I confess to being really late with posting this, now that it’s over a week after the challenge is over. But rest assured, I finished the challenge! This is my final recap about the Real Happiness Challenge. See the Week 1 and Week 2 recaps for more about the challenge.

Week 3 – Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions

This week was about specifically reflecting on positive and negative types of thoughts and emotions we encounter in our daily lives during the meditation practice. To be honest, I struggled a bit this week because even though I can very easily get immersed in emotions when they truly arise within a particular situation, I have a hard time mentally conjuring up what certain emotions feel like, particularly when I’m in a quiet state of being on the meditation cushion.

That being said, the practice of mental noting from day 15 has stuck with me. I’ve been working on managing my anxiety and bad habit of rumination, and the act of mental noting fits right in with the idea that trying to avoid worrisome thoughts feeds to their power. You have to listen to the mind in order to quiet it.

Week 4 – Lovingkindness & Real Love

The final week of the challenge was a just that – a challenge. This was partly due to the fact that I had a particularly busy week, having one of my best college friends staying with me, and partly due to my ambivalence about change. I alluded to this in the recap from week 2, but there’s sadly a part of me that doesn’t want to be the ever-compassionate person. I have my feelings and opinions, and I’m not sure if I’m ready to let that go. And I also admit that I fell asleep a few more times…

My favorite meditation of this week was the Walking Lovingkindness from day 23. In this practice, you repeat a positive wish toward yourself with each step, but then, whenever you encounter another person or being, you direct the same positive wishes toward them. After an incident when I was bit by a dog on this same path to work, I have been feeling a bit hostile toward dogs and their owners. But trying this practice helped me to see that focusing on my fear and dislike of dogs (especially unleashed ones!) has been clouding my otherwise pleasant daily walk. Though the heightened sense of attention I feel around these creatures is likely not to change, perhaps the negative “add on” feelings and thoughts about them don’t need to weigh me down as much…

Conclusions from the challenge

I’m definitely marking my calendar for next February’s Real Happiness Challenge. As a beginner in meditation, it was a nice way to sample a variety of practices to see what works best for me at this point in my journey. At the same time, I’ve come to realize that I may need to do some more work on the lessons from week 1 to build my concentration and control over my attention first, before reaping the full benefits of the other practices. True change will take time, but a month-long commitment was a good place to start.

I’m planning on trying out some of the meditation apps out there over the next few months, so stay posted!