandered to my next door neighbors’ baby who was squealing in delight. There were a few traffic and elevator sounds which I’m used to.


I know from earlier meditation practices to bring myself back to the breath when my mind wanders. It will take me some time to reorient myself to this practice. When the chimes went off, I felt lighter and calmer.


I ask myself again: How can one person’s meditation contribute to healing and sustainability?


All I can come up with for now, is that all significant change begins deep within. It starts with one person making a change, creating a new habit, and planting the seeds for a new mindset. And who knows, maybe more changes will come as a result of this specific challenge.


How we show up in the world, as our loving and compassionate selves, can make a difference in the energy we have to speak about and share the changes we are making, and become the change we seek.

Day 7: Do I have to meditate in the morning?

The answer to this question, at least for me, at least for right now, is “no”.


While many experts and experienced meditators promote the benefits of an early morning practice — it sets the tone for the entire day — I have an impediment to this rule of thumb.


Since early September, I’ve had a 2x/week commitment where I need to rise at 5 a.m. and leave the house by 5:30 a.m.! I decided I cannot rise any earlier than 5 a.m. on those days. This routine will end on 12/12 (thankfully) and I will be able to meditate before going to the gym and other morning rituals.


So I’ve decided to be compassionate with myself and not worry about the time of day I meditate. Or where I meditate. Taming my “monkey mind” is hard enough without worrying about the time I choose to sit for meditation!


I hear and read that the important thing is to actually meditate, quiet the mind, and be consistent. Perhaps the time of day doesn’t matter.


Personally, when I’ve undertaken a meditation practice before this, I have found it a good habit to sit in the mornings. But sometimes life and commuting get in the way and when they do, we need to find compassion and be flexible.

Day 5: Meditating on the Train

Day 5. Okay, it’s really my Day 1. While I’m a little late in getting started here, I’m happy to participate and learn.


While many of the individual challenges appealed to me, I chose to embrace 15 minutes of daily meditation. I’ve practiced meditation on and off for a few years, usually as part of a yoga practice but not always.


This challenge seems appropriate since I’m attending a weekend meditation retreat on December 14. Meditation is typically practiced in the early morning as a pre-dawn ritual. I wasn’t able to practice at home in the early a.m. because I have a super early commute today. So, I practiced meditation on the train. I used a meditation app that provides a timer. I set the timer for 15 min. and heard mini “gongs” at each five minute interval. Breath in. Breath out. Bring thoughts back to the breath.


I have meditated on trains, the subway, in airports, in taxis, waiting in line, and other mundane places. In a noisy city where everything clamors for your attention, I have learned to carve out the space and time for self-care, reflection, and repair whenever and wherever I can. Meditation can be very cleansing for the mind and soul — its health benefits are well-documented. Mindfulness is a lifestyle choice. But how will my challenge help repair the world? How does it contribute to a more sustainable world?